The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) welcomes the release today of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s national report as an important piece of research that will inform its continuing efforts to safeguard the physical and emotional wellbeing of students.
“We are committed to creating a campus environment that has absolutely zero tolerance of sexual harassment and sexual assault,” UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs said today. “Our goal is to ensure that every UTS student is safe and feels supported.
“UTS recognises that one instance of sexual violence within our community is one too many,” Professor Brungs said. “This report, and the accompanying data specific to UTS, will inform and accelerate our progress in addressing this issue as a university as part of our adoption of the broader Respect. Now. Always program.”
“As well as providing a safe environment for our own students, universities also have an important role to play in tackling sexual assault in the community at large, particularly as educators of young people,” UTS Chancellor Catherine Livingstone added.
“Fostering respectful attitudes and behaviours within our diverse community can only have a positive long-term impact on the underlying causes of violence in our society, as today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders in workplaces and communities,” she said.
Universities Australia’s Respect. Now. Always initiative was launched in February 2016 as a long-term, collaborative approach by 39 Australian universities to prevent and address sexual harassment and sexual assault in university student communities.
As part of this initiative, Universities Australia asked the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to undertake the first national university student survey on the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment, the results of which were released today.
Also as part of Respect. Now. Always. UTS has been working with staff and students and consulting with external organisations, including police, government and community support services, to improve its ability to:
- Prevent and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment.
- Create a campus culture of zero tolerance to sexual assault and sexual harassment, thereby reducing its prevalence.
Among the new initiatives that have commenced are several that will not only raise the awareness of how to report but also ensure students and staff have control over the way they report incidents and access services.
One example is an online portal that has been introduced for those who wish to make a disclosure about sexual harassment or sexual assault but prefer not to do so in person, on campus.
In addition, UTS will trial with Relationships Australia NSW a new way for students to self-select a counsellor through an online service that will list UTS counsellors and more than 100 other professionals.
UTS is also using expertise within its Design Innovation Research Centre to examine ways to improve the student experience in accessing support and reporting incidents.
There have also been a number of enhancements to longstanding initiatives, such as an increase in the number of counsellors trained in responding to trauma – now the equivalent of 11 full-time positions.
Increased training for staff and students including education for all those who might receive a disclosure of sexual violence – beyond designated counsellors – is also a focus of next steps. Training is being increased with the dual aim of ensuring people are able to respond with knowledge and compassion to those who experience sexual assault or harassment while also maintaining their own health and wellbeing.
The report released today contains a number of recommendations as well as data that will be useful in addressing some of the key issues.
“UTS has already or is intending to implement all of the high level recommendations contained in the AHRC report pertaining to universities, and is committed to working with all universities across the Australian sector in sharing best practice and jointly tackling sexual harassment and assault,” Professor Brungs added.
In addition to the national report released today, the AHRC has provided data to individual institutions. Figures provided to UTS by the AHRC, based on 793 survey responses from UTS students, showed:
- 2.2% of survey respondents from UTS reported they had experienced sexual assault in university settings during 2015-16.
- 8.3% of respondents from UTS reported they had experienced sexual assault in all settings during 2015-16
- 31% of survey respondents from UTS reported they had experienced sexual harassment in university settings during 2015-16. This dropped to 21% when travel to and from university was excluded. Public transport was an insightful outlier in the UTS data compared to national figures.
- 52% of respondents from UTS reported they had experienced sexual harassment in all settings, in 2015-16.
“While UTS has been actively working to improve its ability to tackle sexual harassment and assault as part of the Respect. Now. Always. initiative, the data within this report will be carefully analysed over coming weeks to better target UTS responses and actions,” Professor Brungs said.
“We thank all the students who took part in the survey for sharing their experiences and giving us greater insight into this issue. They have made a very real contribution that will help many others in the years to come.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission report is available here.
The Universities Australia 10-Point Plan is available here.
The full table of data for UTS is available here.
A summary of UTS initiatives is available here.
If the release of this report, or discussion raised by it, causes you to feel distress, you can call the Universities Australia National University Support Line on 1800 572 224.
Members of the UTS community who experience distress as a result of sexual assault or are concerned about a student can contact the UTS Sexual Assault Support Line during office hours on 1800 531 626.
In an emergency, if the person is in immediate danger or needs urgent medical attention, call 000. UTS campus security should also be contacted.
UTS campus security is available 24 hours a day by dialling extension 6 from an internal telephone or by calling freecall number 1800 249 559 from a mobile phone.
For assistance regarding sexual harassment, students and staff can seek advice and support from a senior staff member in their faculty or unit, or through these services:
UTS has a dedicated web portal for easy access to information on support options within UTS and the external community.