The Australian National University (ANU) has announced a multi-million dollar investment to accelerate action to tackle sexual assault and sexual harassment in its community.
The new Student Safety and Wellbeing Plan builds on the University’s ongoing work to prevent these unacceptable behaviours and respond appropriately when they do occur. It will also bolster work under the University’s Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy, launched in 2019.
ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the new plan represented a significant step in its actions to “tackle unacceptable behaviours that plague our society”.
“This plan is not just a major investment. It is the next phase of The Australian National University’s work to keep its students safe,” Professor Schmidt said.
“We are building a community and a culture that prevents sexual assault and sexual harassment, that supports, cares, and provides justice for victim-survivors, and ensures perpetrators face the consequences of their actions.”
The plan includes initiatives and investments targeted to where ANU can make the biggest difference, as well as continuing to ensure the University’s policies and systems are best practice.
These include significant investments in staffing in ANU residences, recruiting new case managers, making consent training a mandatory part of students’ enrolment and further embedding a zero tolerance approach in ANU culture, including policies, language, training and disciplinary procedures.
ANU has today also published and accepted all the recommendations from the Independent Assessor’s Report of its Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy, led by expert Lyn Walker.
“Over the last five years we’ve acted to prevent sexual assault and sexual harm, and to provide care and support for victim survivors. At the centre of our response is the ANU Sexual Violence Prevent Strategy,” Professor Schmidt said.
“We have accepted, and will implement, all the recommendations of the Independent Assessor’s Report.
“Both the Student Safety and Wellbeing Plan and the Independent Assessor’s Report are part of an integrated, holistic and long-term approach to making our campus and community safer.”
Another key area of focus is safety in ANU student residences.
“We have a high number of students living on our campus. ANU is their home. They must feel safe and be safe in their homes,” Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Student and University Experience) Professor Ian Anderson said.
“Over the next 12 months our residences will be a key area of focus for our actions to stop and respond to these unacceptable behaviours. Our staff and student leaders in residences do a great job; overhauling the residences and hiring extra professional staff will give them the support they need.
“ANU is committed to providing a safe, respectful and inclusive study, work and living environment for everyone.”
Under the new Student Safety and Wellbeing Plan, ANU has also committed to consulting with its entire community, including student leaders, advocates and survivors, to finalise what each major initiative will look like.
“To all survivors and advocates, we say thank you. For decades you have bravely led the way to rid our society of sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Professor Schmidt said.
“We cannot do this without you. We are committed to learning from and working with you. Together we can make meaningful change in our own community and across all of society.
“It isn’t an easy journey. There are many more steps to take. But we won’t stop.”
Since the 2017 Australian Human Rights Commission’s Change the Course report, ANU has undertaken a range of key actions to address sexual assault and sexual harassment in its community.
- Establishing the Respectful Relationships Unit to lead education on consent and connect survivors with support services when they need.
- Employing specialist case managers to who work to support survivors who disclose to the University.
- Establishing a specialist Student Safety and Wellbeing team.
- Launching an online disclosure tool for the community, which also advises on how to report instances of sexual misconduct and access support options. ANU reported data from the tool in March 2022.
- Publishing a sexual misconduct policy.