University of Sydney response to the Change the Course report

1 August 2017
Australian Human Rights Commission and Universities Australia report
The University of Sydney will implement all recommendations of the Change the Course report, said the Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence.

The University of Sydney will implement all recommendations of the Change the Course report, conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission and released today by Universities Australia as part of its Respect. Now. Always initiative.

“The report today confirms the seriousness of this problem. While work has begun, there is more we can do,” said Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney. 

“Our University is deeply committed to that responsibility and to eliminating intimidating, abusive, disrespectful or threatening behaviour from our campuses and the communities we serve.

“We will continue our efforts, in collaboration with student leaders, to prevent and address unacceptable sexual behaviour on campus and to support survivors. The University’s Safer Communities Advisory Group has representation from all student organisations, as well as representatives from staff and the residential colleges.  I am deeply grateful to the survivors and advocates who have informed our responses to date and welcome their continued input.

“All members of the University community can help ensure each other’s safety and wellbeing.

“The University of Sydney will implement all of the recommendations contained within the report, and we will meet with students and staff over the coming weeks to discuss the detailed statistics and the University’s ongoing response. 

“If there is more we can do to help our students, we will,” Dr Spence said.

The entire University of Sydney survey results are available here

The actions the University has taken so far include:

  • establishing a single point of contact helpline to support survivors and bystanders when an incident occurs. 1800 SYD HLP makes it easier for students to access various levels of assistance in the event of an incident; including campus security, support services, reporting channels and external 24-hour help and an anonymous call back service
  • comprehensive first responder and bystander training for students and staff including student Resident Advisors in University-owned accommodation, counsellors, helpline staff and a wide range of student-facing professional staff and academic leaders
  • close collaboration with the NSW Rape Crisis Centre to assist with training staff, including formal training for the Student Affairs Unit and Campus Security, and to establish the Centre as a key contact point for assistance with out-of-hours access  
  • an online module, successfully used by other Australian universities, to help students and staff learn or refresh their knowledge about consent, respect, good communication and positive intervention. The module will be compulsory for all commencing students from first semester of 2018
  • asking business and social change leader Liz Broderick to work with the University's affiliated residential colleges and the University on a far-reaching program of cultural reflection and change.  We have also made refinements to reporting and escalation protocols at all University-owned accommodation
  • creating a publication, Specialist advice and support for students, to increase awareness of, and referral to, resources. It accompanies improved training for staff to increase awareness of mandatory reporting obligations and how to balance student confidentiality with these obligations
  • establishing a new complaints handling and investigation systems to be more prompt and far more transparent with those making complaints about the process, how long it might take, key milestones, and what to expect. We have also completely revised related web content and record-keeping to reflect those changes.

These and other resources are in place for students and staff who experience distress as a result of the report. They can also be used for those who are motivated to make a report as a consequ ence of the report’s findings.

Any student or staff member who needs additional support as a result of these issues or media coverage is also encouraged to call the 1800 SYDHLP line to be connected with internal and external sources of assistance.