In 2016, the University of Canberra partnered with all Australian universities in a major national initiative to prevent and address sexual harassment and assault.
The Respect. Now. Always. (RNA) campaign highlights the determination of Australia's universities to ensure that students and staff are safe from sexual assault and sexual harassment. A key aim of the campaign 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.
The campaign builds on longstanding work at the University of Canberra and across the Australian university sector to prevent sexual assault and harassment and ensure that services are in place to support students when they disclose or report.
RNA is an opportunity for the university sector to review the effectiveness of policies, responses and support services to ensure they are best practice.
In late 2017, the University of Canberra commissioned Elizabeth Broderick to conduct a thorough review of campus culture, relating specifically to issues of sexual misconduct, assault and harassment. The Broderick review, delivered to the University in September 2018, contained 10 recommendations – all of which were accepted by the University. Subsequently, the University has developed an action plan to implement the recommendations and strengthen its vision of a safe, inclusive and respectful community.
The review formed part of the University ’s response to the Respect.Now.Always. campaign initiated by Universities Australia and the subsequent Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) report on sexual assault and harassment on University campuses in Australia. The University has been intentional in strengthening its response to issues relating to sexual misconduct, assault and harassment, as a safe, inclusive and respectful community is established on unified acceptance of diversity, equity and sexual orientation.
By prioritising safety and security along with a zero-tolerance approach to these issues, the University of Canberra aims to foster a culture of compassion for all who live, learn and work on campus.
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 has invested in significant improvement of the campus environment and security settings, such as increasing lighting, security presence and CCTV across campus to make monitoring more visible. In addition, a new Security team commenced with the University in April.
- The RNA committee has worked closely with the Campus Estate and People and Diversity areas to review our existing reporting arrangements and develop and implement a new, centralised incident reporting and investigation mechanism, including a the establishment of a fit for purpose database of all hazards and security incidents.
- Psychologists from the UC Medical and Counselling Centre have developed series of specialised training workshop modules, Healthy Relationships. These workshops have been offered to all students at no cost and are running throughout the year.
- The University convenes a working group of key staff that are responsible for overseeing different elements of the student experience. The Student Matters group, established in 2017, meets regularly to discuss a range of topics related to student issues, including the RNA campaign and student well-being and safety.
- The University has established an Ally Network, a support and mentoring network for LGBTIQ+ communities within UC, with a focus on improving University settings and raising awareness of issues pertaining to LGBTIQ+ people. The group has coordinated a number of events and forums on campus, as well as advocated for changes to support LGBTIQ+ people in their work and study, such as for the establishment of gender inclusive facilities on campus.
- The University has acted to implement a number of initiatives to improve the training received by frontline staff, including identification of those staff who are most likely to receive disclosures of sexual assault and harassment.
- The University has implemented the Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Assault training program, which is available for all staff to complete. Communication about this training program has been through the staff bulletin, and workshops have been held for key frontline staff and managers to complete a walkthrough of the program and be prepared for any staff questions that arise.
As a part of Respect.Now.Always the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) conducted the nation's first ever national university student survey on sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The survey ran from September to November 2016 with more than 30,000 students from across all Australian universities participating. The survey was conducted at UC between 19 September and 10 October. All responses were de-identified to protect student privacy.
The Australian Human Rights Commission released a report compiled from the data collected from the survey on Tuesday the 1st of August 2017. Accompanying this, The University of Canberra published results specific to the university on the same day. This provided an insight on national and UC specific results. The results from the survey has encouraged the university to understand the issues that the campus faced and how we have now been able to improve these issues in our policies and support services to maximize best practice.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), with input and consultation from both undergraduate and postgraduate student representatives, and with support from sexual violence specialists and publications, have compiled a list of recommendations in response to the AHRC survey. The CAPA report provides 19 recommendations to address this complex and systematic issue and focuses on three areas of prevention:
- Primary prevention: strategies utilised to mitigate problems before they occur;
- Secondary prevention: supporting those in our community who are at high risk through early identification and intervention; and
- Tertiary prevention: responses after sexual violence has taken place.
A link to the full CAPA recommendations report can be found here.
UA 10-Point Action Plan
In response to the AHRC survey, Universities Australia developed a 10-point action plan as part of the Respect.Now.Always campaign. The plan outlines a series of further commitments to be undertaken across the higher education sector as a whole. The comprehensive list of initiatives include:
- The development of training resources;
- Specialist professional development for counsellors;
- Guidelines for universities to respond to reports of sexual assault;
- Principles to guide supervisor-postgraduate interactions;
- Providing awareness raising materials to residential colleges; and
- Respectful relationships education.
University of Canberra has endeavored to fulfill the outlined commitments included in UA's 10-point action plan, in addition to the individual initiatives proposed by the University of Canberra.
A link to the full Universities Australia 10-point action plan can be found here.
Respect on Campus
The University of Canberra has specific policies in place for both students and employees of the University to protect them against unacceptable behaviour. Students are expected to understand their rights and responsibilities which are set out in the University of Canberra’s Student Charter. Below are some useful definitions of unacceptable behaviours and how to identify them.
These definitions were sourced from a range of resources including the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), ACT Legislation and various offices of the Australian Government.
Bullying can be defined as the repeated and intentional use of words or actions to cause distress and harm to another person’s wellbeing. It is repeated behaviour by someone who has power or control over someone else.
Bullying is a serious offence and the University deals with it as such. Students found guilty of bullying may face suspension or be prohibited from entering parts of the University, using University facilities or banished from initiating contact or communication with specific students or members of staff.
Cyberbullying is bullying conducted by means of technology - such as using the internet or a phone phone to hurt, harass or embarrass someone.
Cyber abuse is online behaviour which is reasonably likely to have a seriously threatening, intimidating, harassing or humiliating effect on a person. It is behavior that threatens to hurt a person socially, psychologically or physically.
In Australia, any cases of cyberbullying should be reported to the Office of the eSafety Commission. Here is a link to the eSafety Commission where you can find out more or report any antisocial cyber behaviour
Find out more about Cyber safety here
Stalking involves a persistent course of conduct or action by a person which is intended to maintain contact with or exercise power and control over another person. These actions cause distress, loss of control, fear or harassment to another person and occurs more than once.
Stalking can involve threats or sexual innuendo and the stalker generally tries to intimidate or induce fear in the person they are stalking. The person being stalked may only realise they are being stalked once they identify a pattern of strange or suspicious incidents occurring, such as:
- Phone calls;
- Text messages;
- Messages left on social media like Facebook or Twitter;
- Notes left on their car;
- Strange or unwanted gifts left at their home;
- An awareness that they are being followed; and
- Being continually stared at or guestured by another person.
The criminal offence of stalking is contained under Section 35 of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT). To prove an offence of stalking the police must be able to produce evidence to a court. The police evidence must prove that the accused person stalked another person with the intention of causing another person to fear physical or mental harm.
Direct discrimination occurs when a person, or a group of people, is treated less favourably than another person or group because of their background or certain personal characteristics. Discrimination is unlawful under federal discrimination laws if the discrimination is based on protected characteristics including a person’s:
- Pregnancy status;
- Marital status;
- Family responsibilities;
- Breastfeeding status;
- Sexual orientation;
- Gender identity; and
- Intersex status.
Indirect discrimination is when there is a practice, policy or rule which applies to everyone in the same way, but it has a worse effect on some people than others. The equality act states this places that group at a particular disadvantage.
Harassment is the systematic or continued uninvited or unwelcome actions or behaviour of one person or a group causes another person or a group of people, to feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated.
Harassment can include behaviour such as:
- Telling insulting jokes about particular racial groups.
- Sending explicit or sexually suggestive emails or text messages.
- displaying racially offensive or pornographic posters or screensavers.
- Making derogatory comments or taunts about someone’s race.
- Asking intrusive questions about someone’s personal life, including his or her sex life.
Sexual harassment is the unwanted and unwelcome conduct in a sexual nature in which a reasonable person would feel offended, uncomfortable, humiliated it intimidated.. This can physical, verbal, written or graphic. Depending on the type and severity of harassment, this can amount to sexual assault.
Examples of sexually harassing behaviour include:
- Unwelcome touching;
- Staring or leering;
- Suggestive comments or jokes;
- Sexually explicit pictures or posters;
- Unwanted invitations to go out on dates;
- Requests for sex;
- Intrusive questions about a person's private life or body;
- Unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person;
- Insults or taunts based on sex;
- Sexually explicit physical contact; and
- Sexually explicit emails or SMS text messages.
The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) defines the nature and circumstances in which sexual harassment is unlawful. It is also unlawful for a person to be victimised for making, or proposing to make, a complaint of sexual harassment to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
Sexual assault is a crime where a person is forced, coerced or tricked into sexual acts against their will or without their consent, or where a child or person under the age of 18 is exposed to sexual activities.
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual behaviour that makes a person feel uncomfortable, threatened or scared. It covers:
- Rape: forced, unwanted sex or sexual acts.
- Child sexual abuse: using power over a child to involve that child in sexual activity.
- Indecent assault: indecent behaviour before, during or after an assault.
Sexual assault is a serious crime and is never the victim’s fault.
Racial harassment is another serious form of harassment. This is described as unwelcome conduct which can offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person due to their ethnic or social origin, colour, nationality or extraction. This can be shown in minor instances of abuse and more seriously, violence or assault.
The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 gives effect to Australia's obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Its major objectives are to
- promote equality before the law for all persons, regardless of their race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin, and
- make discrimination against people on the basis of their race, colour, descent, nationality or ethnic origin.
Racial vilification occurs when someone incites hatred, serious contempt for, revulsion or severe ridicule of a person or group of people because of their race or religion. The legal definition is conduct that incites hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule'.