Fair Agenda Blog

Leading advocates on university sexual violence End Rape on Campus Australia, Fair Agenda, National Union of Students and The Hunting Ground Australia Project have today expressed concern about revelations in Al Jazeera’s documentary Australia: Rape on Campus, saying it is further evidence that universities aren’t doing enough to provide safe learning environments and that the Australian Government needs to urgently intervene to ensure student
safety.

The four groups have backed the concerns of the international students interviewed in the documentary about inadequate information and support provided to international students regarding sexual violence.

“Data released by the Australian Human Rights Commission last August showed that sexual violence is a huge issue in university contexts, and we know from the Commission’s report that international students face additional challenges that can make them more vulnerable.

“What we hear from international students is that they may not understand what behaviour is the result of cultural differences, or when someone is acting predatorily towards them; they may not understand their legal rights to pursue charges; and they often don’t have the social supports around them that are so vital to recovering from trauma and violence,” said Sharna Bremner,
End Rape on Campus Australia.

“I’ve been working with international students for the past seven years. Unfortunately the experiences of the students in the documentary are all too familiar. Students just aren’t given the information they need on this issue.” said Ms Bremner.

“I’ve supported students who are scared that they could be charged if they reported to police; others who’ve been threatened by the perpetrators that if they report they will have their visa cancelled; and students who have reported, but were told there was nothing the university could do.” she added.

“International students in Australia need to be supported with targeted information, including orientation programs covering sexual violence and Australian cultural behaviours, and specific support services that recognise and address their particular vulnerabilities,” said Ms Maria Dimopoulos, the independent Chair of the Harmony Alliance: Migrant and Refugee Women for
Change.

“Universities are aggressively recruiting students to come here from overseas; but they’re not doing what it takes to make sure they’re safe once they get here.” Kate Crossin, National Women’s Officer, National Union of Students.

“Universities should be aware of the additional vulnerabilities and challenges faced by international students. They should be ensuring international students are receiving adequate information, specialised prevention training, and that international students are involved in and represented in university responses to sexual violence,” added Ms Crossin.

“The ongoing revelations about sexual violence and appalling behaviour in our universities demonstrate that this is a systemic and ingrained problem.” said Renee Carr, Executive Director of Fair Agenda.

“We can’t keep relying on the bravery of individual survivors to come forward and speak out in order to drive overdue change. This documentary demonstrates, again, the urgency for the Federal Government to step in and ensure the safety of Australian and international students at our universities.” said Ms Carr.

The four groups reiterated their joint call for the Federal Government to establish an independent expert led Taskforce to investigate and hold universities to account on the systemic issue of sexual violence.

“Students, survivors and advocates have been speaking out about sexual violence for decades. Universities said they would act on sexual violence in response to last year’s national student survey results, but we know many are still dragging their feet on implementing substantive change. And revelations from students attending this year’s O’Week show that universities still aren’t adequately addressing major risks.”said Allison Henry, Campaign Director
of The Hunting Ground Australia Project.

”The Federal Government is happy to promote record-breaking numbers of international students and provides universities with at least $17 billion of Australian taxpayer funding annually – it’s past time that the Government held universities accountable on this ongoing, systemic issue of student wellbeing and safety,” Ms Henry added.


Fast facts
The Change the Course report from the Australian Human Rights Commission found:
● 5.1% of international students were sexually assaulted in 2015 and/or 2016, and 1.4% experienced this in a university setting (p.51)
● 33% of international students who were sexually assaulted indicated they did not know who to report their sexual assault to (p.130)
● International students who were sexually assaulted were more likely (31%) than domestic students (19%) to indicate that they felt too embarrassed or ashamed to report it (p.130)
● International students are almost half as likely as domestic students (5% compared to 9%) to report their experience of sexual assault to the university (p.136)

Written by Renee Carr
27 April 2018
Handmaids

Last year TV series The Handmaid's Tale made international headlines for its haunting depiction of a dystopian future America where women are denied control over their bodies and reproductive health. The show now has a huge international following - and its costumes have become iconic in the global protest for abortion rights.

In just a few weeks, the second series will premiere in Australia. Can you organise a house party screening to raise funds for pro-choice campaigns in Australia?

Right now abortion is still in the Criminal Code in both Queensland and NSW. It means women are frequently refused assistance at public hospitals, and that people face additional distress, danger and financial burden when they need to terminate their pregnancy.

In coming months there will be critical opportunities to secure changes to the law in Queensland. But there are extreme anti-choice forces who are working hard to stop that from happening.

That's why your help is so important. It's going to take a huge effort to secure this desperately needed progress.

Can you help raise funds to fight for Queenslanders' reproductive rights by organising a screening The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 premiere at your house, inviting some friends around to watch with you, and asking those who come along to make a donation to support campaigns for the right to choose?

Sign up here to register a screening.

We’ll provide you with a short host pack – including information about the state of reproductive rights in Australia, key battles on the horizon, and what Fair Agenda is fundraising for. 

The Handmaid’s Tale will be released on SBS On Demand on Thursday 26th April, and the first episode will be available to screen on SBS Demand for two weeks.

Any questions? Please contact us via info@fairagenda.org

Content Warning: The series includes distressing content including depictions of sexual violence and torture.

Written by Renee Carr
12 April 2018
IWD 2018
Here at Fair Agenda, we think the best way to celebrate and honour International Women's Day, and the achievements of the women who have fought for our rights is by continuing their work.
So here are three of our tips for actions you can take right now, for a fair and equal future.

1. Listen to, and amplify, the voices of women in public debate

Particularly women whose voices might be marginalised because of other parts of their identity – like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, Muslim women, women of colour, women living with a disability and LGBTQI women.
You can get started right now is by following more women (and women-led groups) on social media, and actively sharing their posts. We’ve put together a list of some of our favourites to help you get started:
  • Nakkiah Lui is a writer, actor and social commentator. You may know her from her (multiple) TV shows, or from the podcast she co-hosts with Miranda Tapsell ‘Pretty for an Aboriginal’. Follow her on twitter.
  • Celeste Liddle is an Arrernte woman who you may know as ‘Black Feminist Ranter’ on facebook. Celeste is a writer, union organiser and commentator, and today she’s written a great piece called “International Women’s Day is a call to action, not a branding opportunity’. Follow her on: Facebook, twitter.
  • Mariam Veiszadeh is a lawyer, diversity and inclusion consultant. She was Daily Life’s Woman of the Year in 2016. Follow her on facebook, twitter.
  • Carly Findlay is a writer, speaker, disability and appearance activist. Follow her on: Facebook, twitter.
  • Jordan Raskopoulos is an Australian comedian best known as the frontwoman for the comedy group The Axis of Awesome, and a champion for LGBTIQ equality. Follow her on: Facebook, twitter.
  • Sam Connor is a human and disability rights activist and cofounder of bolshy divas and criparmy. Follow her on twitter.
  • Jamila Rizvi is a columnist, radio host, and author (including of the excellent book 'Not Just Lucky'). Follow her on facebook, twitter.
  • Marita Cheng is the founder of RoboGals, champion of Women in STEM and a former Young Australian of the Year. Follow her on facebook, twitter.
  • Women with Disabilities Australia are a national group working to improve the lives and life chances of women with disabilities. Follow them on: Facebook.
  • Djirra (formerly Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention & Legal Service) are champions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by family violence and sexual assault. Follow them on: Facebook, twitter.
  • Fair Agenda is a community of Australians campaigning for women’s rights. On social media we let you know how you can drive change on issues in the headlines; plus share highlights on what’s happening in the fight for women’s rights around the country (and the globe). Follow us on facebook, twitter.

 

2. Add your support to campaigns for women’s rights

Systemic, structural change doesn’t come easy. To achieve a fair and equal future for women we’re going to have to fight hard every step of the way (and be ready to stop those who want to pull us backwards).
Critical to success in almost every campaign for political and social change is public support – and a first step to showing yours is by signing petitions to decision-makers, supporting calls for action.
Here are two campaigns that need your support right now:

 

3. Donate to enable women-led organisations to keep winning long-term change

The work that goes into changing the policies that shape women’s lives is long and hard. And it takes money. Unsurprisingly, the gender pay gap doesn’t disappear when it comes to the people with capacity to give big donations - which can make it really hard to raise funds for women’s rights work.
That’s why one of the most important ways you can have impact is by donating to support the work of women and women-led organisations that are working for systemic change.
Here are a couple we recommend:
  • Fair Agenda drives and wins campaigns for systemic change. In just the past few years our community has won change that has already improved more than 100,000 women’s lives. Including: securing $100 million of additional funding for family violence response, preventing cuts to working parents’ time to care for their newborns from hurting 79,000 families every year; and working with partners to stop $34 million of cuts to the vital work of community legal centres, and much more. Now we need your help to power big fights to secure action on campus sexual assault; and to pass laws for safe and legal access to abortion in Queensland. Click here to donate.
  • In tackling the issue of family violence, the work of Djirra (previously Family Violence Prevention Legal Services) couldn’t be more important. They provide a specialist and culturally safe service to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, who are 32 times more likely to be victims of family violence than non-Aboriginal women. They: draw on cultural strength to increase resilience, reduce social isolation and vulnerability to family violence, promote healthy relationship and create awareness about the ‘power and control’ dynamics of family violence and red flags. They also deliver campaigns to make sure Aboriginal women’s voices are heard. Make a donation here.
Any contribution you can make is important – but if you’re able we strongly encourage you to set up a regular donation. Predictable, reliable income can make a huge difference in the capacity of organisation’s to focus their energy on responding in the most critical and strategic moments, instead of having to fundraise first. (You can set up a monthly donation to power Fair Agenda’s campaigns for women’s rights here).


PS - To secure the advances we need to ensure all women’s safety, equality and dignity, we need to organise year round. Fair Agenda is a community of 37,000 Australians who use our collective people power to win change on issues that affect women year round. If you aren’t a member already, please join us today.
Written by Renee Carr
08 March 2018

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All university students deserve a safe environment in which to learn and to lay the best possible foundations for their future careers and lives.

But for too many students, the vast majority of which are women, sexual violence will have a devastating and ongoing impact that limits their ability to complete the tertiary education they want and deserve.

A student affected by sexual assault will not only have their life and studies interrupted by the immediate medical and psychological needs that arise from this crime, they may also face lengthy police and court processes, and financial costs associated with dealing with the incident. They are also likely to experience ongoing impacts that will limit their capacity to maintain their academic performance. Without appropriate response and support, these ongoing impacts can be so untenable that a student affected feels forced to delay or drop out of their studies entirely.

After decades of student and survivor led advocacy, and years of media reporting shining a light on these serious and systemic problems, last year’s Australian Human Rights Commission national student survey finally confirmed the scale of sexual violence on our campuses.

Many universities and residential colleges are now, belatedly, taking action in response to these survey results - but the depth of commitment to substantive change, and whether or not these existing commitments will deliver real improvements for student safety, remains difficult to assess.

That’s why, as students return to University for 2018, Fair Agenda, End Rape on Campus Australia, the National Union of Students and The Hunting Ground Australia Project are launching a joint call for the Federal Government to establish an independent, expert led taskforce to track, assess and publicly report on university and residences’ measures to prevent, and improve responses to sexual violence.

This taskforce should:

  • Be comprised of independent experts in the field of sexual violence prevention (including sexual assault services and representatives from the Consortium of Sexual Assault Researchers);
  • Regularly consult with student representative bodies;
  • Require universities to regularly report on the measures they and their associated entities (including residences and colleges) are taking to
    address and prevent sexual violence - including the policies and procedures in place;
  • Require universities and residences to regularly report on disciplinary measures taken against perpetrators;
  • Assess whether or not university and residence policies and procedures to address and prevent sexual violence meet good practice, and if they are improving outcomes;
  • Publicly report on these assessments and make public recommendations to strengthen university and residence policies and procedures;
  • Publicly report on the number of complaints relating to sexual violence made to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency under the Threshold Standards, as well as their status and outcome/resolution; and
  • Incorporate data from, and feed into, the next independent national survey of students.

If we are to ensure that the students who are about to attend their first classes – and those who will attend our universities in coming years – are not at risk of the same harms as previous cohorts, we need an independent, expert body that is resourced to assess outcomes in this area, and to hold universities and residences to account.

It is vital for the safety of current and future students that we ensure all universities are making substantive progress in addressing this problem as quickly as possible. Doing that requires an independent review mechanism to ensure that all policies being put in place to address this problem are good practice, and achieving their objectives.

All students deserve a safe environment to learn. For that to be possible, we must address the scourge of sexual violence on campus.

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Please join the call for a taskforce to address university sexual violence by signing the petition here.

Written by Renee Carr
22 February 2018
What we did together

Together our community has won changes that bring us closer to a fair and equal future; and that will improve the lives of more than a hundred thousand women. So thank you.

Here’s what our community's campaigning has achieved this year:

  • We stopped cuts to working parents’ time to care for their newborns that were set to hurt 79,000 working families, ensuring working parents didn’t lose precious time to care for their newborns in their critical first weeks and months,

  • We worked with family violence survivors and community lawyers to stop the Federal Government from cutting $34 million from the work of community legal centres – ensuring thousands of women wouldn't be denied access to the legal support they need to escape and recover from family violence,

  • We stood with students and sexual assault survivors to secure funding from universities for a specialist trauma hotline for students affected by sexual violence during their studies,

  • We built on years of campaigning for the Federal Government to properly fund family violence services; and helped ensure an additional $50 million of funding was committed to family violence response in the 2017 federal budget,

  • We worked with partners to campaign for legal access to abortion in Queensland, and secured a commitment from the Queensland Government to introduce new draft legislation to modernise Queensland’s abortion laws in 2018,

  • We ran a huge Queensland election effort that put the need for abortion decriminalisation in the headlines, and secured pro-choice pledges from 154 candidates. This helped ensure we’re closer than ever before to having the votes needed to pass laws to decriminalise abortion in 2018!

  • We got 129 university residences to be transparent about their training to prevent sexual violence; and pushed more than a dozen residences to improve the quality of their training for students and staff, and

  • We worked alongside women's legal services and family violence survivors to secure a commitment from the Government to amend the Family Court rule that means survivors of domestic violence can be forced to endure direct cross-examination by their abusers.

These are really important wins that will impact women across the country. And none of it would be possible without Fair Agenda members like you - who got involved by signing petitions, contacting decision makers, sharing campaigns with your friends, and chipping in to help make all of this possible. So thank you for everything you’ve done as a Fair Agenda member this year.

We wish you and your family all the best for the festive season and new year, and look forward to collaborating with you again to put fair on the agenda in 2018,

Renee on behalf of the Fair Agenda team

PS – Looking for a meaningful gift this festive season? Why not give the gift that keeps on giving, with a donation to Fair Agenda. You can donate to help secure change for women’s reproductive rights, economic equality and freedom from violence. And if you click here, you can even access a nifty tool from MyCause that will allow you to send your loved one a personalised card when you make a donation in their name.

Written by Renee Carr
20 December 2017
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