Stalling the Course

4 March 2019

The University of Melbourne, despite accepting all recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) Change the Course report on sexual assault at universities, has failed to respond to the commission about what’s being done to address one of the key recommendations.

Recommendation four requires universities to “commission an independent, expert-led review of existing university policies and response pathways in relation to sexual assault and sexual harassment”.

However, the recommendation stipulated that the review had to be commissioned within a year of the 2017 report’s release.

“Melbourne Uni did accept all of the recommendations made by the Australian Human Rights Commission,” said Director of End Rape
on Campus Australia Sharna Bremner, adding, “Without external reviews, we found that nobody was really questioning what was being done and there wasn’t much accountability, either.”

Bremner suggested that “unis and colleges have been saying the right kinds of things, and making it look like they are taking action” without taking action and complying with the report’s recommendations. Following the release of Change the Course last year, news broke of widespread sexual assault at Ormond College, with an October report in The Age alleging at least 15 cases at the University of Melbourne college.

Master of Ormond Lara McKay subsequently announced plans to introduce anonymous reporting, but there has been no public statement or apology from the University.

This response followed the release of another report in early 2018, The Red Zone, which alleged that “university leaders use residential colleges as a scapegoat to abrogate their own responsibility”, and that “universities are quick to portray colleges as separate institutions”.

Additionally, the University shows no signs of adopting anonymous reporting.

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