ACT News


Canberra universities prepare for sexual assault survey

Canberra universities are bracing for the results of a large-scale survey into sexual assault among students by calling in consultancy firms, installing additional CCTV or hiring extra counsellors.

The Human Rights Commission will release its report into sexual violence in university communities on Tuesday.

Thirty-seven thousand students from throughout Australia participated in the commission's survey and each of Australia's 39 universities have committed to releasing data on sexual assaults in their communities.

The results are predicted to be damning. A submission from advocacy group End Rape on Campus found 575 sexual assault complaints over five years, including 145 alleged rapes, led to just six expulsions.

The Australian National University announced Thursday it had hired consultancy firm Rapid Context to review procedures, policies, practices, communications and rules around its responses to sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The Canberra-based business, headed by ANU sociologist Samantha Crompvoets, has previously worked with Defence and AFL.


It will deliver its own recommendations to the ANU mid-September.

The university has also hired additional counsellors to support students and staff through the expected trauma of the report.

At the University of Canberra, the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre has trained 100 staff over the past few months on topics including ethical bystander training and self-care techniques. The partnership is ongoing.

People living in student accommodation have been offered "healthy relationships" workshops and all students were given access to the Consent Matters module also in place at ANU.

"The university has also developed several resources to promote a safe and respectful campus," a University of Canberra spokeswoman said.

The Australian Catholic University is developing targeted staff training and has installed additional CCTV, including at its Canberra campus.

Vice chancellor Greg Craven said new initiatives included a review and upgrade of policies, procedures and guidelines, the establishment of an advisory committee for consultation and advice, and increased resources, including in drop-in counselling services.

"Resources will continue to be reviewed and developed as an ongoing commitment," Professor Craven said.

UNSW has also commissioned an independent review of its policies and procedures around preventing and responding to sexual assault, sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.

The university recently developed a new reporting portal and website that provides information on where to find long and immediate-term support.

"Understanding the prevalence data and listening to the experiences and concerns of students voiced in the survey to be released by the Australian Human Rights Commission next week will guide further improvements in our policies and services to support those affected by sexual assault or harassment," a UNSW spokeswoman said.

Universities were protested last week by students fed up with being ignored by their institutions. Organiser Emma Henke described sexual assault as "almost epidemic" and listed 12 demands of universities and governments.

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Chrystina Stanford said sexual violence in all its forms required a whole-of-community response. The organisation's crisis service had been accessed by "many more" young people in recent months, she said.

"There needs to be a much more concerted effort to address this issue," she said.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 02 6247 2525. Nationally, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. In an emergency contact 000.