Thursday 19 April 2018

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has visited the University of New England (UNE) to speak to students and staff about the review into residential colleges.

In response to the landmark Change the course report, UNE has engaged the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct an independent, expert-led review of its residential colleges.

Commissioner Jenkins told staff and students that the time is right for change.

“University students and communities have a real opportunity to take the lead. I commend UNE for agreeing to implement all nine recommendations of the Change the course report,” she said.

The Change the course report provided the first national data on the scale and nature of sexual harassment and sexual assault at Australian universities.

It found that overall, one in five students reported that they were sexually harassed at university in 2016 and that 1.6% of students reported that they were sexually assaulted in a university setting in 2015 or 2016.

“To put this in context, in a lecture theatre containing 100 students, at least one student will have been sexually assaulted at university in the past two years. And 21 students will have been sexually harassed at university in the past year.

“While it can be confronting to face these ugly realities, having an understanding of the scale and nature of the issues is critical to implementing targeted, evidence-based solutions that address the problem.”

“It is clear that students at universities are experiencing unacceptable rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

“However, I strongly believes that the recent shining of light on sexual harassment and assault should give us reasons to hope that change is possible.

“We must continue to work together to Change the course and to ensure that sexual assault and sexual harassment have no place in Australian universities.”

As part of the process, the review team will call for submissions from current and former residents, survey current student residents and seek to conduct interviews with senior college staff and residential advisors.

Commissioner Jenkins said she’s been encouraged by the actions already taken by UNE. She has urged the other 38 universities to maintain the momentum and the transparency of their progress.