In the past 48 hours, members of our community have come together across campus to hear about and discuss the findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s survey into sexual harassment and sexual assault at Australian universities. This work was commissioned by Universities Australia at the request of the Vice-Chancellors of the 39 universities nationally, as part of the ongoing Respect. Now. Always. project. The national results are available on the AHRC website, and the results for Macquarie University specifically have been published on our own website.
I am grateful to to the students, staff and community members who took part in the survey and gave their feedback so openly on these difficult issues. Since the release of these data, I have met many of you, and attended a number of events on campus, to talk about the results, what they mean for us as a community, and how we can respond to the issues they raise. These have been, at times, confronting conversations where people have shared experiences that were challenging to speak about and to hear. They have also been respectful and supportive, and I have been moved by the bravery of our students and staff in sharing their stories, and by the compassion and support of those who have received them.
There is no doubt that we can do more to prevent sexual harassment and assault on our campus, and we will. One incident of sexual harassment or sexual assault is one too many. Both are unacceptable and, as a community, we should take action to ensure no one experiences either. The welfare of our students and staff is always our first priority, and we have acted to ensure their safety on campus and wherever their work or studies take them.
Our work with students and staff through the Respect. Now. Always. project, and with assistance from a number of external expert agencies and individuals, has focused on:
Prevention. We have worked to:
- develop courses and training for all students that help them develop respectful relationships as part of their personal growth, as well as first responder training for staff, in partnership with the Full Stop Foundation.
- reinforce the University as a community with shared values and a culture of respect and dignity for all.
Responding effectively. We will ensure that:
- students will know where to get help when they need it. We have developed clear information for students and staff, and campaigns to raise awareness throughout the year.
- students will have immediate access to crisis care in the event of an incident.
- we have effective reporting and complaint procedures that are simple and do not cause further trauma for survivors.
- we have clear standards of conduct that ensure perpetrators are held to account following due process.
- our academic support mechanisms accommodate the needs of students whose study is affected.
I acknowledge that there is still much work to be done, and we will continue to work with our students and staff to ensure that our University is a safe and supportive environment where everyone is able to achieve their full potential.