USyd to release data from national survey into sexual assault

The other 38 universities involved in the study will also be releasing their data.

The University of Sydney will be releasing its individual data set from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) nation-wide survey into sexual assault and harassment on university campuses.

The survey, a joint project of the AHRC and Universities Australia (UA), will include data from 39 Australian universities on the prevalence of sexual assault on campus and students’ experiences with how universities have dealt with cases.

Survivors and activists were angered this week when they discovered that the AHRC’s survey would  not require universities to release individual data sets to students.

However, all 39 universities involved in the survey, including USyd, will be releasing their data.

USyd Students’ Representative Council (SRC) co-Wom*n’s Officer Katie Thorburn said of the decision, “students and survivors of sexual assault have the right to accurate information about the safety of their campuses. It took great courage for survivors to share the intimate, traumatic details of their abuse — they deserve to see the outcome of this process, and to be able to hold universities to account.”

The survey made headlines yesterday when the Sydney Morning Herald published an article saying the results of the survey would not include recommendations to universities.

Last week, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins told Honi, “this project was never designed to make specific recommendations to universities”.

“On the basis of the data we have collected, the Commission will produce a report containing detailed findings about these issues and identifying areas for action and reform. This will provide a strong basis for further action by universities to address sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Jenkins said.

SRC co-Wom*n’s Officer Imogen Grant blasted the decision, telling Honi, “the survey was advertised to survivors as a report with recommendations, which was an enormous incentive for survivors who were expected to recount traumatising experiences.”

“I’ve met with survivors who feel conned by the AHRC and that they would have not completed the survey if they knew there would be no recommendations.”

A spokesperson for USyd advised the project was conducted independently by the AHRC, and “as such, all universities including the University of Sydney have no influence over the results.”

While the survey will not make across the board recommendations for universities, the spokesperson said USyd “will welcome additional insights provided by the AHRC survey and act on appropriate opportunities to reduce incidents of sexual assault and harassment on campus and support survivors.”

The AHRC advised its report should be released by mid-year.

Edit: The AHRC has since reached out to Honi to clarify statements regarding recommendations to universities. Jenkins has said, “We will be making recommendations on areas for action and reform for universities to ensure that improvements will be made. It is clear that by referring to these as ‘areas for action’, we were not conveying the fact that we will, in fact, be making recommendations to universities” in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald.