Human rights and international law expert Professor Hilary Charlesworth, says that Australia's appointment to the UN Human Rights Council gives the country an opportunity to examine its own human rights record.
30,930 students from 39 Australian universities responded to the Respect. Now. Always. survey, commissioned by Universities Australia.
The University of Melbourne encouraged students to take part in the survey and 2305 students responded from a random sample of 9775 students. This was a response rate of 24 per cent – one of the highest in Australia.
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, Professor Glyn Davis said the national survey findings reveal the task facing the Australian community in eliminating sexual assault and sexual harassment, and there are challenging findings for the University of Melbourne.
University of Melbourne survey results include:
- Of the 2305 Melbourne students who responded, 1.5% reported being sexual assaulted in a university setting in 2015 and/or 2016, a figure comprised of 1.9% of female respondents and 1.1% of male respondents.
- 20% of respondents reported being sexually harassed at university in 2016. One quarter of female respondents and 13% of male respondents reported being sexually harassed at university.
- Higher proportions of the University’s students reported being sexually assaulted and sexually harassed in their lives beyond the University. Overall, 6.2% of respondents reported being victims of sexual assault in 2015 and/0r 2016. 50% reported experiencing sexual harassment.
- 68% of those who were sexually harassed at university said the perpetrator was a student of the university or a student in their place of residence; 10% said the perpetrator was a tutor, lecturer or non-academic university staff member of the university.
- 86% of those who were sexually harassed at university said the perpetrators were males or that males and females were both involved.
- 7% of students reported being sexually harassed on public transport.
- Only 3% of students who were sexually harassed at university indicated they sought support and assistance from the university.
- An overwhelming majority of respondents indicated they had little or no knowledge of University policy on sexual harassment and assault, of where to seek support/assistance and of where to go within the University to make a complaint.
Professor Davis thanked the many students who participated in the survey, acknowledged that this may have been distressing for some, and said the University would use the findings to drive comprehensive and sustained improvements.
“Sexual harassment and sexual assault are unacceptable. Every time,” Professor Davis said in a video message to all students and staff.
“Such harassment and assault are never the fault – or the responsibility – of the victim. As a community we are committed to learning from these results and making this a safer place for students.”
Professor Davis said the University supports all of the recommendations made by both the AHRC and Universities Australia.
Actions underway at the University of Melbourne include:
- Formation of a Respect Taskforce, chaired by University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard James to develop strategies to further improve the University’s culture, policies and practices
- Rolling out online training modules to all students in 2018 covering key areas including communication and relationships, bystander intervention and importantly sexual consent
- Strengthening existing Research Higher Degree supervisor training to align with these new training materials
- Making the fact that the University finds sexual assault and sexual harassment unacceptable more visible on campuses
- Increasing student confidence in making disclosures and understanding of processes and possible outcomes
- Improving overall accountability and transparency.
Professor Davis encouraged any current or former students who have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault to access the University’s Safer Community Program to report incidents and access the range of support, advice, information and other specialist services.
“Every disclosure of sexual harassment or sexual assault will be treated with respect, your privacy respected, and every effort made to support you through the process,” Professor Davis said. “This applies to recent incidents, and to historical incidents.”
Students can also access Universities Australia’s new National University Support Line on 1800 572 224, until 30 November 2017.