Responding to AHRC recommendations

Deakin is committed to taking action on all nine recommendations made in the Australian Human Rights Commission's (AHRC) 'Change the Course' report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian universities.

Recommendation one: establish an advisory committee

Deakin's Respect. Now. Always. (RNA) advisory committee meets quarterly to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the AHRC 'Change the Course' report.


Vice-chancellors should take direct responsibility for the implementation of these recommendations, including decision-making and monitoring and evaluation of actions taken. To assist and advise them in this respect, vice-chancellors should have an advisory body within their institution which has responsibility for guiding the implementation of the recommendations made in this report.

The advisory body should report directly to the vice-chancellor of each university and include representation from:

  • The university's senior leadership
  • The student body
  • Academic staff
  • Residential colleges affiliated with the university
  • Student services, such as: counselling services, medical services and campus security
  • Frontline sexual assault services.

The advisory body should be responsible for developing an action plan for the implementation of these recommendations.

The development of an action plan should involve broad and extensive consultation with all relevant stakeholders from the university community and, where relevant, the wider community. The advisory body should also seek independent expertise where relevant and draw on existing research and best practice.

The advisory body should assess and publicly report on the university’s progress towards implementation of these recommendations within 18 months of the release of this report. From then on, public reporting on progress should occur on an annual basis.

Progress to date

A vice-chancellors RNA Advisory Group was established by Deakin in September 2017. The current membership of the group includes:

NameDeakin title
Mr Glen AtwellDirector, Media Relations and Corporate Communications
Ms Rebecca AwdryManager, Student Conduct
Dr Stephane BouchouchaLecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery (Executive Deans' nominee)
Mr John DevereauxExecutive Director, Division of Student Life (DSL)
Mr Jean-Marc KurbanPresident, Deakin University Student Association (DUSA)
Mr Chris JonesExecutive Director, Campus Services
Ms Michelle LewisTeam Leader, Safer Community
Professor Bernie MarshallDean of Students
Ms Mel MartinelliDirector, Equity and Diversity
Ms Shirley RooneyUniversity Solicitor
Professor Aaron RussellPro Vice-Chancellor, Research Development and Integrity
Mr Kean SelwayChief Operating Officer (Chair)
Ms Gwen TinklerExecutive Director, Division of Human Resources
Mr Vince WilsonCEO, Deakin Residential Services

To date, the RNA Advisory Group has:

  • endorsed the University's RNA action plan that includes all nine AHRC recommendations and additional actions taken by Deakin
  • established a RNA Reference Group with broad membership, including researchers, academics and external members
  • established a RNA Operations Team with dedicated human resources.

Ongoing action

The Advisory Group will continue to meet six times each year.

Major upcoming agenda items include:

  • Strengthening student and staff training and education programs
  • Supporting LGBTIQ+, CALD and international student communities
  • Updating the Deakin Action Plan, incorporating recommendations from three external reviews
  • Reviewing of stand-alone sexual assault prevention and response policy and procedure.

Recommendation two: addressing the drivers of sexual assault and harassment

Our focus on the prevention of violence and sexual harm must start by addressing the drivers and precursors caused by intrusive questions and behaviour.

These contributing factors and drivers include alcohol and drugs, abuse of power, residential settings, violence against women, discrimination including transphobia, biphobia, homophobia, inequality and inequity and disrespectful behaviour.

We work in partnership with Deakin University Student Association (DUSA), Deakin Residential Services and our broader community to address the underlying causes of violence in our community, our student communities and the broader community.

Everybody has a role to play. We need you to help to tackle these behaviours. Preventing violence and stopping it when it happens is everyone's responsibility.


Universities should develop a plan for addressing the drivers of sexual assault and sexual harassment that:

  • Provides students and staff with education about: behaviours that constitute sexual assault and sexual harassment, consent, and respectful relationships, ‘violence supportive attitudes’ and bystander intervention
  • Identifies existing resources and communications campaigns that reinforce key messages of education programs for dissemination to staff and students.

Education programs and communications should:

  • Target all levels of the organisation, including current and future students, staff, residential colleges, public transport to/from university, sports clubs, student societies and student unions
  • Be based on best practice and research
  • Be developed and delivered by individuals and/or organisations with expertise in sexual violence prevention
  • Be developed in consultation with university students
  • Include measures for evaluating and refining the actions taken.

Progress to date

We have worked to improve and further develop our training suite, including enhancing information.

Our education and training programs now include mandatory and rolling student information and education programs on:

  • Sexual harassment and assault
  • Recognising, understanding and responding to disrespectful behaviour
  • Consent and sexual ethics
  • Bystander intervention
  • How to respond to disclosures of sexual harm
  • LGBTIQ+ awareness
  • Drug and alcohol education and awareness

Other education and training programs include:

  • Staff induction programs that include mandatory training in respectful interpersonal relationships, harassment, discrimination, staff code of conduct
  • Student orientation programs incorporate Deakin values, expected behaviours and code of conduct
  • Residential students compulsory training prior to admission to accommodation
  • Residential leaders provided with comprehensive training
  • Harassment and discrimination contact officers (HDCOs) provided bystander intervention training
  • DUSA training and risk planning with student club leaders with emphasis on off-campus events.

Ongoing action

New prevention education and training programs will be introduced later this year and in early 2019. The expected training and education modules include:

  • New bystander intervention program to be launched in T1, 2019
  • Improvements to awareness training for CALD and international students due T3, 2018
  • Introduction of mandatory education program for all commencing students
  • Enhancement of student conduct procedures to allow consideration of behavioural contracts and educative, rehabilitative responses
  • Increased resources dedicated to information and education
  • Ongoing and extended RNA communication plan focused on prevention and awareness based on report findings.

Recommendation three: awareness of support services and reporting

The safety and wellbeing of students and staff who disclose or report sexual assault or sexual harassment is our priority and at the centre of our response. We have simplified and improved all information across our communication channels to enable a clearer understanding of our reporting processes.


In order to ensure students and staff know about support services and reporting processes for sexual assault or sexual harassment, universities should:

  • Widely disseminate information about university reporting avenues to staff and students
  • Widely disseminate information about internal and external services to staff and students, including university counselling and medical services, campus security, local sexual assault services, police, medical centres, hospitals, counselling services and anti-discrimination agencies
  • Ensure that information about internal and external services reporting procedures and support services is displayed clearly, in a logical place/places on the university website
  • Ensure that information about internal and external services reporting procedures and support services is provided to students as part of their orientation into university and to new staff as part of their human resources induction/on-boarding
  • Ensure that information about internal and external reporting procedures and support services is accessible to all students and staff, including people with disability and people from CALD backgrounds
  • Develop relationships with external services (local sexual assault service, local hospital) to enable referral of students to these services where necessary.

Universities should evaluate the activities undertaken to increase awareness of support services and reporting processes to ensure that these measures have been effective in increasing awareness among staff and students.

Progress to date

Awareness of support services and reporting processes has been progressed by initiatives such as:

  • A 'Safer Community' service established as the central point for disclosing, reporting and referring reports of sexual assault
  • Student welcome and orientation programs (including international student pre-arrival) to include standards of behaviour, respectful interpersonal relationships and advice on where to seek support and report
  • International students being provided with specific healthy and respectful relationship information
  • Information being delivered via a dedicated communication plan throughout all student channels
  • Reporting, disclosure and support options being made readily available to all students and staff via all channels
  • Promotion supported via DUSA and staff awareness campaigns
  • Strengthening relationships with Centres Against Sexual Assault, Local Police, Police Sexual Crimes Units, Domestic and Family Violence Agencies, Community Legal Centres, Community Health providers and local community/council primary prevention committees
  • All student communication channels and campaigns being evaluated for reach and engagement
  • Creation of service videos, support services and Deakin values for use on digital signage and social media.

Ongoing action

Continuing awareness of support services and reporting processes is taking place through:

  • Continued assessment of impact and effectiveness of information programs
  • Strengthening partnership with students and student bodies to design and promulgate information and promotion programs
  • Introduction of an option to lodge a report on-line, including internal referral system
  • Strengthening tailoring of information to CALD and international students
  • Extensive services and support communication planning across University channels
  • Implementation of phase two of the eWellbeing platform.

Recommendation four: independent review of policies and response pathways

We are taking an ongoing systemic approach to review. We have worked with, and will continue to work with, external organisations on a thorough review of policies, processes and services.

This has helped us strengthen and introduce new policies, procedures and training to ensure disclosures of sexual assault and sexual harassment are handled in a compassionate and victim-centred and survivor way.


In order to ensure that actions taken by universities to prevent and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment are appropriate, within a year of the release of this report, universities should commission an independent, expert-led review of existing university policies and response pathways in relation to sexual assault and sexual harassment. This review should assess the effectiveness of existing university policies and pathways and make specific recommendations to universities about best practice responses to sexual assault and sexual harassment.

In the interim, and at an institutional level, universities should draw on sexual violence counselling expertise to develop and review processes for responding to sexual assault and sexual harassment of students to ensure that they:

  • Secure the immediate safety and wellbeing of the individual who has experienced the sexual assault or sexual harassment
  • Are clear and accessible
  • Provide individuals with control over what happens to their report
  • Have the flexibility to suit individual circumstances
  • Provide students with support to continue with their studies
  • Provide specialist support, from someone who has specialist expertise and training in sexual assault, sexual harassment and trauma counselling of sexual assault survivors
  • Accommodate the needs of students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Progress to date

In relation to the independent review of policies and response pathways, we have completed the following:

  • Independent review of University policies and response pathways completed in June 2018
  • Review included 31 sources, including policies, procedures, guidelines, websites and handbooks and interviews with 27 staff and DUSA representatives.

In July 2017, the University enacted a stand-alone policy and procedure, 'Preventing and Responding to Sexual Assault Policy and Procedure'. This policy was developed in consultation with internal and external (Centre Against Sexual Assault) sexual violence expertise and is based on the following aim:

  • Students and staff have access to specialist counselling services at our Burwood and Warrnambool campuses through partnerships with Eastern CASA and South Western CASA.

In July 2018, the 'Student Special Consideration Policy and Procedure' was amended to include specific reference to sexual harm and formally recognise a statement from a University Support Service. This included implementation of family and domestic violence policies and procedures to support students and staff in relation to family violence.

Ongoing action

Formal review of Deakin's 'Sexual Assault Prevention Response Policy and Procedure' will be completed by the end of 2018. This review is timely, in light of completion of three external reviews and after 12 months of operation.

Other ongoing action to be undertaken by Deakin includes the specific review of policies and procedures relating to sexual harassment.

Recommendation five: training for people most likely to receive disclosures

We will continue to work with, train and support our students and staff to build a stronger culture of safety, mutual respect and inclusion.

Our 'Safer Community' team will provide support, advice and assistance to all parties involved. Safer Community supports victims/survivors, perpetrators and bystanders.

People making a disclosure will:

  • Be believed and heard
  • Be provided with an understanding of reporting processes and support options
  • Be supported to be in control of the process and have decisions made in the way you want and need
  • Have their privacy respected throughout the entire process.

Our training programs will ensure that anyone receiving a disclosure will respond and take action in a supportive victim or survivor-centred way.


Universities should conduct an assessment to identify staff members and student representatives within their institution most likely to receive disclosures of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Universities should ensure that these staff members and student representatives receive training in responding to disclosures of sexual assault and sexual harassment, delivered by an organisation with specialist expertise in this area.

Progress to date

More than 1300 front line staff and student leaders have now received a written briefing and advice or face-to-face training on how to respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment disclosures.

Since then, mandatory training for all staff on 'responding to disclosures of sexual harm' has launched in June 2018. Further progress has included:

  • Members of the student council receiving specific training
  • DUSA student club leaders attending training prior to T1 orientation, which required risk reduction and incident response plans
  • Detailed advice and guidance becoming permanently available and promoted via staff and student websites
  • The Senior Management Group, managers and staff across the University receiving multiple Vice-Chancellor briefings to ensure awareness of the policy and procedures and referral points
  • Training and messaging reinforcement via staff bulletins.

Ongoing action

We will continue to expand and reinforce training and strengthen referral pathways.

Recommendation six: reporting and continuous improvement of processes

We continue to review and improve our processes so that appropriate action is taken once a report or sexual assault or sexual harassment is made.


Universities should ensure that information about individual disclosures and reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment is collected and stored confidentially and used for continuous improvement of processes, including:

  • Details of the complaint/incident
  • Steps taken to respond to the complaint/incident. For example, whether the individual reported to police, whether the perpetrator was moved to a different lecture/tutorial
  • Support or assistance received. For example, whether the person received counselling from university services, whether they reported to police, whether they received support from an external sexual assault service
  • Time taken to respond to the report and/or refer the person to support services
  • Any feedback provided by the complainant/respondent in relation to the process.

Access to this information should be limited to staff members with responsibility for responding to disclosures and reports and those responsible for improving university responses to disclosures and reports.

On a regular basis, at least every six months, vice-chancellors should be provided with de-identified reports of this data, including any trends or identifiable concerns which arise, along with recommendations for any necessary improvements to processes.

Progress to date

Our process improvements include ensuring:

  • All sexual assault reports are required by policy to be referred or notified to 'Safer Community'
  • 'Safer Community' maintain confidential data on sexual assaults consistent with the AHRC recommendation
  • A university level project has been endorsed and funded to improve capture and analysis of data including sexual harassment
  • De-identified reports provided to the Vice-Chancellors Advisory Group every six months and used to improve prevention and response actions.

Ongoing action

Implementation of cross-university data systems to improve transparency.

Recommendation seven: audit of university counselling services

We are committed to continually auditing, improving and expanding if necessary the counselling services available to our community.


Within six months of this report, but as soon as possible, universities should conduct an audit of university counselling services to assess:

  • The capacity of university counselling services to respond to students requests for counselling in an appropriately timely manner
  • How many university counselling staff have received training in working with sexual assault survivors.

As part of this audit, universities should collect data on:

  • The average length of time students are required to wait to see a university counsellor
  • The number of urgent/crisis requests for counselling received.

This data should be assessed to determine whether additional counselling services are required to meet the urgent needs of students who have experienced sexual assault or harassment. If additional counselling services are required, universities should ensure that these additional resources are in place as soon as practicable.

Progress to date

An external review of our counselling services was completed in accordance with the AHRC recommendation in February 2018. All counselling staff have now completed refresher training on working with sexual assault survivors. Requests for counselling assessed as being urgent are responded to the same day and assessed appropriately.

Ongoing action

Increase in counselling resources are being considered in light of increasing demand.

Recommendation eight: regular reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment

Deakin will support ongoing national sexual assault and sexual harassment survey initiatives.

We plan to work collaboratively with Universities Australia to support and promote the 'National university student survey of sexual assault and sexual harassment' every three years.


Universities should engage an independent body to conduct the 'National university student survey of sexual assault and sexual harassment' at three yearly intervals to track progress in reducing the prevalence of these incidents at a sector-wide level.

Progress to date

Deakin University will support Universities Australia proposals for continuing sector wide prevalence surveys.

Ongoing action

Deakin University will support Universities Australia proposals for continuing sector wide prevalence surveys.

Recommendation nine: review of contributing factors in university residences

We want to ensure our residences are a safe and enjoyable experience for all involved. Continual improvement and monitoring are integral to the RNA Action Plan and Deakin as a whole.


In addition to considering the implementation of the university recommendations made in this report, residential colleges and university residences should commission an independent, expert-led review of the factors which contribute to sexual assault and sexual harassment in their settings.

This review should consider:

  • Appropriate responses by a college or university residence to reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment
  • A trauma-informed and rights-based approach in a situation in which an allegation of sexual assault has been made
  • The ways that hazing practices and college 'traditions' facilitate a culture which may increase the likelihood of sexual violence
  • The role of alcohol in facilitating a culture which may increase the likelihood of sexual violence
  • The level and nature of supervision in a twenty-four hour residential setting in which large numbers of young people are living away from home
  • The level and adequacy of training required to equip residential advisors to serve as first responders or in response to matters sexual assault and harassment.

Progress to date

Deakin Residential Services is wholly owned and operated by the University and an external review conducted in accordance with the AHRC recommendation and completed in May 2018.

The report identified current strengths including:

  • Collaborative and supportive staff culture with a commitment to designing and implementing a culture of respect
  • Zero tolerance approach to serious misconduct
  • Visible and responsive security and staff presence
  • Regular monitoring and review
  • Willingness of leadership to seek and act on feedback.

Ongoing action

Recommendations for improvement will be integrated into our updated RNA Action Plan and implementation monitored by the Vice-Chancellor Advisory Group.

Areas for focus are:

  • Further alcohol harm minimisation (acknowledging significant measures currently in place)
  • Combating casual sexism
  • Role clarity for key individuals involved in reporting or responding to an incident
  • Further strengthen education and training for staff and residents
  • Enhancements to formal documentation of processes
  • Implementation of recommendations has commenced.

Training and education

Deakin’s values and culture are positive. All members of the University community share responsibility for understanding, promoting, enforcing and further strengthening Deakin’s behavioural standards and community culture. Students, staff and the community contribute to fostering a safe, respectful and inclusive learning and teaching environment by participating in online training.

Our training modules include:

  • Deakin Bystander Intervention Program
  • Respectful Relationships
  • Responding to Disclosure of Sexual Harm
  • Deakin Residential Service Respect Program
  • Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Training

Education strategy for 2019

Commencing Student Online induction module

In 2019, Deakin introduced a new module made widely available to all commencing students.

The Respect @ Deakin module is broader than just informing students about consent, it encourages students to reflect on issues such as their rights and responsibilities at university, human rights, gender-based violence, gender and sexuality, discrimination and bystander action.

This program seeks to address all drivers and precursors of violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment, and acknowledge the inter-related link of all forms of violence and problem behaviour.

Deakin Bystander

We have led the way in research of bystander intervention, gender-equity, gender-diversity and social inclusion.

In 2019, we introduced a new Bystander Intervention Program, which was developed in conjunction with the Centre for Health through Action on Social Exclusion (CHASE).

Program for CALD and international students and staff

Deakin is a diverse and inclusive university with almost 12,000 international students from around 130 countries. Our community is vibrant, cultural and linguistically diverse. Our multicultural campuses promote fresh young thinking and innovation, and our community brings a diverse range of values and beliefs.

In 2019, we will have widely rolled out a program to help address some of the gaps our international and CALD students and staff face. This includes better dissemination of information on support services, what happens when disclosure of sexual harm is made, the recognition of sexual harm and to address barriers and concerns that are specific to CALD and international students and staff.

The program aims to improve participants’ understanding of Australia’s journey on gender equality and equity, community values, legal framework, boundaries, respectful relationships, ethical sex and sexual health (including rights to contraception).

Respect. Now. Always. Internship Program

The Respect. Now. Always. Internship Program (formerly Respectful Communities Internship) has been running since 2017. The program is part of our Work Integrated Learning Internship and provides students with credit points toward their degree.

Interns attend three weeks of seminars followed by nine weeks of field work where they come up with ideas, initiatives and activities to address precursors of gender-based violence, sexual harm, and foster a nurturing, safe and supporting environment for students.

The aim of the internship program is to help develop the next generation of effective and innovative primary prevention practitioners.

Students that are interested in this internship should contact our Graduate Employment Division or visit DeakinTalent for further information on our Work Integrated Learning internship.