ANU Announces Full Time Sexual Assault Counsellor

CW: Sexual Assault

Students affected by sexual assault will have access to a full time specialised counsellor operating on campus from early Semester 2.  

The initiative was announced yesterday by Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt, ANUSA President James Connolly and Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC) CEO Chrystina Stanford.  The counsellor will assist survivors, Schmidt explained, as well as educate students on respectful relationships and consult with student leaders. The initiative is part of a “broader ongoing commitment … to stop sexual assault and harassment” according to Schmidt. The University has also begun offering the Consent Matters program online which has been made compulsory by some colleges.

The scheme has been praised by stakeholders; Stanford said that the “move was unlike anything she was aware of happening anywhere across the country”.  Restorative ANU founder Codie Bell called it “extremely encouraging”. Nevertheless, there have been calls for further action. Bell said that eliminating sexual violence would also require ANU to “seriously engage with students and sexual assault advocates”. She also noted the need for residential hall “misconduct policies that are victim centred”, an issue that was not dealt with in yesterday’s announcement. A report for ANUSA into residential hall responses is currently being conducted by Lewis Pope, and will be concluding soon. Connolly, while thanking the University for its support, called on it to fund support services and reduce risks of institutional re-victimisation during complaint and disciplinary processes.

The CRCC will fill the role with a rotation of counsellors, both women and men. It is unclear whether this cycling system will provide for those wishing to build a relationship with an individual counsellor.

Funding will be shared by ANU and ANUSA with the University contributing 60% and ANUSA 40%. ANUSA originally planned to provide a two day a week service independently, but the University subsequently agreed to fund the rest of the costs for a full time position.

The push for the position has been largely student led. Connolly said the change eventuated because students “said enough was enough”.  He thanked former ANUSA President Ben Gill and former Women’s Officer Linnea Burdon-Smith as well as current Women’s Officer Holly Zhang. Codie Bell echoed the praise for Burdon-Smith and the Women’s Department generally in their advocacy work on the issue.

Institutional response to sexual assault on campus is an ongoing issue at ANU and more broadly. The ANU initiative comes ahead of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) report on the issue, which is expected to be published on 1 August.  All Australian universities have pledged to release their data on sexual assault and harassment in line with the release of the HRC report.

If you need support, the following services are available, 

ANU Counselling: 6125 2442

ANUSA Women’s Officer Holly Zhang: [email protected]

ANUSA Student Assistance Officers

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Counselling helpline: 1800 RESPECT

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre: 6247 2525

ANU Counselling: 6125 2442

Headspace Canberra: 6201 5343

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