Australia’s Vice-Chancellors – through Universities Australia – has commissioned an important study on sexual assault and sexual harassment, to obtain a clearer evidence base to guide further work to prevent and address sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The resulting report, Change the course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment in Australian universities, is based on a national survey undertaken by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2016.
QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake said Universities Australia actively sought out information on the issue in order to make things better and almost 31,000 students from all Australian universities participated.
“Some 1400 QUT students took part in the survey, and we thank each of them for their involvement,” Professor Coaldrake said.
“QUT recognises the seriousness of these issues in universities and the wider community and strives to ensure we do whatever we can to provide a safe environment.
“This issue has a very real impact on students as they go about their lives both on and off campus,” he said.
Professor Coaldrake said sexual assault and sexual harassment are completely unacceptable, and the underreporting of both at QUT and in the wider community are a serious problem which needs a serious and ongoing response.
“The only acceptable rate of sexual assault or sexual harassment is zero – anything above that means there’s more work to do to prevent incidents and support those affected,” he said.
“Australian universities need to do more and so does QUT. We are therefore committed to supporting the national effort as well as to addressing issues on our own campuses to improve the situation.”
Key results for QUT were all similar to the national picture.
Overall rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment (as a percentage of respondents):
Note – ‘at university’ includes public transport to and from, plus any technology-based harassment involving students.
- Assault in all settings: 6.9% nationally (QUT 7.0%)
- Assault at university: 1.6% nationally (QUT 2.0%)
- Harassment in all settings: 51% nationally (QUT 54%)
- Harassment at university: 26% nationally (QUT 28%)
Professor Coaldrake said in relation to sexual assault, QUT was not provided with data on the types, locations or perpetrator details.
National details – sexual assault:
- 21% of all assaults occurred at social events organised by the university or residences
- 15% public transport
- 10% university residences
- 10% university grounds
QUT details – sexual harassment:
- More than 70% included inappropriate staring, comments/jokes, and intrusive questions
- 25% occurred on public transport
- 17% university teaching spaces
- 15% university grounds
- 71% of harassers were fellow students and predominantly male.
He said QUT was already doing much to raise awareness and help prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment including:
- educating students about the expected standards of behaviours including consent
- educating students about the consequences of unacceptable behaviour including being disciplined under the student Code of Conduct
- targeting groups such as those in residential accommodation, and places such as social events.
He said the university has also raised awareness of reporting and support mechanisms including Equity Services 3138 2699, Student Counselling and Medical Services 3138 2383, and Security 3138 8888.
A national help line 1800 572 224 is also available.
“We will now intensify these efforts including the work already begun in collaboration with students,” Professor Coaldrake said.