Words || Erin Christie
Content Warning: This article references sexual assault and harassment.
Macquarie University is awaiting the release of survey results compiled by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on August 1. The survey, undertaken last year, was conducted by the AHRC in partnership with Respect. Now. Always., a national campaign focusing on Australian universities and their capacity to prevent and respond to sexual assault and harassment. It asked students about their experiences with sexual assault, including aspects such as whether they sought support, whether they reported to their university, and how well they felt the university effectively handled their report. Although the data will be released to give a broad picture of the extent of campus sexual assault across Australia, each university will be receiving individual data specific to the experiences of their students.
In response to the results release, two events have been planned at Macquarie. The first will be a student meeting and panel on July 26, where students can make suggestions to the university about how the results should be responded to, and how the broader issue of sexual harassment and assault on campus should be addressed from a student perspective.
Student Equity and Diversity Project Officer Jon Papadopoulo has called this an ‘unprecedented event’.
The meeting will host a panel of university workers, including members of the Chancellery: Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academia, Kevin Jamieson, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Students, Leigh Woods, and Communications Coordinator, Paul Wild. Also joining the panel will be Tatiana Lozano, who is the head of Student Equity and Diversity, and also the leader of Macquarie’s branch of Respect. Now. Always.
This is perhaps the first time the university has shown significant interest in the opinions of its students. Papadopoulo says a high turnout is crucial, stating: ‘it’s really important we have students turn up because if this event isn’t a success, the university might not see it as a viable option in the future.’
Another event will be held on August 1, the day the results are released. The event will feature a list of high-profile speakers, including the Vice Chancellor, Professor Bruce S Dowton, Chair of the End Rape on Campus Group, Dr. Catherine Lumby, and Labor MP Jenny Aitchison. A diverse range of students will also be discussing the results and their impact. High attendance is also of great importance, as it will show a united student response to sexual violence on campus.
Papadopoulo has also spoken of the traumatising effects the day might bring. The prevalence of sexual assault will be brought to Macquarie University’s forefront. Papadopoulo states ‘the most important thing to understand is that as we hear more and more about sexual assault and harassment, people can be affected by it.’
He recommends students in need should either visit Campus Wellbeing, or call 1800RESPECT, the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service. Due to the potentially triggering nature of the discussions held at the upcoming events, counsellors will be in attendance in case students feel they need support.
As the results are released it is crucial that students exercise their right to be heard and come together to best support those affected by sexual harassment and assault.
The Student Meeting will be held on during O-Week on July 26th at E6B 149 from 12PM – 1:30PM.
The Speaker Event will be held on Release Day, August 1st on Level 3 of the Campus Hub from 3:30PM.