In August 2017, the Curtin Student Guild wrote to the University to request more effective measures of addressing reports of sexual harassment and assault on campus.
The Guild identified eight main areas in which the University needed to improve, and called for the introduction of a mandatory online consent and appropriate behaviour module for all staff and students. Additionally, the Guild recommended the establishment of an induction process for all teaching staff – including sessional staff – that emphasises student support services and how to address concerning behaviour, and urged the University to ensure that on-campus support and counselling services can adequately support the Curtin community.
Former Education Vice President Nicola Gulvin, who has been a driving force in the module’s creation, says that while the Guild has been heavily involved in creating content for the module, a number of other representatives at Curtin have had the opportunity to provide input and feedback.
“The Guild presented a content guide of what we believe should be included in the module, which included all aspects of respect, however the university currently only has funding for 3 modules, which will cover sexual consent. A pilot is being finalised and it is very close to being finished.”
The request for a mandatory online consent and appropriate behaviour module, appears to have been prompted by the Australian Human Rights Commission survey, which found that one in five students have been sexually harassed at university.
Between 2011 and 2016, Perth’s public universities investigated 66 allegations of sexual harassment, including 12 sexual assaults. 17 of those 66 allegations occurred at Curtin University.
When asked why it had taken this long for the University to look into a behaviour module, Ms Gulvin suggested that reports of sexual assault and harassment had been swept under the carpet by universities across Australia.
“It is easy to do nothing about an issue when no one knows it exists. Now that the AHRC survey has been released, and it blatantly states that there is an issue with sexual assault and harassment on campuses across Australia, universities are scrambling to save face, and make changes on their campuses. It is unfortunate that it has taken so long for universities across Australia to take action against sexual assault and harassment in the university setting, but Curtin is taking a step in the right direction with introducing this module.”
Ms Gulvin said that for years, the Curtin Student Guild has been calling on the University to make changes that will create a safer campus. She asserts that the Guild will continue to be a strong voice for students, and will push the university to eradicate sexual assault and harassment at university.
“I believe that this Respect Module is the first step along the path to eradicating Sexual Assault and Harassment on our campus. But this module alone will not be enough, Curtin has a lot more work ahead of it to make our university a safe university for all.”
Changing attitudes is always challenging, she says, but it is important to develop a culture where everyone understands that sexual harassment is not tolerated.
For more information on the Respect Module visit the Curtin Student Guild website.