UNE takes important steps to improve the safety and wellbeing of students

Published 01 August 2018

Increasing student support services, improving education and broadening reporting options have been at the centre of the University of New England’s approach to addressing the issue of sexual assault and harassment on campus.

It has been 12 months since the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report into Australian Universities was released and UNE has delivered on all nine recommendations.

Acting UNE Vice-Chancellor Todd Walker said there is no greater priority for UNE than the safety and wellbeing of our students, and that is why these have been at the centre of our response to the AHRC report.

“UNE plays a leading role in shaping the conversation and changing attitudes and behaviours on campus and in the wider community around the issue of sexual assault and harassment,” Professor Walker said.

Actions taken by the University over the past 12 months include, but are not limited to:

  • Updates to the Residential College Code of Conduct that ensure immediate escalation of matters being referred to the university’s independent investigative unit.
  • Rolling out first responder training for key frontline students and staff to respond to disclosures of sexual violence and assault with compassion and care.  160 staff and students have completed the training to date.
  • Provided online training for all students and staff on consent and responding to disclosures.
  • Implemented the online anonymous reporting function for student and staff to notify the university of sexual assault and harassment.
  • Introduced new student event protocols to reduce the role of alcohol in on-campus activities.
  • Moved the physical location of the counselling services to the residential college precinct to make it easier for students to access and attend sessions.
  • Increased counselling and crisis support services for all students. More counsellors have been employed and all students now have access to an after-hours crisis support line.
  • Provided a free bus service travelling between college and the CBD at night time from Tuesday to Saturday. Students can contact and track the bus via the UNE Security app.
  • Introduced new student event guidelines and monitoring systems to reduce the role of alcohol at student-led events.

Professor Walker said earlier this year we invited the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins to come to UNE and talk to students and staff about an independent review UNE has engaged the Australian Human Rights Commission to undertake into our residential college system.

“This expert-led review will examine the factors which contribute to sexual assault and sexual harassment in our college system and we expect this to be completed by the end of the year.

“The review findings will further inform our on-going efforts into making the UNE experience a respectful and safe environment for all students and staff,” Professor Walker said.