Date: 
Friday 28 April 2017

The Australian Human Rights Commission today announced that it will release its national report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities on Tuesday 1 August 2017.

“This project is an important milestone in confronting the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities,” said Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

All 39 universities, through peak body Universities Australia, asked the Commission to undertake this project. This request follows years of strong advocacy on the topic of sexual assault both within Australia and overseas.

“Our goal is to present an accurate picture of the nature and extent of sexual assault and harassment at universities and how universities respond to disclosures and requests for assistance from their students,” said Commissioner Jenkins.

The Commission has collected statistical data through a national survey that was sent to a representative sample of students across all Australian universities. In addition to the survey, the Commission provided the opportunity for the public to make submissions.

“Robust and accurate data will provide a strong basis for universities to take action to prevent and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment more effectively,” said Commissioner Jenkins.

“The information we have gathered will allow us to make strong findings and clear recommendations to universities.”

Commissioner Jenkins highlighted the invaluable contribution that students and advocates have made to the project.

“I would like to acknowledge the courage shown by all those who have come forward to share their personal experiences with the Commission,” she said.

Recognising that the release of the report might be distressing to some survivors or lead to an increase in disclosures of sexual assault, the Commission consulted with student representatives to determine the best time to launch.

“Based on this advice, we are releasing the report at a time when most students are on campus to ensure that those who need support can access services through their universities.”

Commissioner Jenkins noted the important work done by survivors of sexual assault, women’s officers and other advocates – including End Rape on Campus, the Hunting Ground Australia Project, the Australian Human Rights Centre at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the National Union of Students – to raise awareness of the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment at universities.

“The UNSW Australian Human Rights Centre is currently finalising its research into good practice responses to sexual assault and harassment at universities based on local and international experience. The findings from the national student survey will inform the Australian Human Rights Centre report.”

In addition to the national report, the Commission will provide universities with information about the rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment at their individual institutions. All 39 Australian universities have committed to releasing their institutional data to the public on the same day that the national report is released.

“This is a promising sign of commitment from universities to be transparent about their progress and drive positive change within their institutions,” said Commissioner Jenkins.

“I look forward to working with students and university leaders to create positive change at Australian universities.”

Further details about the release of the report will be available soon.

If you have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment and feel you would like to speak to someone for support or information, 1800RESPECT (Phone: 1800 737 732) can provide counselling 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

Media contact: Georgia Flynn – 0430 366 529 or Georgia.Flynn@humanrights.gov.au.