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Creating a safe and respectful community

Vice-Chancellor reaffirms commitment to implementing Change the Course recommendations

University of Wollongong (UOW) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, has marked the first anniversary of the release of Change the Course, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) report into sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities, by reaffirming the University’s commitment to implementing its recommendations.

“A year ago, UOW welcomed the invaluable insights provided by this report and committed to implement its recommendations to augment initiatives already in place.

“A tremendous amount of work has been done by staff and students from across the University to fulfil that commitment.

“Sexual assault and sexual harassment are never OK. Even one incident is too many.

“We have made lasting changes aimed at providing a safe and respectful community free from discrimination, harassment and assault.

“Our resolve to maintain this effort and pursue evidence based improvements in prevention and support services remains as firm as ever,” Professor Wellings said.

Initiated by Universities Australia (UA) as part of the sector-wide ‘Respect. Now. Always.’ campaign, the AHRC report combined public submissions with the results of an independent survey of students across 39 institutions, including UOW.

“The insights it provided about the nature, prevalence and reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities have been added to our own institutional data and used to help us enhance longstanding measures and inform new initiatives to combat this community-wide problem,” Professor Wellings said.

The University’s response has been led by the Vice-Chancellor and the Executive, aided by a Safe and Respectful Community Advisory Group and a Safe and Respectful Community Working Group comprising staff and student representatives from across the institution.

Initiatives underway or being pursued at UOW include:

  • A range of tailored training programs for students, student leaders and staff aimed at understanding consent, engendering a culture of respect, preventing incidents and providing appropriate support following incidents or disclosures.
  • Counselling service improvements such as a triage specialist, sexual assault and sexual harassment specialist counselling service, a 1300 number, priority appointments for emergencies and partnerships with external providers.
  • A comprehensive Safe and Respectful Community Action Plan, developed via widespread consultation, which is being implemented throughout 2018 and 2019.
  • Engagement with the Student Advisory Council to work in partnership to address student safety.
  • Appointment of a full-time Safe and Respectful Community Manager to coordinate incident response, training, policy development and reporting.
  • Improved incident reporting that avoids victims repeatedly relaying their experience and provides better institutional data while protecting privacy.
  • Communication and awareness campaigns targeting students and staff.
  • Ongoing promotion of the SafeZone App and other security measures such as responsive campus security officers.
  • Enhancements and regular updates of online information.
  • Systemic review of Accommodation Services.
  • Expert-led policy and service reviews.

UOW also remains committed to participating in a future national survey into sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities.

Further information about the University’s actions is available on the UOW current students’ website.

Posted in Education
Tagged: Education, Student life