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Our Watch, Universities Australia launch Respect and Equality Program

February 6, 2019 / Our Watch media team

Our Watch has partnered with universities and the Victorian government to develop a next-generation respectful relationships education program drawing on cutting-edge expert research.

Empty lecture hall seen from the bottom tier looking up at rows of empty wooden lecture theatre seats.

The project will see universities — through peak body Universities Australia (UA) — partner with Our Watch and the Victorian Government’s Office for Women to develop the ground-breaking program.

The online module will be trialled with students over the next 18 months and is part of a whole-of-institution approach to prevent violence — the Respect and Equality Program (REP) — also to be guided and developed with Our Watch.

Universities Australia’s Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said the program was part of a long-term commitment by Australian universities to prevent and address sexual assault and harassment in society.

“Sexual violence affects every country in the world — preventing it is a global challenge and our universities have stepped up to play their part,” Ms Jackson said.

“No single program on its own can bring about change and that’s why this training will work in concert with a comprehensive university sector-led program to enhance counselling services, reporting policies, training for staff and wider violence prevention efforts.”

The online module will be another resource delivered through the university sector’s proactive Respect. Now. Always. initiative and UA’s 10-Point Action Plan.

The education program will be tailored specifically for students in Australian universities, drawing on insights from violence prevention and online learning experts.

The REP will also deliver a new set of workplace standards, training packages, resources and toolkits for senior leaders, staff and students to promote gender equality.

“Working in partnership with prevention experts, we can tackle the society-wide drivers of violence against women and highlight a shared resolve on safety and respect for all students,” Ms Jackson said.

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said: “We welcome the commitment of Universities Australia, and their 39 member universities, to tackling gendered violence on campuses, through this work with Our Watch.”

“It is the responsibility of the whole community to prevent violence against women, and this can only be achieved using a whole of community approach, that includes our tertiary education sector,” Ms Kinnersly said.

“Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected wherever they work or study. We look forward to using this evidence-based approach to tackle the issues of disrespect and violence against women.”

Ms Kinnersly said the work with Universities Australia would include programs to address the drivers of violence against women, which research overwhelmingly shows include disrespect towards girls and women, and condoning of violence.