Strengthening Australian university responses to sexual assault and harassment

Project description

The Strengthening Australian University Responses to Sexual Assault and Harassment Project is part of a strategic initiative directed at examining the issues raised by the 2014 American documentary The Hunting Ground, as they relate to the Australian context. 

The Hunting Ground, directed by the Academy Award-nominated film-making team behind The Invisible War, focuses on sexual violence in American universities and highlights, for Australian universities, the importance of developing effective prevention strategies and reporting mechanisms to address this issue.

Building on research undertaken by the National Union of Students, the project focuses on the development of effective and appropriate institutional responses to sexual assault and harassment in Australian universities, with a focus on the needs of women, LGBTQI students and international students. 

The Australian Human Rights Centre at UNSW has been engaged by The Caledonia Foundation to design and undertake the project.

Key project partners

Objectives

  • Review existing UNSW policies and frameworks in relation to incident reporting and management;
  • Partner with the Australian Human Rights Commission in designing and distributing a national survey on sexual assault and harassment in Australian universities;
  • Undertake comparative research with a focus on models developed by leading international universities;
  • Conduct interviews with UNSW student leadership, UNSW management and legal, medical, psycho-social experts in relation to sexual assault and harassment;  
  • Work with university leadership and student bodies to develop a model protocol and policy framework for use and adaptation across the university sector;
  • Engage other Australian universities in dialogue about shared experiences, best practices, future collaborative research opportunities.  

Project components

 (a) National student survey 

The national student survey, to be conducted by an independent agency with relevant expertise in the field (the Australian Human Rights Commission), has been developed to collect data which will provide a comprehensive analysis of the extent and nature of sexual violence at Australian universities, the student reporting experience and accessibility and effectiveness of relevant student support services. The AHRCentre has designed the survey over a 5 month process in collaboration with:

  • lawyers and policy officers from the Australian Human Rights Commission Sex Discrimination Unit and the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force Review;
  • researchers/statisticians from the Department of Defence (Directorate of People Intelligence and Research and Unacceptable Behaviour Research Program), who worked with the Commission on the ADFA survey; 
  • National Union of Students (NUS) Officers, including NUS President, National Education Officer, and National and State Women's Officers 
  • academics from the Australian Human Rights Centre and Gender Violence Research Network;
  • Executive Officer, Rape Crisis NSW.

The design of the survey has been informed by: 

  • NUS Talk About It surveys (2011 and 2015); 
  • the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) Unacceptable Behaviour Survey (2011); 
  • The Sydney University Creating a Safer Community for All Pilot survey (2015); 
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission Sexual Harassment national telephone survey (2012); and 
  • The Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct (2014).

The survey is expected to be implemented in September 2016 by the Australian Human Rights Commission in partnership with Universities Australia. 

 

(b) The development of model practices and procedures

Drawing on the national student survey data, comparative research, and interviews with relevant stakeholders, the AHRCentre will work with the NUS to develop good practice policies and protocols for adaption and application across all Australian universities that will seek to offer students the best and most effective ways of reporting sexual assault and harassment and accessing support services.

 

Community engagement and events

  • 14 September 2015: AHRCentre Director Andrea Durbach launched the AHRCentre's research project at screening of The Hunting Ground at UNSW, Sydney.
  • 16 September 2015: AHRCentre Director Andrea Durbach took part in a panel discussion on the relevance of The Hunting Ground for Australian audiences at Good Pitch Australia, Sydney Opera House.
  • 22 September 2015: AHRCentre and Australian Human Rights Commission met to discuss the Australian Universities' Sexual Assault and Harassment Survey.
  • 6 October 2015: AHRCentre met with the NUS National Education Officer to discuss upcoming Australian release of The Hunting Ground and its relevance for Australian universities.
  • 3 November 2015: AHRCentre and Australian Human Rights Commission were joined by researchers from the Department of Defence to discuss the Australian Universities' Sexual Assault and Harassment Survey.
  • 18 November 2015: AHRCentre met with NUS representatives to discuss the Australian Universities' Sexual Assault and Harassment Survey and related NUS campaigns.
  • 8 December 2015: Project Director Rosemary Grey delivered a presentation on the AHRCentre's research project at the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association annual conference, Hobart.
  •  19 January 2016: the AHRCentre met with representatives of the UNSW Vice-Chancellor’s Office and Student Life/Engagement to discuss UNSW’s support for the project.
  •  28 January 2016: AHRCentre met with the newly elected NUS and ARC Women’s Officers to discuss theAustralian Universities' Sexual Assault and Harassment Survey and the NUS 2016 Talk About It report.
  •  1 February 2016: AHRCentre and the Australian Human Rights Commission met to discuss recent developments in the Australian Universities' Sexual Assault and Harassment Survey.
  •  17 February 2016: AHRCentre’s project discussed at the meeting of NSW/VIC University Security Managers.
  •  24 February 2015: Project Director Rosemary Grey delivered a presentation on the AHRCentre's research project at a screening of The Hunting Ground at the Australian National University, Canberra.
  •  2 March 2016: AHRCentre Andrea Durbach delivered a presentation at the Australian International Documentary Conference on The Hunting Ground and its relevance for Australian universities and the AHRCentre project .
  •  9 March 2016: AHRCentre Andrea Durbach provided a briefing on the project at the Universities Australian Higher Education conference.
  • 22 April 2016: AHRCentre Director Andrea Durbach delivered a presentation on the project at the annual conference of the Asia Pacific Association for Student Housing.
  • 2 May 2016: AHRCentre Director Andrea Durbach delivered a presentation on the project and participated in a 'question and answer' session at a screening of The Hunting Ground at UNSW, attended by an estimated 400 students. Other speakers included UNSW's Vice Chancellor,  Professor Ian Jacobs, Professor Eileen Baldry, Academic Chair of UNSW’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Board, Sophie Johnston, President of the UNSW Student Representative Council, and Jocelyn Dracakis, Women's Officer of the UNSW Student Representative Council.
  • May 2016: AHRCentre Director Andrea Durbach, AHRCentre Project Director Rosemary Grey and Professor Eileen Baldry, Academic Chair of UNSW’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Board, commenced consultations with student groups at UNSW in relation to best practices for preventing and responding to sexual assault and sexual harassment at the university. 
  • 18 May: AHRCentre Director Andrea Durbach, AHRCentre Project Director Rosemary Grey and UNSW Student Representative Council Women’s Officer, Jocelyn Dracakis participated in a post- Hunting Ground screening for the UNSW Law Faculty
  •  6 July: AHRCentre Director Andrea Durbach participated in a post - Hunting Ground screening at the NUS Education Conference at Sydney University with Moira Carmody, Full Stop Foundation, UNSW SRC President, Sophie Johnston and Matt Hall, Special Adviser to the Australian Human Rights Commission
  •  8 July: AHRCentre Director Andrea Durbach participated in a post - Hunting Ground screening at the NAUCC (peak representative body for students living on Australian tertiary campuses) Conference, Macquarie with Lee Rushton, Rape Domestic Violence Services Australia, Alice Draffin, NAAUC President and Steven Crawford, NAAUC Leadership Team
  • 13 July: AHRCentre Director Andrea Durbach participated in a post - Hunting Ground screening at the NOWSA (NUS National Women's Officer) Conference, UTS with Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, Moo Baulch, CEO, Domestic Violence NSW, Justine Landis-Hanley, USyd SRC Residential Colleges Officer, Heidi La Paglia, NUS National Women's Officer 
  • 15 July: AHRCentre Director Andrea Durbach and Trish Mullins, Director, Policy and Government Relations, Office of UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor addressed an UNSW Women in Research Network (WiRN) seminar, UNSW Faculty of the Built Environment
  • 20 July: Sydney Women’s Fund screening of THG with panelists Professor Moira Carmody (Full Stop Foundation), Professor Andrea Durbach (Australian Human Rights Centre), Edward Bartolo (UNSW SRC General Secretary), Allison Henry (The Hunting Ground Australia Project Impact Producer), moderated by Adair Donaldson of Donaldson Law.  
  • 23 August 2016: Launch of national student survey on sexual assault and harassment. 

 

Project personnel

At the AHRCentre, the project is led by Centre Director Professor Andrea Durbach and Project Director, Kirsten Keith with support from AHRCentre Manager, Diane Macdonald, student interns and the Project Working Party.

Former Project Director, Dr Rosemary Grey, now based at Melbourne University, is the Project consultant. 

Project Working Party

  • Annie Andrews, Director, Counselling and Psychological Services, UNSW Australia;
  • Paula Bennett, Manager, Gendered Violence Research Network, UNSW Australia;
  • Isobelle Blomfield, Queer Officer, International Students Officer, Student Representative Council, UNSW Australia;
  • Associate Professor Jan Breckenridge, Co-Convenor, Gender Violence Research Network, UNSW Australia;
  • Professor Andrew Byrnes, Chairperson, AHRCentre, UNSW Australia;
  • Professor Louise Chappell, AHRCentre Steering Committee, UNSW Australia;
  • Isabelle Creagh, Director, UNSW Residential Communities;
  • Ian Darling, Executive Director, Shark Island Productions;
  • Padma Raman, Executive Director, Australian Human Rights Commission;
  • Matt Hall, Special Adviser, Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Kimberley Dickinson, Manager, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), UNSW Australia;
  • Jocelyn Dracakis, Women's Officer, Student Representative Council UNSW Australia (TBC);
  • Caitlin Healey, Postgraduate Council Women’s Officer, UNSW Australia (TBC);
  • Sophie Johnston, President, Student Representative Council UNSW Australia (TBC);
  • Sandra NorrisDirector, Student Life and Learning, UNSW Australia;
  • Mary Mccrae, Project Manager, The Hunting Ground, Shark Island Productions;
  • Neil Morris, Vice President – Campus Life and Community Engagement, UNSW Australia (Chair);
  • Tom Morrison, Chair of the Board, ARC, UNSW Australia;
  • Trish Mullins, Director, Policy and Government Relations Office of President and Vice-Chancellor, UNSW Australia;
  • Emma Purintanawat, International Students Officer, Student Representative Council, UNSW Australia (TBC);
  • Dr Jodie Vaile, A/Director, Directorate of People Intelligence & Research Workforce Planning Branch, Department of Defence;
  • Karen Willis, Executive Officer, NSW Rape Crisis

 

 Stages of research

  • September 2015 to April 2016: Development of a national survey on sexual assault and harassment in Australian universities; application for ethics approval
  • October 2015 to February 2016: Review of UNSW policies and framework in relation to incident reporting and management; draft report on deficiencies in existing framework.
  • January to May 2016: On-campus film screenings and related events 
  • March to June 2016: Ongoing comparative research on university responses to sexual assault and harassment; undertake consultations.
  • September to October 2016: Distribution of national student survey
  • October to December 2016: Collation of responses to survey; analysis and interpretation of survey results; preparation of report(s).
  • January to May 2017: Draft and finalise model policies and protocols; present to university leadership and student bodies.

 

Related articles and links

 

The AHRCentre acknowledges the project funding and infrastructure support of UNSW Law and The Caledonia Foundation.