An ongoing issue, not a new campaign.
EROC Australia has noted that “rape and sexual assault are not new problems at Australian universities” and “student activists have been urging university administrators to address the high levels of sexual violence faced by women in university communities since at least the early 1970s”. The following examples of news reports given by End Rape on Campus in a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission are just a few of many:
- In 1973, the Australian National University student newspaper, Woroni, requested that university women share their stories of sexual assaults on or near campus so that activists could “press for greater security measures on campus.”
- In 1979, the University of Adelaide’s student newspaper, On Dit, reported that “rapes have occurred on many campuses across the country and also in student colleges and halls of residences.”
- In 1985, the University of New South Wales student newspaper, Tharunka, noted that a “special squad” had been formed to offer escorts to female students on campus and requested that students who had experienced sexual assault and/or harassment share their stories “to illustrate the need for more security on campus.”
- In 1993, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that female students had been targeted by repeated misogynistic behaviour and sexual harassment by male college residents at the University of Sydney. The harassment had become so extreme that the Women’s College had hired male postgraduate students to “act as security guards”. The former head of the Women’s Research Unit at the university noted that the university had done little to address widespread sexism: “the ranks close when sexual harassment comes up – universities are disinclined to act because they see it as normal, as too hard to deal with.”
- In 2006, the Townsville Bulletin, reported that two students had been sexually assaulted at James Cook University within a two-week period in October, while another student had been pushed from her bike and raped on campus, in broad daylight, in April that year. A student quoted in the article stated: “I’m sick of coming to uni and being scared. I’m sick of hearing every few weeks that another poor girl has been assaulted and had her life changed forever… I’m sick of never hearing the university take responsibility or action for something that is in their power to help fix… They sweep it under the carpet because it is bad PR”.
- In 2016, the Women’s Officer from Sydney University – along with 12 of her predecessors – wrote an open letter to the Vice Chancellor, Michael Spence, noting that: “for well over a decade, the university has been aware of the issue of sexual assault on campus. For over a decade calls to change this culture have gone unanswered. The same stories of rape and harassment are repeated over and over. Periodically, a particularly high profile case may break into mainstream media, but as the media cycle moves on, and damage control measures are implemented, the issue is once again put to the bottom of the agenda.”
- A survey by the National Union of Students NUS (Let’s Talk About It) found high levels of sexual assault and harassment against women students at Australian universities.
- A new iteration of the NUS survey (Talk About It) report found nearly three quarters of women and non-binary students surveyed had been subjected to some form of sexual harassment or unwelcome sexual behaviour, while 27% reported having been sexually assaulted.
- The Hunting Ground Australia Project was formed, screening the documentary ‘The Hunting Ground’ at university campuses around Australia as part of a campaign including seed funding for the national survey (later conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission) and good practice guides.
- End Rape on Campus Australia formed, working to end sexual violence at universities and residential colleges through direct support to survivors and their communities, prevention through education and policy reform at campus, state and federal levels
- A new national prevalence survey was launched by the Australian Human Rights Commission and Universities Australia, using funding from the Hunting Ground Australia Project.
- The University of Sydney Women’s Officer and 12 of her predecessors over the past decade wrote an open letter accusing the university administration of deliberately stalling action on sexual assault.
- Students from the Network of Women’s Students Australia held a protest outside Parliament House in Canberra to urge universities and state and federal governments to respond to alarming rates of sexual assault on campus.
- Australian Human Rights Commission’s released the report of its national survey on sexual assault and harassment at universities, Change the Course, finding that sexual assault and harassment are perpetrated at disturbing rates and universities need to do more to prevent abuse and respond appropriately to it.
- The Australian Human Rights Centre at UNSW released its On Safe Ground: A Good Practice Guide for Australian Universities.
- Universities Australia (UA) announced a national round-the-clock 1800 helpline, run by Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia (RDVSA), to support survivors of sexual assault on university campuses (including those who have dropped out of their degrees).
- RMIT University announced establishment of a restorative justice process for survivors of sexual assault.
- End Rape on Campus Australia released The Red Zone, a major report on sexual violence and hazing in university residential colleges.
- EROC, Fair Agenda, Hunting Ground Australia project and NUS Women’s Dept called for an independent taskforce to oversee universities’ and residences’ responses, but this was rejected by the Federal Education Minister.
- The Australian Human Rights Commission (ARHC) launched a national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment.
- Universities Australia published Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships which constitute a part of the 10-point Action Plan under the university sector’s proactive Respect. Now. Always. initiative.
- Universities Australia published Guidelines for University Responses to Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment.
- Australian Human Rights Commission published its review of the University of New England’s residential colleges.
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