Date: 
Monday 9 April 2018

The Australian Human Rights Commission will conduct an independent review of residential colleges at the University of New England (UNE) in the regional centre of Armidale, NSW.

The University has seven residential colleges, currently home to approximately 1800 students.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s landmark Change the course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities found that college students were disproportionately more likely than other students to have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment at university in 2015 or 2016.

The national survey of over 30,000 university students found:

•  21% of students who reported being sexually assaulted and 6% of students who reported being sexually harassed said that the most recent incident occurred at a university or residential college social event.

• 10% of students who reported being sexually assaulted said that the most recent incident occurred in a residential college.

• Students who lived in residential colleges were more likely than other students to have reported experiencing sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said she is pleased UNE has recognised there are significant issues to address.

“The University has been proactive and has asked the AHRC to conduct an independent review of its colleges, as recommended in the Change the course report.

“The review will involve a deep examination into the culture of UNE’s colleges particularly in attitudes towards women, sexual harassment and sexual assault."

UNE Vice-Chancellor, Professor Annabelle Duncan said the AHRC review will help the university build an understanding of the culture within individual colleges, identify what is working and what doesn’t work, and point to where we might make practical changes.

“There are no shortcuts in this process if we want UNE and its residential system to provide a positive, safe and respectful environment to all students and staff. The Change the Course report highlighted shortcomings in our systems, and I have committed our University to a root-and-branch assessment of those issues,” Professor Duncan said

As part of the AHRC review, a survey of current college students will be conducted to measure the prevalence, nature and reporting of sexual assault and harassment within UNE’s residential colleges.

The AHRC will also consult with former and current college residents, staff and other stakeholders to gain an understanding of individual experiences.

Commissioner Jenkins said the AHRC remains keen to support all universities on their implementation of the Change the course recommendations.