UWA acts on stu­dent safety

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page - By JON BAS­SETT

UWA says a work­ing group is ex­am­in­ing ways to im­prove safety for stu­dents, staff and vis­i­tors af­ter new fig­ures re­vealed alarm­ing amounts of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and sex­ual as­sault at uni­ver­si­ties across Aus­tralia.

Data re­leased by the Aus­tralian Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion last week showed one in five stu­dents had been sex­u­ally ha­rassed while in a univer­sity set­ting last year.

Of the 30,000 univer­sity stu­dents sur­veyed from 39 Aus­tralian uni­ver­si­ties for the Change the Course re­port, 1.6 per cent said they were sex­u­ally as­saulted on at least one oc­ca­sion in a univer­sity set­ting in 2015 or 2016.

At UWA, 2.2 per cent of the 1509 stu­dents sur­veyed said they had been sex­u­ally as­saulted at the univer­sity at some stage in 2015 or 2016, while 51 per cent said they had been sex­u­ally ha­rassed in 2016.

A UWA spokesman said the re­sults of the sur­vey were con­fronting, but the prob­lem was known and the Safety on Cam­pus work­ing group, which was es­tab­lished nine months ago, had been ex­am­in­ing ways to im­prove safety.

“New ini­tia­tives are be­ing put into place al­ready – we are im­ple­ment­ing them as each one is fi­nalised. An ex­am­ple of this is the ‘Ask for An­gela’ ini­tia­tive for pa­trons of the tav­ern at UWA,” he said.

“If any­one is feel­ing un­safe, pres­sured or ha­rassed, they can see a staff mem­ber and ask for ‘An­gela’, a code word for seeking as­sis­tance.

“Other ini­tia­tives in­clude se­cu­rity es­corts, a 24-7 ser­vice for any­one to re­quest a se­cu­rity guard to ac­com­pany them on cam­pus, free coun­selling ser­vices and a round-the-clock as­sis­tance phone hot­line.”

Just 6 per cent of stu­dents sur­veyed be­lieved uni­ver­si­ties pro­vided clear direc­tion on sex­ual ha­rass­ment pro­ce­dures and sup­port ser­vices.

Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mis­sioner Kate Jenk­ins said it was im­por­tant that victims of sex­ual as­sault and ha­rass­ment were given the sup­port they need.

“The ev­i­dence is clear that uni­ver­si­ties need to do more to pre­vent such abuse from oc­cur­ring and to build a cul­ture that re­sponds ap­pro­pri­ately to these in­ci­dents by sup­port­ing victims and sanc­tion­ing per­pe­tra­tors,” she said.

The UWA spokesman said the univer­sity’s work­ing group would ex­am­ine ways to bet­ter in­form stu­dent about avail­able ser­vices.

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