No respect

Content warning: This article is about an anti-sexual assault campaign.

Anti-sexual violence activists say Universities Australia has not delivered on its sexual harassment campaign, despite receiving $1.5 million of taxpayer money by the then-federal Liberal government in 2021.

On July 27 Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson faced questioning during the last day of a Senate enquiry into the reasons behind the scrapping of the campaign.

Ms Jackson told the Senate they believed the campaign would not have translated nationally.

The 2021 National Student Safety Survey found an estimated 275 students experience a form of sexual assault on a university campus in Australia every week.

Infographic: Lainey Smith.

We Are Womxn is an organisation tackling this issue, and co-founders Kate Raston and Nicolette Beard say they wish universities would take this matter more seriously.

Ms Raston and Ms Beard run the health promotion organisation in the hopes of educating young Australians about consent and reporting unsafe or threatening instances to universities.

They run evidence-based, trauma-informed workshops to encourage discussions about consent and safe sex.

Kate Raston (Left) and Nicolette Beard (Right) are the founders of We Are Womxn. Photo: Supplied.

The pair say they launched the ‘Taking Matters into our Own Hands’ campaign in collaboration with WA artist Maddy Watt, after recognising there is a lack of education being given to university students about consent and reporting unsafe instances.

“The urgency of this issue cannot be understated,” Ms Raston says.

“We can’t wait for bureaucratic delays when the safety and well-being of our students is at stake,” she says.

Ms Beard says it has been difficult to get universities on board with assistance in producing campaigns, despite them being free of charge.

“It is disheartening to witness the lack of recognition for the importance of these resources and the apparent lack of motivation to educate their students,” she says.

End Rape on Campus president, Sharna Bremner, says universities have been saying for a long time the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment is a priority, but this is not translating in the data we have.

Sharna Bremner talking about the lack of urgency universities are showing.

“It never seems to be a priority at all. All we ever seem to get from universities is lip service instead of the action we need,” she says.

Curtin Student Guild Women’s Officer, Aleena Shaji says the guild is is constantly pushing for awareness around sexual harassment and sexual violence, and for it to become a priority for the university.

“We want to make sure education and trauma informed training is put into place,” she says.

Aleena Shaji talks about supporting those who feel unsafe on campus. Video: Lainey Smith.

“The guild is very willing to ensure this sort of training is put into place and that people can feel safe on campus and have enough support services,” she says.

Ms Raston says she hopes going forward, universities will be more open to the resources We Are Womxn are providing.

“We have faced resistance from nearly every University in the state regarding our projects,” she says.

“The lack of transparency and cooperation is disheartening, especially considering the pressing need to address sexual violence on campus,” Ms Raston says.

Sharna Bremner says the key thing going forward is to ensure Universities are being transparent with the public and continue to produce National Surveys.

Sharna Bremner talking about the importance of universities showing transparency.

Universities Australia have been contacted for comment.

If you need to talk to someone about a sexual assault you can call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or click here to find more ways to access help.