Building lasting change: a strategy for a safer campus

Building lasting change: a strategy for a safer campus

A new, sector-leading strategy to tackle and prevent sexual violence has been launched by The Australian National University (ANU).

A first for universities in Australia, the strategy focuses on the key drivers of sexual assault and sexual harassment and what actions need to be taken to stop these unacceptable behaviours – both on campuses and across society.

The strategy has been developed after wide consultation with students, staff, advocates, experts, violence prevention practitioners and support services.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the strategy built on extensive work to tackle the problem over the past two years and was based on best-practice. 

“Sexual assault and sexual harassment are never okay,” Professor Schmidt said.

“These behaviours have no place at ANU. ANU will not tolerate these behaviours. And these behaviours must end.”

‘This is about building lasting change’

The strategy will guide the entire ANU community – to address sexual violence at the individual, campus and whole-of-university level.

“At ANU we are a community that is open, inclusive and respectful to everyone. We want to be an environment that allows everyone to feel safe and included. And we want an environment that actively promotes respectful behaviour in all relationships,” Professor Schmidt said.

“Together we will target the structures, norms and practices that drive and reinforce sexual violence. Together we will tear these structures down.”

Professor Schmidt said that when it comes to sexual violence Australian society needs lasting change.

“This is about building lasting change,” he said.

The strategy will be led by the Respectful Relationships Unit (RRU), which was established by ANU in January 2019 to coordinate the University’s efforts to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual assault.

While RRU will be a driving force, the strategy also places a strong emphasis on the role the entire campus community can play in creating an ANU free from violence.

An early intervention strategy

RRU head Sue Webeck said elements of the strategy had already been implemented, with the rest to be rolled out in three major phases between 2019 and 2026.

“The first phase of the strategy will identify what actions ANU has already taken to stop sexual violence, while building on that and scaling successful initiatives across the campus,” Webeck said.

“This includes the development and testing of an online disclosure tool, a sexual misconduct policy which sits alongside this strategy, and a coordinated training approach to sexual violence prevention, intervention and response.”

This approach aims to ensure sexual misconduct is stopped before it occurs while also responding effectively and with care when it does occur, she said.

Webeck said the second phase will see the strengthening of ANU’s “whole of community efforts and actions”, built on what research shows works best and ensuring the whole community has access to effective interventions.

“Phase three is really about maintaining our efforts and ensuring they are firmly embedded in our practice and seeing real prevention results across the entire campus community,” she said.

Sue Webeck said at the heart of the strategy was one clear aim: making sure ANU is safe and inclusive for everyone.

“We must work as a community and take individual as well as institutional responsibility for addressing sexual misconduct at our ANU,” she said.

“We must also ensure survivors know how they can make disclosures and reports of sexual misconduct both at ANU and in the broader community, and be confident in the knowledge that they will be supported.”