On 1st August, over 100 students assembled in Kambri to discuss, learn and protest against the ongoing failures of the ANU in addressing sexual assault and sexual harassment (SASH) on campus.
August 1st marks the anniversary of the Australian Human Rights Commission report released in 2017. Students have protested a lack of effective reform every year since then. In 2021, the NSSS found that the ANU had the highest rate of sexual harassment of any Australian university, and the second highest rate of sexual assault.
This year’s August 1st protests focused on the message “Follow Through ANU”, based on the Women’s Department report of the same name. Both the protest and report demanded the following actions:
- The creation of a Cultural Change Action Plan
- Engaging with the intersectional aspects of SASH
- Improving staff conditions
- Greater transparency and accountability
- Clarifying reporting, disclosure, and support-seeking processes
- Creating a system that accommodates for survivors
- Actually listening to students
The protest began with poster-making and a Teach-In with ANU staff. Dr Gemma Killen, Associate Professor Wayne Morgan, and Dr Karo Moret-Miranda spoke about their own experience of SASH, gender discrimination and systemic racism on-campus.
The teach-in was followed by a Q&A session held by the ANU Student Safety and Wellbeing Team. The session educated students on the SASH resources available through the ANU.
Ellen Carey, the Deputy Officer for ANU Women’s Department, then ran a Feminist Consciousness Raising session for attendees. People came together to discuss and answer questions presented by Carey.
Following this session, ANUSA representatives led a walkover to the Chancellery. President Christian Flynn, Vice President Chido Nyakeungama, Women’s Officer Avan Daruwalla and Education Officer Beatrice Tucker each criticised the ANU’s support and response since the release of statistics on SASH-related issues.
Students then marched from the Kambri Theatre to the Chancellery shouting for the ANU to “follow through”. Protestors chanted for change and justice for the survivors of SASH at the university. Posters were laid on the steps of the Chancellery building in an effort to block the entrance.
Afterwards, Avan Daruwalla spoke to Woroni, stating: “There hasn’t been enough change by the ANU, so we continue to protest to bring our demands to the ANU. [We want to] show them that students are desperate for change and will continue to fight for survivors.”
ANUSA President Flynn also voiced that “one of the great things from today is that I hope people walk away feeling that they learnt something, the teach-in was a great idea and initiative, and those things make the space a little more trauma informed…that makes people come back and realize that this is an on-going thing.”
Anna Denishensky, an ANU student who participated in the protest, said she attended the protests because she believes that “ANU is just not doing enough … We need more acknowledgement for these issues and to see Brian Schmidt respond to what we are protesting for. ”
An ANU spokesperson, responding to Woroni, said that:
“Every member of our community deserves to feel safe and respected. Every instance of sexual assault and sexual harassment is unacceptable. It is a shared responsibility of everyone on our campus to work together for a safer campus.
“We continue to work with survivors, advocates and experts on our response to this difficult issue. We have accelerated our work and our investment in tackling this problem, which has no place here, or in society. And we are committed to ensuring ANU is safe and inclusive for everyone.
“The 2021 survey results strengthened our resolve to make our community safer and work is underway to deliver our new $3.3-million-a-year Student Safety and Wellbeing Plan.”
The Student Safety and Wellbeing Plan was released on Tuesday 26th of July. According to the ANU, it is designed to “…accelerate our program to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment” and was created in consultation with “…student leaders and representatives”.
Multiple speakers at the protest criticised the Safety and Wellbeing Plan, arguing the ANU did not consult student representatives.
If this content has triggered any concern, distress or impacted on your wellbeing, ANU provides a number of services to support student health and wellbeing including:
Student Safety and Wellbeing
website: Health, safety & wellbeing – ANU
website: ANU Counselling – ANU
The ANU Wellbeing and Support Line available 24/7
phone: 1300 05 0327 SMS: 0488 884 17
There are also a number of services in the community that can be accessed after hours including:
ACT Access Mental Health is a 24-hour mental health emergency access and support service.
Phone: 1800 629 354 or 6205 1065
1800 RESPECT is the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 1800 RESPECT provides phone or online support for people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, sexual assault, domestic or family violence.
1800 RESPECT is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Phone: 1800 737 732
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Crisis Line
(02) 6247 2525
ANU Women’s Department
ANU Queer* Department
ANU BIPOC Department
ANU Indigenous Department