Peer-to-Peer Support at ANU Residential Halls

Content warning: sexual assault, vicarious trauma, institutional betrayal

I’m worried – and I need to know if the student body is too.

In 2017 I ran in the ANUSA elections with a clear commitment to safe, sustainable and fair peer support models in ANU residential halls. In my experience they haven’t been any of these things – but I need to know if that was an anomaly or if it’s the norm.

I was elected with a strong majority, so I know I have a mandate to look into this issue – but for the university to be convinced of any real change I need you to share your experiences.

While I was a senior resident at B&G, I’m almost certain that I received more sexual assault disclosures than my male counterparts – and overall I would have contributed more hours and more emotional labour to the job. I was a woman doing more work than the men in my role – and receiving the same pay.

I would avoid being in my room alone because all I could think of was the harrowing stories I’d been told by my residents, friends, and peers while they sat on my bed.

The people running your training call this burn out. It’s not burn out. It’s vicarious trauma, and the university needs to do more to support students in this situation.

Because I was being paid via a scholarship and therefore wasn’t an employee, I couldn’t access an Employee Assistance Program. This is where your workplace covers counselling costs for you. If I needed time off, I had to apply for leave. If I was going to be away from the hall for longer than 48 hours I had to apply for this leave. There are so many structural issues like this one that make peer support at ANU residential halls unsafe, unfair and unsustainable. I’ve spent the last six months talking to people about these issues, but I haven’t spoken to everyone.

There are some questions that I still can’t answer on my own.

Should SRs and RAs be paid as employees if they are doing overnight shifts and some are taking on more hours than others?

Should CC’s be responsible for overseeing and training other students, while they are students themselves?

What kind of structural support do we offer these students, and who can access EAP (employee assistance program) to get free counselling outside of ANU?

Why isn’t anyone talking about vicarious trauma?

What are the benefits and non-negotiable aspects of peer support that we must maintain?

Should SRs get penalty rates for being on call over a long weekend?

My experiences were not all bad. I had incredible residents and a supportive SR team to work with and I am so grateful for having the opportunity to befriend these lovely people. But this issue is a systemic one that is disadvantaging women, and people from linguistically and/or culturally diverse backgrounds – people I believe are often receiving more work than others, but not being remunerated for it.

I need to know if this issue is widespread or localised to some residential halls – and I need to know what the student body wants me to advocate for. Should we have trained mental health nurses on call overnight? Do we need paramedics? I know I would have appreciated both of these when I was 19 years old, dealing with mental health crises and doing CPR on my peers.

Your experiences will help to inform a report that will make recommendations for peer pastoral care models in ANU residential halls in 2019. If you’ve been an SR, CC, RA, Women’s Officer, Men’s Officer, Gender and Sexuality Advocate, Mental Health Advocate – or any other peer support role – please fill out my survey, or get in touch with me to talk about your experiences. I want to hear from you.


Email Tess Masters, ANUSA Vice President:


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.…/…/counselling/anu-counselling-centre



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.


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.

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.


ANU Queer* Department

Contact the Queer* Officer, Matthew Mottola:

The Queer* Department is part of ANUSA, and it advocates for and supports all Queer* identifying students. Matthew can provide pastoral care, referrals to local support services, and give information about options for reporting within ANU and the support ANU can offer.


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