Australia’s universities will launch a major new campaign today to prevent sexual assault and harassment.
The campaign – Respect. Now. Always. – highlights the determination of Australia’s universities to ensure that our students and staff are safe from sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said the campaign built on longstanding work across the Australian university sector.
“Over many years, policies have been developed to prevent sexual assault and harassment and ensure that services are in place to support students when they disclose or report,” she said.
“But there is more that can be done, and this campaign is the next step to ensure that we keep improving and learning from best practice.”
Ms Robinson said the campaign would raise awareness among university students and staff that sexual assault and harassment are unacceptable, and provide clear pathways of support for those who need it.
“A key aim is to educate that sexual assault and harassment are unacceptable and empower those who have experienced sexual assault or harassment to seek help and support if they need it,” she said.
“The campaign seeks to prevent sexual assault and harassment by raising awareness, support students in need of help, and give bystanders the confidence to speak up. We all have a role to play to ensure our university communities are places of respect – now and always.”
Universities Australia’s lead Vice Chancellor on equity and diversity, Professor Ian Jacobs of UNSW Australia, said the potential reach of the campaign – with almost 1.3 million university students in Australia – was profound. The initiative would signal a zero tolerance stance on sexual assault and harassment, and lift the visibility of support services.
“This groundbreaking work appears to be the first in the world where a national university sector has decided to work together on these issues on such a scale,” he said. “It is a shared effort – to raise awareness, to seek more comprehensive data to inform our responses, to exchange best practice, and to commit to keep improving.”
The campaign will also be an opportunity for the university sector to review the effectiveness of local policies, responses and support services to ensure they are best practice.
Working with partners including the Australian Human Rights Commission, the UNSW Australian Human Rights Centre and The Hunting Ground Australia Project Team, the sector has begun collaborative work to:
- Seek more comprehensive Australian data on sexual assault and harassment in universities through a national survey;
- Participate in a review and update of policies and procedures at universities to prevent sexual assault and harassment; and
- Share global best practice models for reporting incidents and supporting students who disclose sexual assault or harassment.
The campaign will precede the release of the US film ‘The Hunting Ground’ in Australia.
Screenings of the film, which looks at sexual assault in American universities, will also encourage discussion in Australian university communities about the importance of respect and safety.
To learn more about the campaign, visit Respect. Now. Always.