A review by Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) will target sexual assault and harassment in the University of New England’s residential colleges.
UNE Vice-Chancellor Annabelle Duncan said the university had contracted the AHRC to review the university’s seven colleges as part of UNE’s commitment to making the residential experience respectful and safe for all.
“The AHRC review will help us build an understanding of the culture within individual colleges, identify what is working and what doesn’t work, and point to where we might make practical changes,” Professor Duncan said.
“We should also get further insight into our incident reporting processes, so that we can close the gap between incident and response and deal with issues as they arise, rather than when the trail has gone cold.”
UNE committed to the review when it adopted the nine recommendations of the AHRC’s 2017 Change the Course report on sexual assault and sexual harassment in Australian universities.
The landmark report, which surveyed more than 30,000 students across all 39 Australian universities, revealed one in five students reported experiencing sexual harassment in a university setting in 2016.
Earlier this year, the Red Zone Report, published by Australian advocacy group End Rape On Campus, revealed a number revealed a number of alleged incidents of sexual assault and harassment at the university.
The allegations were revealed by the national series of Freedom of Information requests lodged by Channel 7 FOI editor Alison Sandy.
The alleged incidents revealed by FOI include students nonconsensually filming women while showering and repeated harassment via online messaging platforms.
Professor Duncan said the AHRC review would take aim at behaviour at the residential colleges.
“There are no shortcuts in this process if we want UNE and its residential system to provide a positive, safe and respectful environment to all students and staff,” Professor Duncan said.
“The Change the Course report highlighted shortcomings in our systems, and I have committed our University to a root-and-branch assessment of those issues.”
The AHRC review proposes an “objective approach to examining cultural enrichment and cultural renewal”, and will recommend a process for collective action based on its findings.
The review will take into consideration past incidents.
An initial consultation will be held between the AHRC and UNE residential college students later this month.
“It has been extremely rewarding to see how the UNE colleges, including their student bodies, are leading the change process,” Professor Duncan said.
“There is deep commitment right through the UNE community to ensuring that no-one has occasion to be worried about their safety while living and studying on our beautiful campus.”