The Australian Human Rights Commission’s Independent review of residential colleges at the University of New England Final Report (the review) details the Commission’s key findings on the prevalence and nature of sexual assault and sexual harassment at the seven residential colleges of the University of New England (UNE) . The findings and recommendations are based on analysis of the data collected through both quantitative and qualitative research methods, including interviews, focus groups, written submissions and a survey.
The review follows the Commission’s 2017 release of Change the course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities (Change the course). Change the course reported on the results of a national survey of more than 30,000 university students from all 39 Australian universities, as well as qualitative information gathered from over 1800 submissions.
Recommendation 9 of Change the course states that residential colleges and university residents should commission an independent, expert led review of the factors which contribute to sexual assault and sexual harassment in these settings.
On behalf of the Commission, I commend UNE for being proactive and engaging the Commission to implement Recommendation 9 of Change the course. It is encouraging to see a university take ownership of the issues and demonstrate its commitment to this work through its ongoing and meaningful involvement in the review. This is indicative of strong leadership and governance, and is crucial to effecting cultural change.
The purpose of the review is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the culture at UNE colleges, the factors that contribute to the risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment, and any barriers to reporting incidents.
This report would not have been possible without the assistance of student residents and staff who participated in interviews and focus groups, completed the survey or made a submission. On behalf of the Commission, I would like to acknowledge those who shared their views and experiences throughout the review with courage and determination. Disclosing information of this nature can be confronting and daunting, and I sincerely thank you for your contribution and guidance that has informed the findings and recommendations of the review.
This report contains a number of recommendations to assist UNE to address the barriers and challenges that currently exist at its residential colleges. I have every confidence that UNE will continue to pioneer cultural change in residential colleges, and create an inclusive and safe education environment that allows students to thrive.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner