Date: 
Wednesday 1 August 2018

The Australian Human Rights Commission has conducted an audit of Australian Universities, to coincide with the one year anniversary of the landmark Change the course report into sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities.

The Change the course report 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.

Last month the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins wrote to all 39 Vice Chancellors to request information about what action their university had taken in response to the Change the course report. 

Commissioner Jenkins said it’s encouraging that universities have made significant progress towards implementing the recommendations.

•  38 universities have reported establishing, or a commitment to establishing, an advisory body or working group, in addition to developing an action plan in line with Recommendation 1 of Change the course.

•  All 39 universities reported implementing, or a commitment to implementing, training and education in relation to sexual assault, sexual harassment and respectful relationships, in line with Recommendation 2 of Change the course.

•  39 universities reported that they have taken steps to increase the availability and visibility of their support services in line with Recommendation 3 of Change the course. 

•  22 universities reported that they have launched or will launch apps for students that offer a range of information and services including links to support services, links to campus security or information on consent and relationships.

•  37 universities reported implementing, or a commitment to implementing, a review of existing university policies and response pathways in relation to sexual assault and sexual harassment, as per Recommendation 4 of Change the course.

•  39 universities reported identifying staff members and student representatives most likely to receive disclosures of sexual assault and sexual harassment and ensured they have received training in responding to disclosures or are preparing to do so, in line with Recommendation 5 of Change the course.

• 36 universities reported that they are working to ensure that information about disclosures and reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment is collected and stored confidentially, in line with Recommendation 6 of Change the course.

• 33 universities reported planning to conduct an audit of university counselling services, as per Recommendation 7 of Change the course.

• All universities, through their peak body Universities Australia, have committed to conducting the national survey on the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment every three years, in line with Recommendation 8 of Change the course.

• 29 universities have reported taking steps to review factors which contribute to sexual assault and sexual harassment in their residential colleges and university residences, as per Recommendation 9 of Change the course.

“One year on since the release of the Change the course report, I am encouraged to see significant steps taken to address sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus.

“We must not be complacent though. We must continue to monitor and evaluate progress if we are to make a difference.

“It is vital that universities maintain momentum for this work and that they are transparent about their progress.

“As we have seen over the last year, sexual assault and sexual harassment continue to occur at unacceptable rates not only within universities, but across our society at large.

“I commend universities for undertaking this work and for the progress that has been made since 2017, as well as the efforts of survivors and advocates who have worked hard for many years to drive change.

“The Australian Human Rights Commission remains committed to working with universities, and also residential colleges, to assist in any way we can with the implementation of the recommendations,” Commissioner Jenkins said.

The audit of Australian Universities comes as the National Inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces continues. For more information about the Inquiry visit https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination/projects/nati...

For more information or to arrange media interviews please contact Lindy Kerin 0430 366 529 or lindy.kerin@humanrights.gov.au