UNSW has welcomed the release of the 2021 National Student Safety Survey on sexual harassment and sexual assault at Australian universities.

Last week the findings of the 2021 Universities Australia National Student Safety Survey (NSSS) were announced in a joint email to all UNSW students and staff by UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Atilla Brungs, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Equity Diversity & Inclusion, Professor Eileen Baldry and President, Student Representative Council, Nayonika Bhattacharya.

The survey tells us that sexual harassment and sexual assault are still common experiences for Australian university students. While not all these experiences occur in university contexts, the findings demonstrate the profound impacts of gendered violence on students and that more must be done to reduce its prevalence and provide support to those impacted.

Key UNSW findings were broadly in-line with the national survey results showing, of those who participated in the survey, there is a disproportionate rate of sexual harassment and sexual assault among gender and sexuality diverse students, as well as young women and students with a disability. 

It also showed that while 5.8% of UNSW respondents reported to have experienced sexual harassment in the past 12 months and 13.5% had since starting university, only 2.1% of UNSW respondents who were sexually harassed made a formal complaint. A very large proportion of students who participated in the survey are also not aware of how to report an incident or where to go to for support.

As UNSW continues to raise awareness of reporting and support services, we’d also like to remind staff that under the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Policy, UNSW requires all staff who become aware of sexual misconduct at  - or connected with -  UNSW to disclose that information via the Sexual Misconduct Reporting Portal or one of the other channels outlined in the Policy.

Both the national and UNSW reports are publicly available on our website and we encourage everyone to read the report and to work together to build a safer environment for all.  

If these reports raise any questions for you, please email us on smpr@unsw.edu.au

What’s next?

The survey has provided valuable insights to enable the University to better target its efforts and highlights the next step-change needed to increase awareness for students on how to access support.

A new strategy titled Stop.Empower.Support addressing gendered violence at UNSW is being developed with the Gendered Violence Research Network, codesigned by students and staff to take a whole of university approach. This will include strategies to prevent gendered violence as well as provide a supportive and respectful approach to the management of incidents when they do occur.  This is informed by the results of the latest NSSS and will be available in May.

We understand that conversations about the NSSS and its results can be distressing for members of our University and wider community. If you would like to discuss anything that this report brings up for you, please phone 1800Respect, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling and information service on 1800 737 732 or visit their website. Further support services are available and current or past incidents can always be reported via the UNSW Sexual Misconduct Reporting Portal.