By Hannah Farrow

Content Warning: this article mentions institutional betrayal, sexual assault and harassment and sexual misconduct.

The ANU Women’s Department organised a Special General Meeting at the Kambri Amphitheatre on Wednesday 30th of March to discuss the National Student Safety Survey (NSSS) results and the Statement of Demands. ANUSA, PARSA and the Interhall Council (IHC) were all in attendance. 

ANUSA President Christian Flynn, ANUSA Women’s Officer Avan Daruwalla, Interhall Council Chair Bianca Barrass Borzatti and PARSA Women’s Officer Nancy Zhang signed off on the “Too Little, Too Late” letter to the ANU community that outlined these demands. 

The Meeting consisted of speeches from student leaders, alongside the passage of motions to hold ANU accountable for their handling of SASH. The General Secretary of ANUSA, Ben Yates, started the meeting with a call for action to “fight back against SASH and to demand accountability from the university”. Following the speeches, there was a march to the Chancelry to lay posters and flowers for survivors. Roughly 400 students were in attendance.

The Meeting was predominantly in response to the NSSS results and ANU’s Student Safety and Wellbeing Plan both released in March. The NSSS results revealed that 26.1% of ANU respondents had experienced SASH during their time at ANU, which is three times the national average. 

The survey also includes recommendations for procedures that universities can implement to reduce the rate and severity of SASH incidents. ANUSA responded to the 2022 NSSS results, highlighting how it “paint[s] a damning and a painful picture of the ANU’s failure to protect students and survivors.” 

The report ranked ANU as the #1 university in Australia for sexual harassment incidents, and #2 for sexual assault incidents. ANU’s Safety and Wellbeing Plan, which outlined the University’s action plan for SASH incidents, was released two days prior to the NSSS. 

The 2019 Women’s Officer, Siang Jin Law, stated that the NSSS results only reflected a further example of ANU’s continued inaction. “Every year, the ANU acts surprised … the results of this survey are not a surprise”, Law asserted. 

ANUSA President, Christian Flynn, stated that following the NSSS report, the “strongest statement came from students and students groups”, claiming that little was heard from ANU’s Respectful Relationships Unit or the University itself. Daruwalla also noted the absence of ANU staff at the meeting despite invitations being extended. 

ANUSA General Secretary Ben Yates, who was previously a Senior Resident at Wright Hall, stated “there is more justice, kindness and wisdom in every single one of [the Senior Residents] than all of the ANU executives”. Yates also highlighted that the process of disclosure for students reporting their SASH incidents was ultimately a flawed system. 

“We were told to tell ANU students [that they have] complete control over what happens next and that they would be believed and supported. We were taught to lie to the faces of the people who trust us.” 

Yates further stated that the “problem is not individual staff members, rather the problem is administration has priced safety…priced what it would take to not shift burden onto students”. 

The Women’s Department suggested five motions in the meeting, which included:

Delephene Fraser, Vice President of PARSA, commented that although “ANU prides itself on [being the] national university…topping the nation in sexual assault isn’t something to brag about. We are top of the list in making students vulnerable.”

The current Women’s Officer, Avan Daruwalla, spoke about how “the system is oppressive and … hurting us”. The lack of student consultation for ANU action was highlighted as ANUSA President Christian Flynn revealed that ANUSA and the Women’s Department  had not been “consulted” about the Student Safety Plan ahead of time.

IHC Chair Bianca Barrass Borazzi also focused on the lack of staffing within residential halls and discussed the motion that halls must have staff from “diverse backgrounds” to cater to the ANU’s diverse student population. 

“It has been clear that ANU residencies suffer from chronic under-sourcing and that the ANU has little reason to care…the burden is pushed onto resident hall students”. 

Borazzi further spoke on how “staff have so many jobs that they can never do any single one of them well,” supporting the motion to build safer residential halls for students. 

In discussing the ANUSA motion for a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach, the ANUSA Vice-President, Chido Nyakuengama, spoke critically about the University’s own notion of  ‘zero tolerance’ in regards to perpetrators of SASH. 

“ANU announced it would have a ‘zero tolerance approach…3 days ago”, she stated,“[yet there has been] tolerance for perpetrators and individuals who committed crimes”. 

The ‘zero-tolerance’ motion was seconded by Deputy Women’s Officer Elodie de Rover, who highlighted student-proposed methods in addressing SASH. This included “increasing residential hall staff numbers… [committing] to a [Respectful Relationships Unit] reform and listening to student leaders”. 

ANUSA Indigenous Officer Katchmirr Russell had a speech read on their behalf, and discussed how “First Nations individuals are inherently disproportionately represented in these statistics.” 

Russell stated how “intersectional” students were more likely to experience or witness SASH than others, with 21% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students experiencing these incidents within a university context. It was also mentioned how these statistics may not show the true reality of the situation considering the difficulty in reporting, and Russell felt “deeply disturbed by the repeating of history”. 

All motions presented at the meeting were passed by students. 

An ANU spokesperson commented “ANU will continue to listen to our students and take advice from experts to create a best-practice response to an issue that sadly afflicts our society.”

 

Support is available:

Canberra Rape Crisis Center 02 6247 2525 (7am–11pm) or 131 444 (after hours)

1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732

Domestic Violence Crisis Service

Lifeline 13 11 14

ANU Counselling [email protected]

ANU Student Wellbeing  [email protected]

ANUSA Women’s Officer [email protected]

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