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Australian Human Rights Commission Partner With Universities To Tackle Sexual Assault

Tanya Plibersek says she was threatened with rape.

23/08/2016 5:57 AM AEST | Updated August 23, 2016 14:33
Alys Tomlinson
The national survey will focus on incidents of assault and if they were reported to authorities.

University students will be questioned about on campus sexual assaults in the first ever nationwide survey introduced to grasp the extent of sexual assault occurring on university campuses.

The Australian Human Rights Commission and Universities Australia launched the national university student survey on sexual assault and sexual harassment at the University of New South Wales on Tuesday morning.

Speaking at the launch, Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said she was threatened with rape and stalked during her time on campus at the University of Technology in Sydney.

"A lot has not changed since I was women's officer at UTS, when we campaigned on sexual harassment and sexual assault on university campuses," Plibersek said on Tuesday morning.

"I was stalked at university and when we had our sexual harassment campaign I got a phone call in the middle of the night threatening to rape me. It breaks my heart that more hasn't changed since then."

Plibersek was joined by AHRC President Gillian Triggs, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and Chair of Universities Australia Professor Barney Glover at the launch of Respect. Now. Always.

A sample of students through Australia's 39 universities will be asked to take part in the survey which aims to assess the prevalence of sexual assaults occurring on campuses throughout the country and the rate of reporting that follows.

In one of Jenkins' first major projects since her appointment, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner said the data collected in the survey will provide evidence to produce prevention strategies within the institutions including appropriate responses to sexual harassment and sexual assault.

"Over the past year, we have heard a great deal about sexual assault and sexual harassment of university students. These reports are worrying. As universities themselves have observed, one sexual assault on campus is one too many," Jenkins said.

The announcement comes after The University of Sydney's Wesley College was embroiled in controversy in May following the publication of a campus journal which included The RackWeb -- a page humiliating women at Wesley College by rating them from "best ass" to "kinkiest collegian".

The University distanced itself from the issue but appointed former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick to lead a task force investigating the culture sexual discrimination within campuses.

Ahead of the launch, Triggs said the survey will build on the work of the National Union of Students in their Talk About It survey released earlier this year.

"This unique collaboration between Australia's universities and the Australian Human Rights Commission is another important step to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment in Australia's universities," Triggs said.

The nationwide survey will be funded predominantly by Universities Australia but is also supported by the National Union of Students and The Hunting Ground Australia Project.

The Hunting Ground Australia Project airs The Hunting Ground documentary from the U.S throughout universities across the country to raise awareness about on campus sexual assaults and encourage further reporting.

For any student across the country wanting to take part in the survey, click here. If this article has raised any concerns about sexual assault or family violence contact 1800 RESPECT for support.

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