St Paul’s backs University actions to prevent sexual harassment and assault

St Paul’s backs University actions to prevent sexual harassment and assault

2 months ago

On the first anniversary of the Australian Human Rights Commission and Universities Australia releasing their landmark report, Change the Course: National Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian Universities, St Paul’s College has reiterated its determination to do all it can to prevent and respond firmly to sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence, today wrote to all University of Sydney students, including all St Paul’s College students, outlining the steps the University has taken over the last year to implement the Human Rights Commission/Universities Australia recommendations.

The Head of St Paul’s College, Dr Don Markwell, has also today written to all St Paul’s College students supporting the University’s actions, and restating the College’s “unshakable commitment to respect and dignity for all, including equality of respect for all regardless of gender.”

“We have a zero tolerance approach to anything that is incompatible with this.”

Dr Markwell drew attention to the provisions of the College’s revised Handbook on “Standards of Personal Behaviour”, including regarding sexual misconduct and hazing.

He had spoken about these and other topics, including about consent and the importance of bystander action when things may be going wrong, in his speech welcoming new students to the College on Sunday. A copy of that speech is here.

New St Paul’s College students took part in a workshop on Sunday afternoon with Ms Christie Breakspear on sexual harassment and the law, and in formal College dinner last night the former Police officer, Brent Sanders, spoke about sexual assault, consent, and bystander intervention. These sessions follow similar sessions at the beginning of the academic year.

In his message to students today, Dr Markwell encouraged all St Paul’s College students who had not done so to complete the University’s “Consent Matters” module. All members of the College in first semester were encouraged to complete this module, and all new students were required to complete it yesterday.

Several members of the College took part in a bystander training session organised by the University and held at St John’s College on Friday.

Dr Markwell summarised the key message on bystander intervention: “If you see anything wrong happening, or if you can see things are heading in that direction, do not just walk on by, or just stand by. Be a good neighbour. Say something. Do something sensible that will help to stop or prevent what should not happen. Follow it up.”

In his message to students today, the Vice-Chancellor mentioned that the University has been working with the other colleges on implementation of their Broderick review reports, and will do so with St Paul’s when its report is released.  Over the course of this year, a review of the culture of St Paul’s College has been undertaken by a team led by Australia’s internationally-respected former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick.

Dr Markwell said: “The report of that independent review will be received soon, and in a few weeks’ time, after we have had time to study it and prepare an action plan to implement its recommendations, we will publish the report and our action plan.

“That action plan will, of course, reflect our total resolve to be a welcoming and inclusive community based on the values of respect and dignity for all.”