A new national support line for university students commences today, as universities prepare for the release of a report on sexual assault and sexual harassment in student communities.
As part of its Respect. Now. Always. initiative, Universities Australia asked the independent Australian Human Rights Commission to undertake the student survey at all 39 member universities.
With the release of the survey figures tomorrow, the interim support line will ensure that student victims and survivors of sexual assault can access round-the-clock specialist support.
“We know the release of the survey is likely to see a greater number of students seeking counselling support,” said Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson.
“We expect the results will be challenging for everyone. But particularly so for students, victims and survivors who have told their stories as part of this important project.”
The support line will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It will operate from today until 30 November 2017 and be run by specialist trauma counselling service, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia.
The support line is being established as a complement to existing phone and face-to-face counselling services operated by Australian universities.
The number is 1800 572 224 and the line will be operational from 9am on Monday, July 31.
Universities Australia and many Australian universities will live stream the release of the report and universities’ initial response when the Australian Human Rights Commission presents its report and recommendations at 10am tomorrow (Tuesday).
The survey will be released nationally at a media conference with Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, Chair of Universities Australia, Professor Margaret Gardner and President of the National Union of Students, Sophie Johnston.
“From past research, we know that one in five Australian women experience sexual violence during their lifetime and young women aged 18 and 24 are at particular risk of sexual violence,” said Belinda Robinson.
“We expect the results tomorrow to be challenging. However, we commissioned this survey to better understand the issues being experienced by university students. The results will help us to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault and to improve support for students.
“Universities want to send a clear message that sexual harassment and sexual assault are not acceptable. Not in universities – not anywhere.”
The live stream can be viewed from 10am on Tuesday 1 August at Respect. Now. Always.
Universities Australia acknowledges The Hunting Ground Australia Project for providing seed funding for the national survey, along with Professor Andrea Durbach and the Australian Human Rights Centre at UNSW Sydney for their role in the survey development process. We acknowledge the work of the Australian Human Rights Commission and Roy Morgan Research on the survey and national report.