UMSU Issues Recommendations to UniMelb Respect Taskforce

21 May 2018

Content warning: sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The University of Melbourne Student Union’s (UMSU) women’s department has issued 12 recommendations addressing the prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus. These recommendations were presented to the University’s Respect Taskforce on 21 March.

The recommendations were done in response to the results of the national survey from Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on sexual assault and sexual harassment on Australian university campuses last year.

“These recommendations give the student voice a place in discussion around sexual assault and harassment and how we proceed in stopping it,” said Molly Willmott, UMSU women’s officer.

“This document was written and influenced by student activists and experts from all around Australia, and they will act to base what we, as a student union, are advocating for our students in coming years.”

Survivor-centric measures have been recommended by UMSU to support victims of sexual violence on campus. UMSU has suggested improving reporting mechanisms to allow internal and external investigations. In addition, UMSU has proposed implementing a trauma-informed supporting framework, highlighting the current lack of resources and support given to the University’s Counselling and Psychological Services. This results in long waiting times for students in need of these services. UMSU suggested to have more funding for crisis care and prolonged support over survivors’ time in the University.

UMSU additionally seeks for the University to take a productive approach in educating students about sexual assault prevention. They have also emphasised the importance of providing adequate information to international students about which insurance providers do not cover sexual violence.

A mandatory evidence-based education module has also been recommended by UMSU, in addition to first responder trainings to staff and student representatives. While similar trainings have been adopted by the University’s Safer Community Program, Willmott expressed her concerns of its ineffective enforcements.

“We could be doing more. Dealing with issues of sexual assault and harassment is a massive and ongoing task. It’s going to take continued pushing and review for changes to be made,” she said.

According to Willmott, the training is currently not extended to all student representatives. Departments such as the women’s department are usually first responders to disclosures, but they are unsupported and untrained to handle them. Having adequate training would allow them to properly respond and advocate without the fear of legal and psychological harm to survivors.

The University has also commented on UMSU’s recommendations.

“The Respect Taskforce was pleased to finally receive the recommendations from UMSU,” said a University spokesperson.

“[We] will continue to work with UMSU representatives and others on a range of initiatives and actions to address the AHRC Report findings and recommendations, and UMSU’s recommendations will inform this thinking.”

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