Monday, July 31, 2017 — The Vice-Chancellor of The Australian National University (ANU) is urging students and staff to prepare for the release of the Universities Australia – Human Rights Commission report on sexual assault and harassment on Tuesday.
Professor Brian Schmidt said it was important to remind survivors and people affected by sexual assault and harassment that confidential help and support services are available.
“The coming days will be particularly stressful and traumatic for survivors of sexual assault and harassment,” Professor Schmidt said.
“The results of the survey will be confronting for many people who are reminded of experiences they have had. We are likely to see many members of our community confide their experience for the first time to a friend, a colleague, a teacher, a peer or a counsellor.
“The results will be shocking, and we should be shocked. They will tell us an ugly truth about how young people in particular are affected by sexual violence. It is not an issue that we can simply acknowledge, then move onto the next thing. It is an issue that we must deal with.
“Understanding the extent and shape of the problem is an important step for real change. It means we do have to become more comfortable with difficult conversations about sex, about consent and about what it means to have respectful relationships with our peers, our classmates, our colleagues and our friends.
“It was important that we actively encouraged all students who were randomly selected for the survey to complete it, so that we would have an unvarnished and clear picture of what is happening on campus.
“Guided by this data, and by the stories of students who have been subjected to sexual harassment and sexual assault, we can develop even better support services, education, policies and practices to help reduce these incidents.
“Every member of our community has the right and an expectation that ANU will provide an environment for work, study and living that is safe and respectful.”
Links to resources available to students and staff is available on the Respectful Relationships page on the ANU website. The can be accessed from the homepage at www.anu.edu.au.
ANU has made sure that additional counselling will be available for students and staff over the coming weeks to deal with an expected increase in the number of people seeking help and support, on top of the 10 counsellors currently employed within the ANU Counselling Centre.
In recent weeks, ANU and the ANU Students Association (ANUSA) also announced a new partnership to fund a full-time Canberra Rape Crisis Centre counsellor to be available on campus. There will be counsellors from the Canberra Rape Crisis centre on campus from Monday.
ANU has also engaged independent consultants Rapid Context to review all ANU policies and procedures for dealing sexual assaults and harassment.
ANU has also appointed former National President of the Australian National Committee for UN Women, Donelle Wheeler, to chair a steering group of staff and students to oversee a University-wide approach to help prevent sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Professor Schmidt said it was crucial that survivors and others affected by sexual assault and harassment know they will be supported, and that anyone who reports an incident will also receive support.
“On behalf of ANU, I make a commitment to use the results of the report to identify areas for reform to improve the safety, security and wellbeing of our students and community,” Professor Schmidt said.
“I commit to working with our student representatives and staff to tackle this issue together and make sure that our University is a safe place for all.
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