Media releases

VU works with staff & students to end violence against women

Today marks the first anniversary of the release of the results of a National University survey of students on sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Universities Australia (UA) and all 39 Australian universities supported the Australian Human Rights Commission to complete this work.

The AHRC (Australian Human Rights Commission) released the survey findings through the Change the Course report, which makes nine recommendations. Victoria University, under the leadership of the Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Dawkins, has committed to implementing all recommendations. 

“Twelve months on, our message remains resolute: at VU, we believe that everyone has the right live, work and study in safety and without fear.

“We have listened closely to students and staff to ensure that the nine recommendations by the Australian Human Rights Commission are not only met, but our action reflects the concerns and expectations around what it means to study and work in a safe, supportive environment. At VU, we believe that a commitment to a collaborative approach will eventually result in much-needed changes in attitudes and behaviours regarding this sector-wide issue.

“Respect and Responsibility is not about ticking boxes, it is about strategic and sustained efforts to change attitudes towards women and ensure that, as a community, we do all we can to make our students and staff feel safe. It also means actively working towards change, and I am gratified to be able to share some examples of the important initiatives we have achieved, with the invaluable input from students, staff and in our heartland with the community of the west of Melbourne.”

— Vice-Chancellor and President of Victoria University, Professor Peter Dawkins.

Taking action

  • VU’s Respect and Responsibility Prevention of Violence Against Women — Ten Point Plan, 2016-2019, is our commitment to addressing the key drivers of violence against women. This plan continues to evolve.
  • In response to the AHRC recommendation, VU commissioned an independent expert to lead a review of its existing policies with regard to sexual assault and sexual harassment. The Respect and Responsibility program incorporates and provides oversight for reporting against Universities Australia’s Change the Course recommendations.


VU has partnered with AMES Australia to develop the inaugural Preventing Violence Against Women Leadership Program. Graduates included seven students and staff. This program provides participants with the knowledge and skills required to become leaders in Preventing Violence Against Women (PVAW) in culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Education & training

  • VU commissioned the Western Region Centre Against Sexual Assault (WestCASA) to provide extensive First Responder training to staff including: Student Welfare Officers within the Student Matters Office, counsellors and psychologists from the Student Counselling Service, Safer Community staff, and Security staff.
  • A $50,000 Victorian Government Community Partnership Grant was awarded to the Respect and Responsibility Unit, in partnership with Victoria University Student Union, in recognition of the University’s leadership in primary prevention initiatives.
  • The development of an e-learning module, Bystander Awareness and Action, developed by VU’s Student Reference Group.
  • More than 1,000 VU student leaders are engaging in educational training related to respectful relationships, including responding to disclosures of sexual violence.

“VU supports any student or staff member who has experienced sexual assault/sexual harassment and encourages the reporting of such actions. I personally encourage any student or staff member who is experiencing trauma to contact our Safer Community channels.

“Preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment is a significant challenge for us all; but, collectively, we will work to make change.”

— Vice-Chancellor and President of Victoria University, Professor Peter Dawkins.

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