James Cook University (JCU) has enhanced its support for students and staff with the launch of its Equity Contact Officers Network.
47 employees across three campuses are now trained and ready to provide support and advice to staff and students who may have, or who are currently experiencing, discrimination, bullying or harassment.
Equity Contact Officers (ECOs) are based on the Townsville, Cairns and Mount Isa campuses and can provide information on matters regarding discrimination, harassment and bullying, including informal and formal resolution options available.
The number of ECOs has been increased from 10 to 47, dramatically increasing the scope of support for students and staff.
They will also assist in raising awareness in the University community about processes and systems that are in place to combat behaviours that impact on workplace and social inclusion at JCU.
Manager of Staff Equity and Diversity Jean Fenton explained that the ECOs could be the first point of contact for students and staff who experience any form of bullying, discrimination or harassment. As these individuals are trained to listen and refer people to the procedures, policies and services available to students and staff.
“The Equity Contact Officers will be able to provide staff and students with information to help make informed choices when it comes to dealing with a concern or issue,” she said.
“They’re part of JCU’s commitment to providing an environment free of discrimination, bullying and harassment for everyone, whether they’re staff or students.”
The ECOs have all received comprehensive training, delivered by the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland. They will also be offered ongoing training and support.
Dr Narelle Biedermann is a senior lecturer in Healthcare Sciences and one of the ECOs. She has written about equity and diversity in healthcare and is thankful she is able to provide this service to staff and students.
“A focus on equity is essential for any organisation to ensure all people who participate in any capacity within the organisation feel safe,” she said.
“When a person feels unsafe, whether it’s through bullying or harassment, intimidation, abuse, discrimination, or any other anti-social behaviour, they are vulnerable. Equity means standing up to say that any anti-social behaviour that makes a person feel vulnerable is not acceptable.”
James Cook University is a part of the Universities Australia Respect. Now. Always. campaign and is working towards ensuring that campuses are free from sexual harassment and sexual assault.