April 20, 2021
UOW statement on social media reports
Support services available to students, staff and community
The University of Wollongong believes everyone has the right to feel safe and supported on campus, free from discrimination, harassment and assault. We encourage all members of the community to speak out, report and seek support if they see behaviour that is threatening, offensive, or could be seen to be harassing or discriminatory in any way. Sexual assault and sexual harassment are never okay. Even one incident is too many.
In recent days, issues around incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus have been raised in social media posts.
The University is very concerned by the experiences described and urges any individuals affected to contact UOW and access the support services available.
The University has reached out to students individually to guide them on accessing those support services and provide advice on the next steps they could take.
The University has adopted a ‘Support First’ model that works with the student to ensure they are supported on their terms to address their immediate needs. With any allegation of a criminal offence, individuals are encouraged, and supported, in reporting these incidents to police. UOW will and has accompanied students to provide direct assistance in this process.
In response to the issues raised on social media, over the past few days, UOW has:
- advised student accommodation residents via our social media channels and email of the support available to them within residences, the University, and the community more broadly on how to access information, make complaints, receive support, and on the options available to them concerning reporting sexual harassment or assault;
- met with student Community Leaders within residences to provide support and debriefing and reiterate the support mechanisms they can guide their fellow residents to use;
- provided an open-door policy for students to see UOW Accommodation staff if they have any concerns, issues, or questions.
Trained staff are available to help and support any student who has experienced any form of sexual harassment or assault, and UOW urges those students to access the support services available. UOW will help students to report matters to the police.
Over the past 12-months, UOW Accommodation has comprehensively reviewed its student leader model and changed the roles and responsibilities of the new resident Community Leaders to place greater emphasis on wellbeing and support. Community Leaders act to build positive relationships within their residence, providing support and guidance, community engagement activities and a sense of belonging for their fellow residents.
As a result of the review, student Community Leaders are now supported in their role by staff 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Community Assistant staff members have been added to UOW Accommodation in 2021 to support and guide residents outside office hours.
First Level Responder training is offered to all staff and to students who are likely to receive disclosures of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The training promotes a safe, respectful community, free from violence and intimidation and includes information about the UOW Support First model of reporting and response.
More than 800 people have completed this training including professional and academic staff, security staff, residential staff, student central and library staff. Staff who are directly involved in critical incident management receive in depth training on the management of critical incidents.
This training is also provided to students in leadership roles within the university who are more likely to receive disclosures of sexual assault and sexual harassment. This includes members of student representative bodies and Resident Community Leaders.
Accommodation residents who wish to terminate their contract are required to meet with their Residence Manager. If students identify sexual assault or sexual harassment as a reason for leaving UOW accommodation, they will be encouraged to report their experiences and be provided with support and guidance for their emotional and physical wellbeing and where suitable terminate their contract and move to other accommodation.
UOW Accommodation has also established appropriate on-call arrangements to manage more complex matters, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
UOW provides information to all students about sexual consent, assault and harassment, safety, alcohol use, and wellbeing through the use of online courses, education and prevention initiatives, and externally provided and accredited training programs.
These include the Consent Matters online course, the MATES (Mentors in Violence Prevention) program, and STEP UP Bystanders program.
UOW's student accommodation residences are supported by the Safe and Respectful Communities team established as part of UOW's commitment to implementing the Australian Human Rights Commission's 'Change the Course' report. More information on the SARC Action plan can be found here.
UOW has actively been enacting all of the recommendations from the 'Change the Course' report.
The report recommended Universities undertake three independent reviews (recommendations 4, 7 and 9), which UOW has done.
In 2019 the findings of the independent and expert led review of sexual assault and sexual harassment at UOW accommodation were published.
The review found that UOW has enacted a range of processes and programs to demonstrate a genuine commitment to supporting students impacted by sexual assault and sexual harassment, and to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment incidents.
The report found that UOW has invested considerable resources in developing its Safe and Respectful Communities framework.
Sexual assault, harassment, bullying and discrimination have no place at our University. If you have experienced sexual harassment or assault, the University encourages you to report and seek support.
UOW support services
- Students needing to report or seek support following an incident of sexual assault or sexual harassment are encouraged to contact the Safe and Respectful Communities team on 4298 1135 or via email at email@example.com. They can also contact the NSW Police on 000 and Lifeline on 13 11 14, or the Violence, Abuse and Neglect Service on 1800-RESPECT.
- Students experiencing distress or requiring immediate support are encouraged to contact our free 24hrs UOW Student Wellbeing Support Line on 1300 036 149 or SMS on 0488 884 164.
- UOW offers a range of support services including, counselling, disability services and student support advisers. Students requiring counselling support can register with counselling services here.
- If you are on campus and require immediate assistance, students can contact UOW Security on 4221 4900 or direct through the Safezone