The Australian Human Rights Commission has conducted an audit of responses to the landmark Change the course report into sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities.
The Change the course report released in August 2017 found one in five (21%) students reported experiencing sexual harassment in a university setting in 2016 and 1.6% of students reported experiencing sexual assault in a university setting on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016.
Since the release of Change the course, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and her team have met with Vice Chancellors, staff and students around the country to discuss the findings and next steps.
Last month, Commissioner Jenkins, wrote to all 39 Vice Chancellors to request information about what action their university had taken in response to the report. All 39 universities have accepted the majority of the Commission’s recommendations, and 32 universities have explicitly accepted all nine recommendations made.
“I’m pleased to see Vice Chancellors demonstrating leadership and taking action in response to the report. Ongoing commitment to addressing these issues is vital, and as our report recommends, there needs to be engagement at all levels of leadership in order to address these issues.
“As we have seen recently, sexual assault and sexual harassment occur not only at universities, but across our society. I urge Vice Chancellors to seize upon this opportunity to show leadership and make a difference for students and Australian society more broadly,” Commissioner Jenkins said.
The Change the Course report found that only 6% of students surveyed thought their university was currently doing enough to provide clear direction on sexual harassment procedures and support services.
Commissioner Jenkins said she’s encouraged to see that as a result of the Change the course report many universities have taken a range of steps including;
• Internal and external reviews of sexual harassment and assault policies and procedures
• Provided training to better equip staff and students with the skills to respond appropriately to disclosures of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
• Conducted extensive consultations to raise awareness among students about respectful relationships, consent and codes of conduct.
• Developed various apps to improve safety and provide information to students
The Australian Human Rights Commission will conduct another audit to coincide with the anniversary of the release of the Change the course report (1 August 2018).
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