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One Year After AHRC Report, Respectful Relationships Forum Says ANU Still has a “Long Way to Go”

Content Warnings: AHRC Report, Sexual Assault and Harassment, Institutional Betrayal

PARSA President Alyssa Shaw hosted ANU Vice Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt and Pro Vice Chancellor (Student Experience) Professor Richard Baker for the second Respectful Relationships forum at ANU earlier on Wednesday. The Forum focussed on the progress of ANU’s response to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) report, which was published on 1 August 2017.

It has been just under one year since the report was published. In this shadow, the forum provided an update on the actions of ANU in response to the findings and recommendations of the AHRC report. It took on an apologetic tone for the experiences of students and the conduct of the University in the time preceding and after the release of the report. They admitted that “there is a long way to go” and that “some initiatives are taking longer than [they] hoped”.

Professors Schmidt and Baker explained that the respectful relationships steering group and working group have been funded, which are intended to be policy advisory, training, and communication bodies. In conjunction with this, a number of other measures have been put in place in order to enact the recommendations of the report.

They focussed on the importance of the inclusion of the bystander, perpetrator, and survivor in the “restorative practices” approach of the University. This is on the advice and consultation of different professional contractors, advocacy groups and individuals. In order to do so, the University has developed a “comprehensive” training program to address the drivers of sexual assault and harassment, which is to be delivered through online training, face-to-face expert training. Furthermore, all new students and residential students are required to have completed training on consent, disclosures of sexual violence and bystander training.

Furthermore, staff and students who are most likely to receive disclosures, such as residential student leaders and senior staff members, have completed an additional online training module on supporting individuals who are disclosing to them. This training module has also been made available to all staff and students. This is run in conjunction with face-to-face specialist training by the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre.

The University has also contracted Nous Group, an independent contractor, to review residential halls as one of its actions to address the issue of sexual assault and harassment on campus. An email survey will be distributed to students who have lived in residencies over the past five years. Interviews will also be conducted with students, staff and alumni.

Questions were raised as to the measures that are in place to introduce the University’s approaches to dealing with the issue sexual assault and harassment with students from different cultures and ethnicities. The panel explained that training programs and expert staff were within the respectful relationships unit to tackle this issue of cultural competence.

The AHRC survey aimed to gain greater insight into the nature, prevalence and reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. The survey measured the experiences of over 30,000 students in 39 tertiary institutions around Australia.

ANU accepted all nine of the AHRC’s recommendations, following the release of the damning report, which found that at least 116 ANU students were sexually assaulted in 2016, including more than 50 in residential colleges. The University subsequently commissioned Rapid Context to conduct a review of all policies and procedures related to sexual assault and harassment.

Although the University has made significant progress in the support, training and reporting services in regards to sexual assault and harassment, it was abundantly clear that there are still many steps required to be taken to accomplish meaningful and substantive cultural change.

Woroni is committed to standing with survivors of sexual harassment and assault. If you or someone you know have been affected by this piece, please reach out to the support services listed.

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (6247 2525)

CRCC are on campus and available to support you if you have experienced sexual violence, harassment, or anything that has made you feel uncomfortable. You don’t need a medicare card to see them, all appointments are free, and nobody will be told you have spoken to them. You can call CRCC on 6247 2525 between 7am and 11pm.

ANU Counselling

The ANU Counselling Centre promotes, supports and enhances mental health and wellbeing within the University student community. It is a free, confidential and non-diagnostic service available to all currently enrolled ANU students. No referral or Mental Health Treatment Plan from a General Practitioner is required to attend appointments.

http://www.anu.edu.au/…/…/counselling/anu-counselling-centre

1800RESPECT

Provides support for people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, sexual assault, domestic or family violence, their friends and family, and workers and professionals supporting someone experiencing, or at risk of experiencing sexual assault, domestic or family violence. Call 1800 737 732.

https://www.1800respect.org.au/about-1800respect/

Lifeline (13 11 14)

A national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 13.

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

ANU Women’s Department

Contact the Women’s Officer, Laura Perkov:

The Women’s Department is part of ANUSA, and it advocates for and supports all ANU Women and non-binary students. As Women’s Officer, Laura can provide pastoral care, referrals to local support services, and give information about options for reporting within ANU and the support ANU can offer.