U.S. Documentary The Hunting Ground Spurs Soul Searching Into Australian University Assaults

02/03/2016 2:33 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Singer-songwriter Lady Gaga (C) performs onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

An American documentary about sexual violence in university campuses is sending shockwaves across the globe, with Australian institutions launching a joint response.

The Hunting Ground documentary, that Lady Gaga wrote an original song for, followed the stories of students as they reported sexual assault on campuses, and the failure of some universities to respond effectively.

In Australia, the Human Rights Commission and the National Union of Students are among institutions onboard with the The Hunting Ground Australia Project to investigate institutional responses to sexual harassment and assault.

Doco producer Amy Ziering said Australian universities showed 'moral courage' in facing these issues.

“We are impressed and heartened by the leadership role that Australian universities are taking on these issues -- and hope that their efforts will inspire their global peers to demonstrate similar moral courage and follow suit,” Ziering said in a statement.

As part of the project, the doco will be screened at campuses across Australia, resources will be created about sexual ethics and consent and a survey will be developed to ascertain the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault.

A research project is also underway at the commission to develop a model protocol and policy framework for university responses to sexual harassment.

Australian Human Rights Centre professor of law Andrea Durbach said the nation needed data on the prevalence of sexual assaults at universities.

“Given the concerning statistics on violence against women in this country, it’s not completely out of the question that these stats might be replicated to some degree at tertiary institutions," Durbach said.

"At the very least The Hunting Ground and the work of the National Union of Students has triggered the need to do the research to see if that is the case and how we can start to remedy deficient reporting processes and ensure effective and appropriate redress."

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