The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) recently released the results of a national survey of sexual assault and sexual harassment of university students.

Australian Catholic University (ACU) has joined all 39 Australian universities participating in the national project, and has published its institutional report.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Greg Craven said the University was serious about the safety and wellbeing of students, and had taken a number of steps to ensure all its campuses were places of safety and respect.

“Sexual harassment, sexual assault or violence will never be tolerated at ACU.  Our ACU mission has central to it the dignity of the human person and the common good. These matters are core to enacting our Mission and each of us has a responsibility to create and maintain a safe ACU community,” Professor Craven said.

“This project has been an important opportunity to consider our approach to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment. It is part of our regular practice to review these regularly, and we can ensure that there are services in place to support any student or staff member who discloses or reports any such incidents.”

Initiatives ACU has undertaken include:

  • A review and upgrade of policies, procedures and guidelines
  • Awareness and prevention programs to communicate with students and staff throughout the year
  • Establishment of an advisory committee for consultation and advice: representatives include students, staff and a member of NSW Police
  • Introduction of training for ACU counsellors, with development of broader staff training underway
  • Provision of increased resources, information and support services: including adoption of the SafeZone app, enhanced CCTV services and increased access to drop-in counselling services

Resources will continue to be reviewed and developed as an ongoing commitment.

ACU is also partnering with other Australian universities in a national campaign led by Universities Australia. The Respect. Now. Always campaign highlights the determinations of Australia’s universities to ensure students and staff are safe from sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Professor Craven said ACU was committed to responding to the survey results which may lead to improvements to our policies and service enhancements.

Some of the recommendations address activities the University has already undertaken as part of our standard business practice and it is looking at implementing the others. ACU is also working with UA on implementing its 10-point action plan.

“The AHRC findings released today combined with our own review will strengthen ACU’s approach to preventing and responding to sexual assault and harassment,” Professor Craven said.

There will be an increased availability of counsellors for drop-ins to provide for any additional demand for support/counselling at this time.

The results of the survey of ACU students can be read here.