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Change the course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities report

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are problems in societies around the world. The Respect Now Always initiative of Universities Australia is an important proactive step by Australia’s universities to better understand the size of the problem within the higher education sector and within individual institutions, and to seek to address this issue.

As part of Respect Now Always Universities Australia commissioned the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct a survey into sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australia’s universities.  The report of that survey – Change the course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universitieshas now been released and all Australian institutions, including Curtin, are making their individual reports public.

Almost 1100 Curtin students completed the survey, and others have made submissions to the Commission.  I would like to thank all those who participated for their courage in coming forward and their willingness to help us make our University safer.

The report showed that 21 per cent of Curtin students who responded to the survey said they were sexually harassed in a university setting.  This may have included on the campus, while travelling to or from university, at an off-campus event organised or endorsed by the university, or in university employment.

Examples of sexual harassment in the report included a number of inappropriate behaviours such as staring or leering, sexually suggestive comments and unwelcome touching.

The report also indicated that a number of Curtin students said they had been sexually assaulted in a university setting.  Although the number was less than one per cent, any instance of sexual assault is absolutely unacceptable.

Curtin has zero tolerance for sexual assault and sexual harassment and I encourage any member of the University community who has experienced this to contact the support services at their campus. All reports will be taken seriously and assistance will be provided.

Curtin’s Change the course report indicated that some students were not aware how they could seek help, how to report an incident or what the University’s policy is on these matters.  As a priority, we will work with the Curtin Student Guild to clarify these issues.

It seems some respondents believed they needed to be able to prove an incident had occurred before they could seek help, but this is not the case.  We will provide support to any survivor of sexual assault or harassment from the University, regardless of where the incident happened, whether it can be proven or whether they wish to report it to the police.

Curtin’s culture is underpinned by our values of integrity, respect, courage, excellence and impact. These values translate into all our activities and into the ways we interact with and support each other. One important way we demonstrate our values is by ensuring our campuses are safe, collegial and welcoming environments, and we all have a part to play in achieving this.

We are committed to fully implementing the report’s recommendations, with the goal of eliminating sexual assault and harassment at Curtin.

More information on Respect Now Always and the services Curtin provides can be found online.

If you are aware of, or have experienced an incident of sexual assault or harassment, see something that shouldn’t be happening, or feel unsafe, please report it to our Safer Community Team.