We are strongly committed to creating a safe and respectful community, including reducing instances of sexual harassment and assault, and supporting students who disclose or report incidents. We have accepted the Australian Human Rights commission recommendation from the Change the Course: Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian universities (SSHAA Action Plan) (2017) report and the Universities Australia 10-Point Action Plan to ensure members of the our community are able to have access to prevention, reporting and support services at the university and in the community.
Recommendation 1: establish an advisory committee
The Student Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Reference Group meets regularly to support the implementation of the Action Plan strategies that were designed to respond to the AHRC recommendations.
Vice-Chancellors should take direct responsibility for the implementation of these recommendations, including decision-making and monitoring and evaluation of actions taken.
To assist and advise them in this respect, Vice-Chancellors should have an advisory body within their institution which has responsibility for guiding the implementation of the recommendations made in this report.
The advisory body should report directly to the Vice-Chancellor of each university and include representatives from:
- the university’s senior leadership
- the student body
- academic staff
- residential colleges affiliated with the university
- student services, such as: counselling services, medical services and campus security, and
- frontline sexual assault services.
The advisory body should be responsible for developing an action plan for the implementation of these recommendations.
The development of an action plan should involve broad and extensive consultation with all relevant stakeholders from the university community and, where relevant, the wider community. The advisory body should also seek independent expertise where relevant and draw on existing research and best practice.
The advisory body should assess and publicly report on the university’s progress towards implementation of these recommendations within 18 months of the release of this report. From then on, public reporting on progress should occur on an annual basis.
- The Student Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Reference Group was established in late 2017, chaired by the Equity Director with membership of staff and students from across the university
- an update on the progress of QUT's 2018-2020 Action Plan given at the University Executive Committee in April 2019 and May 2020
- The Reference Group was re-established with new membership in 2021 and is currently reviewing the Action Plan.
- A new three-year Action Plan was submitted to the university for endorsement in early 2021
- QUT’s Reference Group includes members with specialised knowledge of violence prevention and domestic violence and seeks additional expertise as required
- annual updates to the University Executive Committee and the QUT Council will continue to ensure the Action Plan priorities are implemented and monitored.
Recommendation 2: address the drivers of sexual assault and harassment
QUT is strongly committed to creating a safe and respectful community, including reducing instances of sexual harassment and assault, and supporting students who disclose and report incidences.
The University will continue to work closely with internal and external stakeholders, use best practice and education training to ensure QUT community plays its part in addressing the drivers of sexual harassment and assault, and their contributing factors.
Universities develop a plan for addressing the drivers of sexual assault and sexual harassment that:
- provides students and staff with education about: behaviours that constitute sexual assault and sexual harassment, consent and respectful relationships, ‘violence supportive attitudes’ and bystander intervention
- identifies existing resources and communications campaigns that reinforce key messages of education programs for dissemination to staff and students.
Education programs and communications should:
- Target all levels of the organisation – current and future students, staff, residential colleges, public transport to/from university, sports clubs, student societies and student unions
- be based on best practice and research
- be developed and delivered by individuals and/or organisations with expertise in sexual violence prevention
- be developed in consultation with university students
- include measures for evaluating and refining the actions taken.
QUT has addressed the drivers of sexual assault and harassment with reference to the Universities Australia Guidelines for university response to sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The following training sessions are offered at QUT:
- Respect and Safety at QUT online module. This 30 minute module gives an insight into students’ rights and responsibilities, problem behaviours, healthy relationships, alcohol and other drugs, and safe bystander intervention
- MATE Bystander training. A three-hour session based on best practice that empowers participants to become proactive bystanders who are equipped to intervene and address problematic behaviour, prevent violence against women, racism and discrimination and promote equality. This training was developed and is licensed by Griffith University
- Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault: What are the drivers and how can staff respond? This online training for staff, developed by Universities Australia is available to all academic and professional staff that aims to enable participants to define and understand the prevalence of sexual violence within the tertiary education context. The session outlines the social and political context of sexual violence while enabling attendees to understand the impact on survivors and how to respond to disclosures and support survivors
- Responding to Disclosures information for staff. This is online information on QUT’s intranet for academic and professional staff assists staff who may receive disclosures from students to enable them to receive disclosures sensitively and refer and support students to the appropriate support.
- Respect and safety at QUT
- Student sexual harassment- staff roles and responsibilities
- Responding to disclosures of sexual harassment and assault
Printed and digital materials
- Posters and factsheets (available via HiQ for students and staff)
- discrimination, sexual harassment and assault, and problematic behaviours information
- protocol for staff responding to student disclosures of sexual harassment/assault information
- embedded targeted messaging in relevant publications and events aimed at cohorts such as higher degree research students (taking into consideration Universities Australia’s Principles of Respectful Supervisory Relationships), international, work-integrated learning, study abroad, orientation, clubs/societies, and the like.
At QUT we will:
- Continue to improve education and training material for students and staff to raise awareness about prevention of sexual harassment and assault, reporting and support
- introduce initiatives and promote best practice education and training material as they are offered by the Universities Australia, or become available from the community of practice
- continue to disseminate RNA information resources to staff and students at QUT.
Recommendation 3: raise awareness of support services and reporting
At QUT we understand the importance of reporting incidences and providing support to those disclosing sexual violence, discrimination, or any other problem behavior. It remains an integral part of the university’s service provision. We have ensured that all information is improved, relevant, and available through multiple information channels to the QUT community.
In order to ensure students and staff know about support services and reporting processes for sexual assault or sexual harassment, universities should:
- Widely disseminate information about university reporting avenues to staff and students
- widely disseminate information about internal and external services to staff and students, including: university counselling and medical services, campus security, local sexual assault services, police, medical centres, hospitals, counselling services and anti-discrimination agencies
- ensure that information about internal and external reporting procedures and support services is displayed clearly, in a logical place(s) on the university website
- ensure that information about internal and external reporting procedures and support services is provided to students as part of their orientation into university and to new staff as part of their human resources induction/on-boarding
- ensure that information about internal and external reporting procedures and support services is accessible to all students and staff, including people with disability, people from CALD backgrounds
- develop relationships with external services (local sexual assault service, local hospital) to enable referral of students to these services where necessary.
Universities should evaluate the activities undertaken to increase awareness of support services and reporting processes to ensure that these measures have been effective in increasing awareness among staff and students.
Student and staff-well being and safety is an integration part of the university commitment to prevent sexual harm, improve reporting mechanism and provide support services.
- Equity continues to remain a central point of all disclosures and complaints. QUT Harassment and Discrimination Advisers will continue to support students who disclose sexual harassment or sexual assault, and refer them to relevant support services at QUT and in the community
- commencing students receive information about respect and safety at QUT as part of Orientation week
- a respect and safety related slide is distributed to all faculties to encourage staff to display the information as part of their lectures
- all relevant websites are continually being updated based on student and staff feedback to ensure the information is widely accessed and easily available
- prevention, reporting and support related information is disseminated via relevant students and staff channels to ensure it is available to everyone (i.e. Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment factsheet)
- targeted cohorts for support include international students, students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, students who identify as LGBTIQA+, and HDR students. Information is continually disseminated to these and all student cohorts cohort to build students and staff confidence in reporting, providing support and referring to relevant support services at QUT and the community
- targeted activities for prevention include Work Integrated learning, study abroad, and study tours and other activities and related policies, guidelines have been updated in relation to these activities.
At QUT we will ensure:
- All education and training material will continue to be evaluated and updated to ensure their effectiveness
- to continue to engage students in providing feedback and design of prevention of sexual harassment and assault, reporting and support resources
- to work with relevant areas of the University who support international students to tailor information related to Respect and Safety at QUT to international students’ needs
- to put an emphasis on promoting reporting channels and support services to students and staff
- to work closely with QUT LGBTIQA+ Working Party and student body to support initiatives that promote respect and safety at QUT.
Recommendation 4: conduct independent review of policies and response pathways
The University is committed to ensuring a fair, safe and respectful working and learning environment for staff and students, and to preventing and addressing all forms of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
The new policies and procedures ensure the response to disclosures and complaints is timely, fair, transparent, and delivered in a consistent way.
In order to ensure that actions taken by universities to prevent and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment are appropriate, within a year of the release of this report, universities should commission an independent, expert-led review of existing university policies and response pathways in relation to sexual assault and sexual harassment. This review should assess the effectiveness of existing university policies and pathways and make specific recommendations to universities about best practice responses to sexual assault and sexual harassment.
In the interim, and at an institutional level, universities should draw on sexual violence counselling expertise to develop and review processes for responding to sexual assault and sexual harassment of students to ensure that they:
- Secure the immediate safety and wellbeing of the individual who has experienced the sexual assault or sexual harassment
- are clear and accessible
- provide individuals with control over what happens to their report
- have the flexibility to suit individual circumstances
- provide students with support to continue with their studies
- provide specialist support, from someone who has specialist expertise and training in sexual assault, sexual harassment and trauma counselling of sexual assault survivors
- accommodate the needs of students from a diverse range of backgrounds.
At QUT an independent review of the University's Action Plan implementation, including policies and procedures, was undertaken in 2018 with eight recommendations arising and the following outcomes were achieved:
- New sexual harassment and assault policy (MOPP A/8.10) and procedures (MOPP/8.5) were developed and approved by September 2019. The policy and procedures outline the principles governing QUT’s approach to preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault and to responding to disclosures and complaints made by staff and students.
- All disclosures and complaints continue to be reported to Equity and monitored for patterns and issues arising
- two Harassment and Discrimination Advisers were appointed to undertake tasks related to the management of student grievances and disclosures
- students continue to have access to counselling services, and staff to Employee Assistance Program and other relevant support services at QUT.
QUT will continue to review its policies and procedures as required and ensure support services continue to be available to students and staff.
Recommendation 5: train people most likely to receive disclosures
At QUT, staff will continue to be trained to ensure they are able to:
- Listen to and validate the experience of people making a disclosure
- support and refer them to relevant support services at QUT (QUT Harassment and Discrimination Advisers).
We ensure that staff continue to be trained to understand the important role they play as a first responder.
Universities should conduct an assessment to identify staff members and student representatives within their institution most likely to receive disclosures of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Universities should ensure that these staff members and student representatives receive training in responding to disclosures of sexual assault and sexual harassment, delivered by an organisation with specialist expertise in this area.
At QUT, key students and staff have been identified as potential first responders and undertaken the following training programs:
- Responding to Disclosures training delivered by Brisbane Rape and Incest Survivors Support Centre (BRISSC ). Key staff attending have included frontline staff within the library, faculties, and divisions that work with students on a frequent basis. For example, student administrators, administration assistants, lecturers, tutors, learning design staff, and higher-degree research staff
- A Protocol for staff Responding to student disclosures of sexual harassment and assault was developed and continues to be promoted to all staff and student leaders
- MATE Bystander training
- Sexual Harassment and Assault policy and procedures training
- Respect and Safety at QUT online module. Staff are encouraged to do this 30-minute online module
- posters, factsheets and other relevant information continues to be distributed to all staff and students.
QUT will continue to:
- explore new initiatives to raise awareness about sexual harassment and assault, and
- continue to ensure that student leaders and staff have access to relevant training programs to increase their awareness about prevention of sexual harassment and assault, reporting and providing support to people disclosing, and referring them to relevant support services.
Recommendation 6: continually improve processes
QUT continues to review and improve its processes to ensure relevant actions are taken when a report of sexual harassment or assault is made.
Universities should ensure that information about individual disclosures and reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment is collected and stored confidentially and used for continuous improvement of processes, including:
- Details of the complaint/incident
- steps taken to respond to the complaint/incident, i.e. whether the individual reported to police, whether the perpetrator was moved to a different lecture/tutorial
- support or assistance received, i.e.: whether the person received counselling from university services, whether they reported to police, whether they received support from an external sexual assault service
- time taken to respond to the report and/or refer the person to support services
- any feedback provided by the complainant/respondent in relation to the process
- access to this information should be limited to staff members with responsibility for responding to disclosures and reports and those responsible for improving university responses to disclosures and reports
- on a regular basis – at least every six months – Vice-Chancellors should be provided with de-identified reports of this data, including any trends or identifiable concerns which arise, along with recommendations for any necessary improvements to processes.
- All disclosures and complaints are reported to Equity and monitored for patterns and issues arising
- improvements in the consistency and comprehensiveness of record-keeping have been finalised and implemented by late 2020
- separate confidential reporting log, specifically designed for sexual assault and sexual harassment disclosure has been established
- a new Student Equity Plan was developed and implemented since early, 2020. The purpose of the Student Equity Plan is to provide documentation for both student and faculty when a student has experienced difficult circumstances of a sensitive nature, which requires immediate adjustments to current enrolled units
- monthly reporting of these incidents is communicated to the Vice President(Administration) and University Registrar and the Executive Director, Student Services and Wellbeing
- a Complaint Managers Community of Practice was established in February 2020 and meets quarterly to discuss patterns, trends and issues that have arisen as part of the QUT community to improve processes.
At QUT we continue to:
- Ensure students and staff safety and well-being continue to remain a priority and they have access to reporting and support services at QUT and are aware of support services in the community
- improve communication channels to ensure students safety, build their confidence in reporting and raise awareness about support services at QUT
- support students who disclose incidences of sexual harassment and sexual assault and ensure the approach is trauma informed.
Recommendation 7: audit of university counselling services
QUT continues to improve its counselling and other relevant support services for students to ensure timely and ongoing support.
Within six months of this report, but as soon as possible, universities should conduct an audit of university counselling services to assess:
- The capacity of university counselling services to respond to students’ requests for counselling in an appropriately timely manner
- how many university counselling staff have received training in working with sexual assault survivors.
As part of this audit, universities should collect data on:
- The average length of time students are required to wait to see a university counsellor
- the number of urgent/crisis requests for counselling received.
This data should be assessed to determine whether additional counselling services are required to meet the urgent needs of students who have experienced sexual assault or harassment.
If additional counselling services are required, universities should ensure that these additional resources are in place as soon as practicable.
Support Services continue to improve their response and remain a vital part of students and staff - well-being.
- Wait times for Counselling are monitored regularly, with no wait time for urgent matters
- a senior counsellor has been identified to take a lead role in matters related to student sexual harassment and assault, and ensure all counselling is trauma informed
- all counsellors and welfare officers received a formal training refresher from BRISSC in early 2019.
QUT will continue to monitor student counselling services to ensure adequate capacity of its counselling services, training, and data collection processes.
Recommendation 8: regular reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment
Universities should engage an independent body to conduct the National university student survey of sexual assault and sexual harassment at three yearly intervals to track progress in reducing the prevalence of these incidents at a sector-wide level.
QUT will participate in the next Universities Australia student survey of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The National Student Safety Survey takes place in 2021 through Universities Australia and the Social Research Centre.
Recommendation 9: review of contributing factors in university residences
In addition to considering the implementation of the university recommendations made in this report, residential colleges and university residences should commission an independent, expert-led review of the factors which contribute to sexual assault and sexual harassment in their settings.
This review should consider:
- Appropriate responses by a college or university residence to reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment
- a trauma-informed and rights-based approach in a situation in which an allegation of sexual assault has been made
- the ways that hazing practices and college ‘traditions’ facilitate a culture which may increase the likelihood of sexual violence
- the role of alcohol in facilitating a culture which may increase the likelihood of sexual violence
- the level and nature of supervision in a twenty-four-hour residential setting in which large numbers of young people are living away from home, and
- the level and adequacy of training required to equip residential advisors to serve as first responders or in response to matters of sexual assault and harassment.
QUT does not own or operate any on or off campus residences but instead liaises with key providers of student accommodation. However, we will continue to work closely with key external providers of student accommodation and share communications materials and training opportunities to ensure QUT students are aware of prevention, reporting and support services at QUT and in the community.