Australian Human Rights Commission report on sexual assault and sexual harrassment

A significant part of the national Respect. Now. Always. initiative is the Australian Human Rights Commission's (AHRC) first ever national survey to investigate the nature and scale of university student experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The outcome is the AHRC national report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities and a data report for each Australian university.


The intention is clear – we required robust data to identify the breadth of the issue and to guide further improvement in policies and services. We acknowledge that even one incident is one too many.

The AHRC’s national report and Deakin’s own data confirm that we must continue to confront the scourge of sexual harassment and sexual assault in our community – at universities and beyond.

Violent and intrusive behaviour is unacceptable. We have affirmed our commitment to prevention, to supporting victims and survivors, and to ensuring our campuses are safe for all.

We want to emphasise that the safety and welfare of the victim is always the priority. We take all disclosures of sexual harassment and sexual assault in a compassionate and victim-centred way.

Deakin's results

We thank each and every one of the 649 Deakin students who completed this important survey – we recognise that it was not easy. These students have helped us to draw a line in the sand, and we now know where to focus our energy.

The AHRC data showed the experiences of the Deakin students who completed the survey were broadly consistent with the national findings. Based on the responses of the Deakin students who participated:

  • half of the Deakin students who participated in the study had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the last year either at Deakin or in the community
  • 17 per cent of respondents had experienced sexual harassment at Deakin in 2016 (excluding while travelling to and from University)
  • 8.2 per cent of respondents were the victim of sexual assault in 2015 and/or 2016 either at Deakin or in the community
  • 2.3 per cent of respondents were the victim of sexual assault at Deakin in 2015 and/or 2016.

The national report and Deakin’s institutional data

The data can be difficult to read and we strongly recommend people read the notes on interpreting the national report and institutional data.

Deakin's response

We recognise this is a moment in time to make significant change. The enhancements we make now will positively change not just our Deakin community, but also the wider communities in which we serve.

Our focus is on prevention, compassionate support and ensuring our campuses are safe inclusive environments.

Priority actions to date have included:

  • improved information across all communication channels regarding our code of conduct and values, making sure that the information and access to support is clearer and easier to locate.
  • strengthened our existing policies and procedures to ensure that when incidents happen victim-centred support is provided to staff and students, regardless of where it occurred.
  • staff and students being educated and trained to improve knowledge and better equip trusted members of the Deakin community to appropriately handle disclosures.

Deakin’s extensive training and support programs include:

  • Identifying and briefing 350 of our staff that are most likely to receive sexual assault disclosures ahead of the release of the AHRC report. These key staff are receiving further specialist training.
  • A stronger partnership with Barwon Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) and Minerva Community Service, which will deliver further face-to-face training to more than 1000 Deakin staff. We aim to improve understanding of sexual violence and provide new skills and greater confidence to respond to disclosures in a victim-centred and supportive way.
  • Automatically enrolling Deakin students – and inviting all staff to participate – in an online training module, Consent Matters, to learn how to seek sexual consent, recognise what consent looks like and identify situations where it can’t be given.
  • Increased availability of counselling and support services, so that a student requiring urgent psychological or trauma support will be seen on the same day.
  • Stronger links with the Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA), who provide specialist support on and off campus.
  • Establishing stronger relationships and clearer processes with key service partners and the police. This will ensure we minimise further trauma and ensure priority access to counselling and other support for victim survivors.

Sexual assault or sexual harassment disclosure

Any Deakin student or staff wishing to report sexual harassment or sexual assault – recent or historical and either on or off-campus – should contact Safer Community.

  • If anyone is in immediate or imminent danger on campus, contact Deakin Security on 1800 062 579 or Victoria Police on 000
  • We ask all staff and students to download the free Safe Zone App and use it whenever feeling unsafe or threatened.
  • To report sexual harassment or sexual assault and/or access support, contact Safer Community Service (Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm) on +61 3 9244 3734 or at safercommunity@deakin.edu.au

Alternatively you can contact off-campus specialist services at any time:

  • National university support line for survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault – 1800 572 224
  • Victorian sexual assault crisis line (24 hours) – 1800 806 292
  • 1800RESPECT