The Australian Human Rights Commission has released the results of Australia’s first national university student survey on sexual assault and sexual harassment.
More than 30,000 students participated in the 2016 survey, commissioned by Universities Australia.
The survey was part of the Respect. Now. Always. initiative launched in February 2016 as a long-term, shared approach by 39 Australian universities to prevent and address sexual harassment and sexual assault in university student communities.
The findings are outlined in the commission’s report, ‘Change the course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities’.
- 1.6 per cent of all students surveyed reported they experienced sexual assault in a university setting in 2015 and/or 2016
- 5.3 per cent of all respondents reported they experienced sexual assault off-campus in 2015 and/or 2016
- 51 per cent of all university students surveyed experienced sexual harassment in 2016, including on- and off-campus settings
- 26 per cent of all university students surveyed experienced sexual harassment in a university setting in 2016
The commission defined university settings as on-campus, while travelling to or from university, at an off-campus event organised by or endorsed by the university, or in university employment.
- 0.2 per cent of respondents from Swinburne reported they experienced sexual assault in university settings during 2015 and/or 2016
- 3.8 per cent of respondents from Swinburne reported they experienced sexual assault off campus during 2015 and/or 2016
- 56 per cent of respondents from Swinburne reported they experienced sexual harassment during 2016, including on- and off-campus settings
- 17 per cent of respondents from Swinburne reported they experienced sexual harassment in a university setting in 2016
“Swinburne has zero tolerance for sexual assault and sexual harassment,” says Swinburne Vice-Chancellor Professor Linda Kristjanson AO.
“It is important that our students are safe and supported at all times. University support is available, no matter the nature or the location of the incident or situation.
“Swinburne also has an important role to play in challenging the causes of violence in our society – by facing the issues, sharing knowledge and educating our communities.”
The commission’s report includes nine recommendations for Australian universities.
“Swinburne will adopt all the recommendations put forward by the Australian Human Rights Commission in this landmark report,” says Professor Kristjanson.
“I will be working with students and staff to develop an action plan in direct response to the commission’s recommendations.”
Education about consent
A key focus for Swinburne is to make sure students and staff have the understanding and tools they need to contribute to a culture of safety and respect.
New consent training has been developed for students, to complement existing programs.
The training aims to promote positive behaviours that encourage healthy, respectful relationships.
It will also be mandatory for student committee members, University Games participants and all students participating in overnight recreation activities.
A training module for Swinburne staff will be available to help staff respond appropriately to disclosures of sexual violence.
Support is available
At Swinburne, safety and respect – for students, staff and visitors – are central to the university culture.
Swinburne has a number of sexual assault and sexual harassment resources available for students and staff.
Current students studying at a Swinburne campus, or through Swinburne Online or Open Universities Australia (studying a unit with Swinburne), are eligible to register for free counselling services. Students and staff also have access to an out-of-hours crisis line, launched in April 2017.
A new, national support line, has been funded by universities and will be managed by specialist trauma counselling services, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia.
It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 1800 572 224.
If you feel distress related to this story or in relation to the survey, support is available by calling Universities Australia’s 24-hour hotline: 1800 572 224.