Drive west out of Brisbane, and the road eventually becomes a single-lane highway. Out here, billboards display Bible verses instead of ads and crows own the bitumen stretch, strutting across the road like they’ve never seen a car before. About an hour from Warwick you’ll find the small town of Inglewood, population less than 1000. Locals say they don’t measure distances by kilometres but by hours: three to Brisbane; nearly one to the nearby town of Texas.
It’s not often that the local school attracts visitors. But today, Inglewood State School is playing host to Straight Talk Australia, a Toowoomba-based Christian organisation here to preach the gospel of delayed gratification. Its founders, Jim and Faye Lyons, married for 35 years, are a friendly couple who advocate a zero-tolerance approach to sex before marriage. They’ve recently been to Victoria to spread the word, often tour capital cities, and speak throughout the Pacific Islands too.
As the Lyons set up their DVD player, projector and pamphlet display, they chat to school staff about a recent incident that demonstrates why they need to be here today. According to Jim, a young boy from a private school was on a bus and showed some girls the condom he carried around in his wallet. The girls were aghast, so were their parents. Jim shakes his head in disbelief; some of Inglewood’s teachers make tutting noises. “These parents: doing the right thing, sending their children to a good Christian school,” Jim says. “And for what? Their daughters to be corrupted on the school bus.”
Students from Years 8 and 9 file in. Boys are told to sit on the left; girls on the right. Ranging from 12 to 14 years old, they’re at the age where school mornings are a hassle, and some students slouch into their seats sleepily. Jim tries rousing them with his standard ice-breaker. “How many of you are planning – as one of your goals in 2008 – to get a sexually transmitted disease or infection?” he asks. “Can I see the hands of those who are planning to get an STD this year?” No one puts up their hand.