You may have seen the report in today’s West Australian newspaper regarding allegations of sexual assault and harassment at WA’s universities. The story indicated there were 14 allegations of sexual assault and 20 allegations of sexual harassment at Curtin in the past 18 months. While any number of incidents is unacceptable, it is important to remember that Curtin is WA’s largest university with more than 56 000 students and around 7 300 staff.
Curtin has a zero tolerance approach to sexual assault and harassment: all reports are taken very seriously and action will be taken where appropriate. Of the alleged assaults mentioned in the newspaper: three were reported to the police; one resulted in a finding of student misconduct; one fieldwork contract has been cancelled; and one report is currently under investigation. Eight did not proceed (no formal complaint, complaint withdrawn or insufficient grounds to proceed). Of the reported incidences of sexual harassment, four did not proceed, two are under investigation and the remainder have resulted in a range of specific responses (including one staff dismissal and five findings of student misconduct).
An enormous amount of work has been undertaken at Curtin under the Universities Australia Respect Now Always initiative. In summary, there has been considerable progress including:
- a review and strengthening of Curtin’s policy framework;
- initiatives to educate and raise awareness about acceptable behaviours;
- changes to ensure ready access to information and support;
- resources for managing and triaging cases and working with external agencies to improve safety and wellbeing;
- a new Curtin-wide system for collecting and collating de-identified data;
- inclusion of relevant items in staff and student surveys; and
- regular communication of activities and progress within Curtin.
Anyone who experiences sexual harassment or assault is encouraged to report it to the University either online or in person to the Safer Community Team. There is also helpful information available on our Respect Now Always webpage and we are rolling out our online Respectful Relationships program for all students from Semester two. The program is designed to ensure that students understand all aspects of sexual consent, sexual harassment and sexual assault as well as identify their own responsibilities as bystanders. More information about the program will be available on the Curtin Media Centre from tomorrow.
Curtin’s response to RNA has been a cooperative effort including staff, students and the Student Guild. I am proud of the level of commitment across the University and of the way we have worked together to achieve positive outcomes for the whole Curtin community.
Deborah Terry AO