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Working with Adolescents Michelle Cook and Gen Lean Family Planning Victoria. Understanding adolescence. An adolescent is a youth, is a young person... Adolescence 10-19 years Youth 15-24 years Young people 10-24 years Age alone does not help to define adolescence.

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understanding adolescence
Understanding adolescence

An adolescent is a youth, is a young person...

Adolescence 10-19 years

Youth 15-24 years

Young people 10-24 years

Age alone does not help to define adolescence...

Australian Medical Association and the World Health Organisation


A time of profound changes…

  • Physical (sexual maturity)
  • Cognitive (concrete to abstract)
  • Psychosocial (identity and personality, peer relationships, vocational, educational goals, moral values, financial independence, mental health etc.)
slide courtesy of professor george patton centre for adolescent health melbourne

Typical milestones for an adolescent girl in 1950’s

Slide courtesy of Professor George Patton, Centre for Adolescent Health, Melbourne

First sex

Marriage - leaving home

Finishing education



10 15 20 25 30

Ten years


Typical milestones for an adolescent girl in 2000

First sex

Leaving home

Finishing education




10 15 20 25 30

20 years

Slide courtesy of Professor George Patton, Centre for Adolescent Health, Melbourne


Confidentiality Matters

  • Young people would like to discuss more sensitive topics with a health professional
  • 1 in 5 young people report not sharing important information with health professional because of fear parents would find out
  • Doctors report they are insufficiently trained about confidentiality and other medicolegal aspects of adolescent health

Sanci et al, MJA 2005



Notifiable infection

Suspected abuse – sexual or physical

Self Harm – suicide

Public safety

Disclosure to a third party:

Consent must be given

unintentional breaches of confidentiality
Unintentional breaches of confidentiality
  • sending information to the home
  • calling at home and/or leaving a message
  • pathology/radiology/consultation bills
  • Pap test reminders or results
  • parents calling demanding to know why you saw their child
  • Check if young person is concerned about confidentiality in relation to their parents or others
consent to medical treatment
Consent to medical treatment
  • In Victoria parental power to consent on behalf of the young person ceases when the young person is 18 years old
  • A person younger than 18 is a ‘minor’
  • The law recognises the consent of minors if they can fully understand the nature and effects of treatment and consequences of non-treatment

The Privacy Act 2001 (C’th) and the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic)


H home, housing

E education/employment/eating/exercise

A activities/support networks/peers

D drugs/cigarettes/alcohol

S sex/sexuality/(abuse)

S suicide/depression

S safety/spirituality

Making a ‘mature minor’ or ‘competency’ assessment

John M Goldenring & Eric Cohen

Contemporary Paediatrics July 1988 pp 75-90

medicare card eligibility
Medicare card eligibility
  • >15 + may be enrolled on their own Medicare card
  • <15 yrs can get their own card/duplicate card only with the authorisation of the person’s parents or guardian is required.

medicare card eligibility13
Medicare card eligibility

The HIC has the following privacy guidelines concerning young people:

  • Under 14: information released if parent applies in writing.
  • 14 or over: may request, and be sent, their own information.
  • Information released to the child’s parent listed on the same card if child signs a written authority
  • A Medicare card holder can request financial information about any person listed on their card but will need written consent if it is about a person over 14 years of age.
4 th national survey of australian secondary students arcshs
4th National Survey of Australian Secondary Students (ARCSHS)
  • National study of almost 3000 Yr 10 & 12 students
  • Majority of young people (78%) in Yr 10 & 12 are sexually active in some way
  • 27% Yr 10 and 56% Yr 12 students have had sexual intercourse (same as 2002)
  • Of sexually active students, 30% report 3 or more partners (up from 20% in 2002)
sexual activity
Sexual Activity

The majority of young people in Years 10 & 12 are sexually active in some way.

This can include:

  • deep kissing
    • Yr 10 71% Yr 12 89%
  • genital touching
    • Yr 10 56% Yr 12 78%
  • giving or receiving oral sex
    • Yr 10 34% Yr 12 58%

Source : ARCSHS 2008

same sex attraction
Same Sex Attraction
  • 9% of students did not report an exclusive heterosexual attraction.
  • 1% attracted only to people of own sex
  • 6% to people of both sexes
  • 2% Not sure

Source : ARCSHS 2008

  • 10% are using withdrawal in the belief it will prevent conception
  • 0.2% of sexually active young people are using no contraception
  • Consistent condom use in about 50% (69% reported using condoms last time had sex) (same as 2002)
  • Condoms (68%) and the pill (50%) are the most common forms of contraception being used.

Source : ARCSHS 2008

sexually active students who have ever had unwanted sex
Sexually active students who have ever had unwanted sex

Males: 19% (23% 2002)

Females: 38% (28% 2002)

The most common reasons cited for having engaged in unwanted sex were:

  • 21% being too drunk or high
  • 18% pressure from a sexual partner
  • 3% pressure from friends

Source : ARCSHS 2008


4th National Survey of Australian Secondary Students (ARCSHS) cont

  • Students mostly rely on mother, female friend and school education programs for education regarding sexual and reproductive health
  • Despite education programs, knowledge about STIs other than HIV/AIDS remains patchy but has improved since 2002 especially for Chlamydia
  • While most young women had the HPV immunisation their knowledge of HPV was poor
  • Contraception used at last sexual encounter:
    • PCI increased from 3.9% (2002) - 7.6% (2008)
    • COC increased from 37% - 50%

Source : ARCSHS 2008


Cases of Chlamydia from January 1997 – March 2009

Victorian infectious diseases bulletin - Volume 12 Issue 2 June 2009

interview style
Interview style
  • Friendly, respectful, non-judgmental, understanding
  • Simple and clear language
  • Explain confidentiality and limits
  • Be aware of financial situation
  • Seek permission before asking questions about sensitive topics such as drug use and sex
  • Normalise (or generalise) experiences so the questions are not so threatening
  • Asking about sex and drugs does not increase these behaviours but rather education can increase choices and reduce risk behaviour
services sites for young people
Services/sites for young people
  • Kids helpline - 1800 551 800
  • Somazone - site run by and for young people, with questions answered by qualified health professionals
  • Action Centre, FPV (adolescent sexual health service)

1/94 Elizabeth St, Melb - 9654 4766 (1800 013 952)

  • Frontyard (youth support service): Youth workers, Health workers, Youthlaw, Centrelink, Youth accom service, Reconnect, free computer access - 19 King St, Melbourne 9614 3688 (1800 800 531 country)
  • Youthlaw - 9611 2412 or email [email protected]
  • Reconnect - for mediation, support and referral in family disputes/breakdown - 9611 3688
  • Your sex health interactive website
services sites for young people23
Services/sites for young people
  • Legal advice for people under 25
  • Sex health site (QLDgov) - educational site for teenagers covering changes of puberty, STI’s and safer sex
  • The hormone factory - site for young people aged 10-12 explaining sexual and reproductive development and physical, emotional and social changes associated with puberty (ARCSHS)
  • Same sex attracted - site devoted to young people who are or think they are attracted to the same sex
  • Bullying -
  • Reachout - health information including contraception and depression

Services/sites for young people

  • MoodGYM - free self-help program for teenagers and young adults
  • Queernet – Queer questioning youth
  • Beyondblue - national depression initiative
  • Child Protection Crisis Line - 131 278
  • Domestic violence - site developed by the Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre for children and teenagers living with domestic violence
  • Domestic Violence & Incest Resource Centre -
  • Direct Line - 24hr information, referral and counselling service for drug and alcohol problems - 9416 1818 (1800 888 236 freecall)
thank you
Action Centre

Level 1, 94 Elizabeth St


9660 4700

Family Planning Victoria

901 Whitehorse Rd

Box Hill

9257 0100

Thank you