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Violence against women at universities: Our Watch commends commitment to prevention

August 01 2017 By Hannah Grant, Senior Media Advisor

Our Watch has commended the inclusion of prevention in the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) report released today on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities, said Our Watch Acting CEO Patty Kinnersly.

“The Change the Course report shows significant numbers of university students have experienced sexual harassment, sexual coercion, and other forms of violence. Overwhelmingly it is female students that experience this,” she said.

“With over 1.3 million students and 100,000 employees across 39 universities, the Australian university sector plays a significant role in shaping our cultural and social norms, and the future direction of our community. 

“It is, therefore, excellent to see the Commission recommending that universities address the drivers of sexual assault and harassment, to change the course and build a community where these statistics do not continue, through evidence based primary prevention” said Ms Kinnersly. 

Primary prevention initiatives are designed to address the underlying causes or drivers of violence against women - gender inequality and sexism – and should be in addition to response services at universities.

“Universities have a clear duty of care towards staff and students, with legal and ethical obligations regarding their safety and wellbeing,” Ms Kinnersly said.

“Universities, as education institutions, workplaces and community hubs, are well placed to help prevent violence against women through challenging the attitudes, behaviours and inequality that drives it.”

In response to the Change the Course report, Universities Australia has committed to developing a prevention initiative. 

Ms Kinnersly said that Our Watch is excited to see that Universities Australia are looking to the next step in this work and have committed to developing an evidence-based respectful relationships education program for Australian universities. 

“Effective prevention of violence against women efforts engage people in all areas where we live, work, learn, socialise and play. This is about challenging gender inequality and sexism present in our norms, structures and practices,” she said.

“Prevention work at universities should reinforce similar work in education across the life course, including respectful relationships education in schools. Prevention work in schools encompasses in-class learning, combined with looking at the school’s workplace structures, culture and connections to appropriate community organisations.

“Australian universities have the opportunity to be world leaders in developing prevention programs for a university context. We look forward to working with them on this important issue,” said Ms Kinnersly. 

Media contact:

Hannah Grant, Senior Media Advisor, Our Watch: 0448 844 930 or hannah.grant@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

Read guides for reporting about violence against women and their children.

About Our Watch

Our Watch’s purpose is to raise awareness and engage policy-makers and the Australian community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.

To do this the organisation works to increase gender equality and respect in all aspects of everyday life, such as through schools; workplaces; media; sporting organisations; social marketing, and developing and influencing public policy.

Our Watch’s work derives from the government’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 and gives expression to many of the activities in the Second Action Plan 2013–2016 – Moving Ahead.