Today marks one year since Universities Australia released Respect. Now. Always, the first-ever national survey of university students’ experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Published by the Australian Human Rights Commission in the national Change the Course report, the survey results made for uncomfortable reading and showed the unacceptable prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault across our community, especially amongst women, trans and gender diverse students.
Everyone at La Trobe University has been working hard to ensure that our campuses are safe places to be, and staff are focussed on supporting student safety and respectful relationships on campus.
It is pleasing that the La Trobe Student Union and regional Student Associations have joined with staff in tackling the issue of sexual harassment and assault on campus, and are committed to implementing positive change and creating meaningful discussion of the issues that were raised in the survey.
We are taking a primary prevention approach to sexual harassment and assault by directly addressing the underlying causes and drivers of gendered violence through the promotion of gender equality in all areas of the University.
We would like to remind you that help and support is available if you experience intimidation, harassment, discrimination, any form of violence (including sexual and physical assault) or other forms of unacceptable behaviour.
Services for staff and students affected by violence are available through Speak Up on 03 9479 8988 or by contacting the 24-hour hotline on 1300 687 399.
This is further supported by the following improvements across the University:
- The creation of a Campus Safety Group, chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, that oversees all campus safety-related matters and includes representatives from Victoria Police and student unions and associations.
- The introduction of a range of training modules for students and staff, including Consent Matters and Respectful Relationships, which aim to prevent sexual harassment and assault. More than 12,000 students have now completed the Consent Matters module.
- The continuation of Speak Up, a University-wide initiative that offers advice and support to students and staff in relation to intimidation, harassment, discrimination, all forms of violence (including sexual and physical assault), and other forms of unacceptable behaviour. Reports can be made anonymously online or by calling 03 9479 8988.
- Provision of immediate advice, assistance and help through a 24-hour hotline for students and staff affected by violence via 1300 687 399.
- A comprehensive appraisal of existing policies and practices governing alcohol and drugs; sexual assault prevention and response protocols; and student behaviour, complaints and general misconduct.
- The appointment of independent experts to review our approach and the development of new policies and procedures to ensure they reflect best practice. This will be completed by the end of September.
- A review of our residential culture, physical environment and governance structures, and consideration of how power relations may impact the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.
- Working with the Victorian Centre Against Sexual Assault to deliver education and support programs for students and staff. They have agreed to increase their presence on the Melbourne Campus to one day per week from August 2018.
While we have made significant progress towards our goal of ensuring that we provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students, staff and visitors at La Trobe, we still have much work to do to eliminate the issue of sexual harassment and assault in our community.
We will continue to give this activity the highest priority across La Trobe, including reviewing the guidelines for university responses to sexual assault and sexual harassment that were released by Universities Australia on 20 July and make sure our approach aligns with the recommendations.
By working together, we can all play our part in stamping out sexual assault and harassment within our University and the broader community.
Professor John Dewar, Vice-Chancellor
Samantha Barlow, President, Albury-Wodonga Student Association
Michael Ireoche, President, La Trobe Student Union, Melbourne Campus
Jess Grant, President, Shepparton Student Association
Yasmeen Khurshid, President, Mildura Student Association
William Griffin Acting President, Bendigo Student Association