Students Consult with Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
WORDS BY JESSICA SYED
Representatives from various metropolitan and regional universities from around the state attended a consultation with the NSW Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Pru Goward MP today at the New South Wales State Parliament.
The consultation was conducted as part of the State Government’s collection of data concerning sexual violence within universities. This data will ultimately inform some kind of state-level strategy to reduce and prevent such violence.
A forum was opened to students and staff alike, with representatives from Sydney University, The University of New South Wales, The University of Technology Sydney, Macquarie University, The University of Newcastle, Charles Sturt University and Southern Cross University in attendance.
Students provided comprehensive and informed responses to questions broadly revolving around the inadequacy of university reporting systems, the need for consent education and vicarious trauma training for staff and students, ineffective disciplinary action for perpetrators, and the experiences of international students.
The consultation further touched on the necessity of the state government to provide sufficient and consistent funding for services pertaining to sexual assault and domestic violence.
A reading of an open letter penned to the Minister, signed by the representatives of the student councils and women’s collectives of the aforementioned universities, concluded the session in a bold and resolute fashion. The letter outlines urgent suggestions of policy, and of legislation reform.
The student campaign lead by the Wom*n’s Collective at the University of Sydney, which aims to completely reform the University’s lacklustre attitude towards victims for sexual assault, has been lengthy and tiring for the activists at its forefront.
Today’s consultation comes at a pivotal time. It follows a week in which the brash, institutionalised misogyny of St Paul’s College has come under the media’s skeptical gaze. It precedes the semester in which the results of the Human Rights Commission into sexual assault in universities will be released.
In light of these events, the University will be scrambling to protect its name. Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence attempted some damage control, having condemned the toxic culture present at St. Paul’s College just last week. These words hold no weight without targeted action on his part.
It will be interesting to see whether potential governmental pressure will be effective in influencing, or perhaps, forcing the University to implement tactile change into a system that continues to fail students.