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Fostering a safe and respectful community at UC

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Source: University of Canberra

Enhancing student support services and staff training programs, updating policies and strengthening prevention initiatives are among the actions taken by the University of Canberra in response to a national report on sexual harassment and sexual assault in Australian universities.

On 1 August 2017, the Australian Human Rights Commission released Change the Course: National Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian Universities.

In the 12 months since the national student survey, the University of Canberra has taken significant steps to continue its efforts to protect students against, and provide support to victims of, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Klomp said providing a safe and respectful environment for all students remained the University’s greatest priority.

“No one should be made to feel unsafe in their community,” Professor Klomp said.

“The University of Canberra has always strived to create a safe and respectful environment and we remain committed to fostering that culture on and off campus.

“In the last 12 months, we have increased our efforts to address the issues preventing some members of our community from feeling safe where they study, work and live. Sexual harassment and sexual assault have no place at our University.

“There is no excuse for it and we do not tolerate behaviour that affects the safety and wellbeing of our students.”

The University of Canberra has undertaken a series of initiatives in the past year to build on those already in place to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault, and to support those who have been affected.

The University established a dedicated Respect.Now.Always Committee in August 2017 to develop, implement and oversee initiatives that will foster a safe and respectful environment at the University.

Former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick AO was engaged to undertake an extensive review into the current culture within the University and of its student body, with respect to sexual harassment and sexual assault. The University anticipates the Broderick Review to be delivered soon and has already committed to implementing its recommendations.

A series of training programs are being delivered to students and staff:

The Healthy Relationships program teaches students about healthy relationships and how to build them.

The Consent Matters training module educates students about how to make informed decisions, understand sexual consent and how to engage in healthy, respectful relationships.

Staff are improving the way they address victims of sexual violence through the Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence course. Further, staff are receiving training from the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre to better prepare them for handling disclosures of sexual violence.

The Student Matters Working Group was established last year and oversees different elements of University students’ experience including safety and wellbeing.

The University has been a White Ribbon accredited workplace since 2013 and continues to deliver training sessions to staff on all forms of violence.

Upgrades to the University’s security network at its Bruce campus have taken place over the last two years, leading to a more comprehensive CCTV network with a 24/7 control room to complement a team of security officers who patrol campus around the clock. Significant improvements to lighting on campus have also been made.

An ALLY Network has been established and Terms of Reference are currently being developed.

Professor Klomp said there is still work to be done and the University is committed to having all members of its community stand by its zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“As a university, we have a job to do in educating students in the fields in which they study, but our role in shaping people extends well beyond the curriculum and walls of the lecture theatre,” Professor Klomp said.

“We have a duty to ensure our students not only graduate with the skills and professional qualities that make them attractive to employers, but also with values that enable them to uphold and practise the highest standards of behaviour during their studies through to beyond their time as students.”

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Antony Perry

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