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Australian universities will take strong and swift action to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment with a 10-point action plan responding to a landmark survey of university students.

As part of the Respect. Now. Always. initiative launched in February 2016, Universities Australia asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to undertake this research so university leaders had a clear evidence base to inform their next set of actions.

As an initial response to the survey report, released today, Universities Australia Chair Professor Margaret Gardner said the 10-point plan would be a major contribution to prevent unacceptable behaviours in student communities and the broader Australian community.

“We send a strong and clear message today that these behaviours are not acceptable. Not on our campuses – and not in Australia society,” Professor Gardner said.

“The 10 major initiatives we announce today signal our resolve to ensure our students study and live in a safe and respectful culture, and to ensure that students who experience and report unacceptable behaviour receive the right response of compassion, care and support.”

According to the survey:
• 1.6% of respondents reported they experienced sexual assault in a university setting (including public
    transport to and from university) in 2015 or 2016; and
• 21% of respondents reported that they experienced some form of sexual harassment in a university
    setting (not including public transport to and from university) in 2016

Professor Gardner said while the report’s findings are challenging, it is important to understand the scale and nature of these behaviours to inform further action to address them.

“This report tells us that, while much has already been done, we have more work to do to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment in student communities,” she said.

The 10 initiatives announced today include:
• the development of an evidence-based respectful relationships program for university students;
• new specialist training developed by the Australian Psychological Society to extend the skills of university
    counsellors to support victims and survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment;
• a 24/7 national interim support line offering specialist support for students, operated by Rape and Domestic
    Violence Services Australia, to supplement university services in the months immediately following the
    release of this report;
• broader availability of first responder training for university staff;
• new training for university staff and leaders about prevention and responses to sexual harassment and sexual assault;
• working with Universities Colleges Australia – a peak body for residential colleges – to provide access
    to first responder training for residential colleges and halls of residence, and to take their own action to
    support students in a compassionate and timely way;
• the development of best practice guidelines to support universities to respond to reports of sexual
    assault and sexual harassment;
• new principles on postgraduate student-staff interaction;
• a commitment to continue the Respect. Now. Always. awareness campaign; and
• undertaking a follow-up student survey to assess progress and inform ongoing action.

In addition to these national initiatives, universities across Australia will respond to the recommendations by taking specific local action to build on initiatives already in place. “We have a shared commitment with our students and staff to do more, and better, to ensure every student is safe and can study in a society and a university community where respect is paramount,” Professor Gardner said.

“This is our contribution to an important, ongoing national conversation about how we prevent and address sexual harassment and sexual assault within Australian society.”

“I would like to personally thank the more than 30,000 students who took part in this survey, and the victims and survivors who told us their personal stories through this work.” Professor Gardner said. “We have listened – and we will act.”

The full national report can be found at

Universities Australia’s 10-point action plan can be found at

IMPORTANT NOTE TO MEDIA: Please include support numbers in any reporting.
If you need support, help is available.
• National university support line: 1800 572 224 (From 31 July to 30 November 2017)
• 1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732
• Lifeline: 131114
• Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

Universities Australia Media Contacts

Misha Schubert
02 6285 8133
Mobile: 0421 612 351

Bella Counihan
Ph: 02 6285 8123
Mobile: 0419 212 219 

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