A new central management hub to coordinate the Australian National University's response to sexual violence will be set up on campus in the coming months.
The university revealed the 'Respectful Relationships Unit' would operate on a budget of $660,000 a year and seek to employ about five staff trained in case management, policy development, education and training, along with a communications and administration officer.
Pro-vice chancellor of university experience Richard Baker said the ANU was about to launch an international search for the unit's manager, who will take charge of the ANU's much-awaited plan on sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention.
"We want the best person in the world at this," he said.
"A lot work has gone into the policy stuff already, we've updated our discipline rule to include sexual misconduct but they will really drive this [cultural change] and bring in a suite of practical interventions."
A number of those, such as training people to be effective "bystanders", was first put forward by students, he said.
"They've advocated for so much of this so I really want to thank them.
"The bystander and [disclosure] training will help them be good bystanders their whole lives, we hope, but we'll also be encouraging them to go to events like O-week concerts as well, where we have had a number of incidents."
The new unit was among a number of recommendations made by a 2017 Australian Human Rights Commission report, which named the ANU as among the worst universities in the nation for sexual violence.
While students had originally pushed for a "one-stop shop" style hub, that saw counsellors, policy-makers and trainers brought together under one roof, Professor Baker said the university had decided there should be a number of places where students could disclose sexual misconduct.
Instead the unit would liaise with counsellors already on campus, including those from the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, collect data to inform policy and support survivors seeking information.
Case management and disciplinary action on specific incidents would still go through the usual university avenues, Professor Baker said.
Acting president of the ANU Postgraduate and Research Students Association Zyl Hovenga-Wauchope said that, while it was great the university had committed to all nine recommendations of the 2017 report, the association was “dissatisfied” with the pacing of their roll out.
"There's a number of projects behind schedule," he said. "We're coming up to the anniversary of the report now and we'd have liked them to go a bit harder and faster on this."
An audit of university counselling services, including wait times, is also underway, after falling more than six months behind schedule amid changes to the ANU’s health management policy.
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.
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