The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) will review processes and cultural initiatives targeting sexual assault and harassment in the University of New England’s residential colleges.
UNE Vice-Chancellor, Professor Annabelle Duncan, has contracted the AHRC to review the University’s colleges as part of UNE’s commitment to making the residential experience respectful and safe for all.
UNE committed to the review when it adopted the recommendations of the AHRC’s 2017 “Change the Course” report on sexual assault and sexual harassment in Australian universities. The review will take into consideration past incidents.
Professor Duncan said the 2017 report’s findings, taken from a national survey of over 30,000 students across all 39 Australian universities, showed that UNE’s own work on stamping out sexual harassment could be aided by the guidance of an independent authority.
“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,” Prof. 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.”
“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. 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.
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,” Prof. 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.”