The Vice-Chancellor attended the official launch of the Respect. Now. Always. national student survey at the University of New South Wales this morning. Alongside fellow campaign leaders Professors Ian Jacobs and Barney Glover, Professor Dowton joined President of the Australian Human Rights Commission Professor Gillian Triggs, Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, and National Union of Students President Sinéad Colee and National Women’s Officer Heidi La Paglia to announce the start of this key feature of Universities Australia’s ongoing campaign.
Tanya Plibersek MP, Shadow Minister for Education and for Women, attended the event and reflected on her own experience of sexual harassment whilst active in student politics at the University of Technology, Sydney. “I’m disappointed to see that more hasn’t changed since then,” she said. “We want young women to learn that they have a right to feel safe and supported in society, and we want young men to grow up understand that respect is an absolutely foundational character of someone who is a decent human being. I think universities are a fabulous place to start that as a pattern. I want to congratulate you for taking this step together, because doing it together is really critical for success.”
In a statement, Minister for Education Senator Birmingham reiterated the Turnbull government’s $30 million national campaign to change attitudes regarding domestic violence and sexual assault.
The survey is the first national survey into student experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault in Australia and aims to gather robust and reliable data that will help universities to understand the scale and nature of these incidences across the country. This data will enable universities to design responses across the sector as well as specifically for their individual campus circumstances.
“This is the first time we have seen a partnership between all the universities and a human rights body, and I think that’s commendable,” said Professor Triggs. “I congratulate Universities Australia, I wish the project well ,and I look forward to reporting [...] on the outcomes of this research.”
“Without women leading the way today, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It’s overwhelmingly women who experience sexual assault and sexual violence, and it’s women who are willing to have these conversations,” said Ms Colee. Kate Jenkins echoed these sentiments, outlining the challenges and importance of addressing sexual harassment, assault and violence in wider society, asking that while “this is not a problem that just exists in universities, [...] what better place to try to start to address the problem?”
The survey will open in September this year and is expected to report in early 2017.