The University of the Sunshine Coast has today received an Australian Human Rights Commission report into the incidence of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities.
This report was conducted at the request of Universities Australia as part of a sector-wide ‘Respect. Now. Always.’ campaign and is available at the Commission’s website at www.humanrights.gov.au
USC, which is one of 39 members of Universities Australia, has received its own institutional report that it has made available to the public at www.usc.edu.au/respect. This web page also includes USC’s planned responses to the Commission’s report.
USC Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill said the University was committed to adopting the Commission’s recommendations.
“This survey was designed to provide universities with robust data to help them improve policies, programs and services to prevent sexual assault and harassment and support those who have experienced such behaviours,” he said.
Professor Hill said USC had organised extra counselling services in anticipation of an increase in requests for assistance this week and would facilitate student forums in coming months.
“Students who participated in the survey have been assured that the results will be used by universities to guide further improvements in how to better prevent and respond to sexual assault and harassment,” he said.
Professor Hill said actions taken by USC since the ‘Respect. Now. Always.’ campaign started locally in mid-2016 included:
• Advising students, via emails and posters around campus, that support and help is available for anyone who has experienced or witnessed sexual assault or sexual harassment;
• Encouraging students to take part in the Australian Human Rights Commission survey into sexual assault and sexual harassment;
• Screening the American film, Hunting Ground, which highlights the problems of sexual assault and sexual harassment in university settings in the USA;
• With support from the local specialist sexual assault services, providing extra training to staff in responding appropriately to disclosures of sexual assault and harassment, and in recognising and responding to students in distress;
• In partnership with the Student Representative Council, training a number of students as ‘Consent is Sexy’ ambassadors, to help raise the visibility of conversations around consent, respect and healthy relationships at University events; and
• Undertaking a broad review of its existing policies, practices and service provision related to matters of student sexual harassment and assault, and ratifying a new Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy.
In the coming months, USC will further develop its Staff and Student Codes of Conduct and Student Charter, to ensure these align with the objectives and expectations outlined in its new Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy.
The University has other existing assistance available to students, including: a partnership with the Queensland Police Service and Neighbourhood Watch to run ‘Student Watch’ at Sippy Downs; a UniSafe app for students that provides personal safety tips and access to University Security; and a web page that provides practical advice and support to students.