Written By

Janine Lucas

College of Medicine and Dentistry

College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

3 November 2023

Related Study Areas

A challenge for change

JCU Medicine Student Curtis Rayment is on a mission to teach boys and young men in regional and rural Queensland about consent and redefine their perceptions of masculinity. His efforts, which include forming an evidence-based, educational program about consent, have earned him a nomination for the 2024 Queensland Young Australian of the Year.

Note: This article discusses sensitive content and references issues that readers may find confronting. If this article raises issues for you or anyone you know, please contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au

Curtis grew up near Winton in Central West Queensland, with his teenage years spent attending boarding school and playing rugby. After getting a taste of health sciences right after high school, Curtis jumped into medicine at JCU and hasn’t looked back.

Now in his final year of JCU’s Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, Curtis is set to train as a rural generalist doctor, with skills in obstetrics and gynaecology. But one of his biggest learning curves has been outside of the university classroom.

After helping to deliver workshops for JCU Respect, a university-wide initiative designed to ensure a safe and supportive environment for students and staff free from sexual harassment and sexual assault, Curtis was impassioned to make a difference. The impetus for creating his own program, It’s a Man’s Issue, was hearing about a close friend’s experience of sexual assault.

“It took her experience for me to reflect intrinsically about some of the stuff that I was doing in terms of locker room chat and the talk around the dinner table,” he says. “That made me realise that those sorts of behaviours weren't helping and contribute to this sort of society that we live in.

“I was so angry about not being able to do anything that I channelled it into this program, which has turned out to be the most rewarding and best thing that I've ever done in my life. I look forward to doing it, and it's what I find most fulfilling.”

young man and group of 11 women
young man in front of JCU College of Medicine and Dentistry banner
Left: At the Speak Up! fundraiser with 2021 Australian of the Year, Grace Tame. Right: Curtis Rayment at JCU's Townsville Clinical School. (Supplied.)

Addressing the underlying factors

Through It’s a Man’s Issue, Curtis travels to schools and clubs around Queensland to help young people understand consent, masculinity and sexual violence . Curtis says the program mainly focuses on defining — or rather, redefining — masculinity.

“The research shows that targeting and challenging gender stereotypes is the most effective way of preventing sexual harassment and sexual violence,” he says.

“I played representative footy at school. I went to a really good school. I had awesome parents. I was surrounded by really cool people, but nobody ever sat me down as a boy and spoke to me about healthy relationships, about having sex and what consent looks like.”

It’s a Man’s Issue is comprised of two 45-minute workshops. Curtis says the first workshop establishes the issue, while the second addresses its underlying factors. “We talk about consent, sexual harassment and sexual assault, as well as misconceptions of those topics.”

Curtis says a common misconception of sexual violence is that it occurs in shadowy places and is perpetrated by unknown persons. The reality is that it often occurs in residential and social locations, and is often committed by a partner, family member or friend.

The 2021-2022 Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey estimated that out of the 2.8 million Australians who had experienced sexual violence, 2.5 million reported that the perpetrator was male, and 2.2 million suggested that the perpetrator was known to them, usually a partner.

“That's why I call it a man's issue,” Curtis says. “It's an issue that has been happening to women and girls for so long, but it isn't really a space yet where the average man feels comfortable enough or even knows how to participate in education and advocacy.”

The second It’s a Man’s Issue workshop focuses on discussing masculinity and challenging forms of toxic masculinity. “I talk about the fact that I have no problem with being a man. I have no problem with masculinity. But there are some forms of masculinity that are toxic.”

Curtis says toxic masculinity can be dangerous for young men as well, with young men far more likely to have a fatal car crash or die by suicide. Part of the solution is to show participants that traits they associate as being masculine or feminine are not so clearly divided, nor are they always positive.

“That's the most rewarding part. I tie that back into the fact that toxic masculinity does contribute to rape culture,” Curtis says. “I work at a junior school as a before and after school educator, and it starts even at a young age — preschool to grade 6 — where boys are saying the same things adults do about being a girl. I even spend a lot of time in those sessions talking to the boys and getting them to think critically about it.”

two men and three women standing outside Longreach Hospital
horses racing at outback racetrack
Left: At the Longreach Hospital with fellow med students Angus Small, Tori Marwood and Phoebe Hanley and Dr Kinjal Bhikha. Right: A race in Longreach, where Curtis did a weeks-long placement. (Supplied.)

Gaining momentum

Delivered to more than 5,000 students and young sports club members to date, It’s a Man’s Issue garnered support from Project Speak Up!, a non-profit organisation committed to preventing domestic and sexual violence in Townsville.

Curtis was honoured to meet one of his idols, 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame, at a Project Speak Up! Fundraising lunch in October 2022. Ms Tame, an advocate for survivors of child sexual abuse, was the keynote speaker at the fundraiser, where It’s a Man’s Issue was nominated as a project partner.

The subsequent funding has supported Curtis to reach more students across northern and western Queensland, and he’s hoping to train other young men to deliver the program to another 15 schools and sporting organisations across the region.

Professor Tarun Sen Gupta, Head of JCU Townsville’s Clinical School, describes Curtis as a great role model for other students. “The leadership and advocacy skills he is developing will make him a great asset to his community in the future,” Professor Sen Gupta says.

It’s a Man’s Issue continues to gain momentum and has now been recognised nationally. As founder of the program, Curtis has earned a nomination for 2024 Queensland Young Australian of the Year. Now set to finish his medical degree at JCU in just a few months, Curtis certainly has a lot to look forward to.

As an outback Queensland local, and now a passionate advocate for women’s wellbeing, Curtis plans to combine the two in his medical career. “I've loved everything that I've done on my medical placements and I don't know how people choose to specialise, to be completely honest. But in saying that, so far I've enjoyed my rural and obstetric rotations the most.”

Learn more about the Australian of the Year Awards and see the 2024 nominees.

If you or someone you know is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, domestic, family or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 30 November 2022 and was updated upon Curtis Rayment being nominated for the 2024 Queensland Young Australian of the Year.

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