The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released the results of a national survey into sexual assault and sexual harassment on university campuses.
Universities Australia (UA) commissioned the AHRC to conduct the survey to gain comprehensive data on sexual assault and sexual harassment at 39 Australian universities.
In conjunction with the survey results, the AHRC released a range of recommendations for the university sector. UA also released a 10-point action plan to address sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The survey results and recommendations will be used by each university to inform their strategies and actions to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment in the future and to improve support for survivors.
The Vice-Chancellor of Charles Darwin University, Professor Simon Maddocks, said that all universities had agreed to make public their institution’s survey results.
Nationwide, a total of 30,930 people responded to the survey, of which 362 (161 males) were associated with CDU.
“While CDU’s response rate was comparable to that of other universities, because our overall student numbers are relatively low, the survey results do not provide a lot of detail. Put simply, in some areas there were insufficient responses to be statistically relevant,” Professor Maddocks said.
“There is no reason to believe, however, that CDU is greatly different to the rest of the sector in terms of sexual assault and sexual harassment, which is why I have committed CDU to the UA’s 10-point action plan.”
He said he would lead discussion at CDU around the AHRC’s recommendations and the university’s responses to them.
“The survey results and the AHRC’s recommendations provide crucial information as universities – individually and collectively – consider the next actions in the on-going work to counteract this inexcusable behaviour,” Professor Maddocks said.
“Sexual assault and sexual harassment of any kind – even a single incident – is unacceptable,” he said. “Sexual assault and sexual harassment are, unfortunately, challenges in every country and in every society.”
The national survey is part of UA’s “Respect. Now. Always.” campaign, which was launched in 2016 as a world-first response by an entire university system to sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Professor Maddocks said that while CDU had trained staff, support services, policies and guidelines in place to respond to reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment, and provide vital support to survivors, the university was continuing to develop other systems to reduce harm.
“Now that the survey results are available to us, we can continue our efforts to support CDU students and staff with initiatives based on evidence,” Professor Maddocks said.
“We are considering a university-wide network of contact officers, trained specifically in sexual harassment awareness and reporting, to provide confidential support for students and staff affected by sexual violence.
“There is no higher priority at CDU than the safety and security of our students and staff,” he said.
CDU has joined with other Australian universities, through UA, to establish a National Support Line to operate over the next four months to ensure that student victims and survivors of sexual assault can access round-the-clock specialist support in the wake of the survey.
The 24/7 support line, which provides highly skilled counselling and referral services, complements the phone and face-to-face counselling services that already operate on campuses, including at CDU.
The support line, which is run by specialist trauma counselling service Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, began on 31 July 2017 and will operate until 30 November 2017. The number is 1800 572 224.