Zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual assault

The higher education sector’s peak body, Universities Australia (UA), has initiated a sector-wide survey of students on their experiences of sexual harassment or sexual assault, conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

The survey results have been published today together with a series of recommendations that will inform Flinders University’s future efforts to promote an increasingly respectful and safe environment for both work and study.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling says the AHRC has provided Flinders with data from its respondents and the University has made these data publicly available in full on the university’s website.

“Flinders University has zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“Every member of the Flinders community has the right to a safe environment in which to learn, work, socialise and live. All of our people – women, men and those of diverse gender identities –  are entitled to be treated with respect at all times.

“The survey identifies levels of sexual harassment that are unacceptable, including the use of inappropriate language and inappropriate visual contact that would be disrespectful and, as such, inconsistent with the values we share as an institution.

“These findings are of grave concern to me personally and I am committed to ensuring that we redouble our efforts to provide a safe and respectful environment for work and study for everyone at Flinders University.

“To that end we have already improved the information and training available to staff and students and will also adopt the recommendations emerging from UA on sector-wide best practice.” Professor Stirling says.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students) Professor Clare Pollock says Flinders is increasing awareness amongst students of their rights and responsibilities.

“We are also ensuring that students have access to high quality support services from staff with specialised training in providing support to those who experience sexual harassment or sexual assault.

“Most respondents stated they had knowledge of how to report and seek support.

“However we are continuing our efforts to increase awareness by students about support services available and have made it easier to report incidents of either sexual assault or harassment in future.

“We have recently made available the ‘Consent Matters’ online training package for all students.

“We have undertaken first responder training for key members of staff and are also increasing our training of staff more broadly,” Professor Pollock says.

Professor Stirling says this UA initiative has presented uncomfortable insights into an important societal and sector-wide issue.

“Australian universities have taken a major step forward in confronting this issue and the transparency of the approach is to be welcomed. Nobody who works in our universities will welcome the findings but they provide us with vital information to tackle these issues into the future” Professor Stirling says.                                                                                                                                                       

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