Media release: CAPA calls on universities to put resources into fighting sexual violence on campus
One year on from the release of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report on sexual violence in universities, the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) calls on universities to respond with more than just lip service.
The 2017 report, Changing the Course: National Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian Universities, provided a comprehensive look at the extent and nature of sexual violence at Australian campuses. Among postgraduate students, 45% reported being sexually harassed, and 5% reported being sexually assaulted in the year prior to the survey. One in ten postgraduate students who were sexually harassed at university reported that the perpetrator was a tutor or lecturer from their university. Postgraduate students were four times as likely as undergraduate students to be harassed by a colleague when working at the university, and three times as likely to be harassed by a supervisor as part of a work placement.
Students and activist groups have continued to apply pressure on universities to act to address the systemic problem of sexual assault and harassment in university communities.
We recognise the significant work undertaken by the sector in the wake of the survey. However, we are concerned that universities continue to drag their feet on this issue. Some universities are more concerned about the optics of implementing response measures than they are about the number of students being assaulted each day. Others have made strong public statements but have failed to implement evidence-based and properly resourced measures.
Last year, we released a series of recommendations to universities to address the issue of sexual violence in university communities. We are encouraged to see some of the recommendations are reflected in most universities’ responses, including creation of university taskforces which include student representation, administration of first-responder training to staff, and commitment to a follow-up survey in three years. However, one year on, in light of the limited progress which has been made, we call on universities to implement the following six measures:
1. Provide adequate funding for counselling services to have specialised staff and reasonable waiting periods, including same-day sessions for students in crisis;
2. Allow former students to access their usual on-campus counselling if they withdraw from studies for mental health reasons;
3. Monitor incidents at on-campus residences and university-affiliated colleges, and sever relations with colleges which fail in their duty of care to students;
4. Develop a policy disallowing romantic/sexual relationships between supervisors and research students;
5. Implement mandatory training on ethical supervision for all staff that are research supervisors; and
6. Consult with postgraduate student representatives in the development of materials and policies relating to the sexual assault and harassment on campus, recognising that research students are particularly vulnerable due to the student/supervisor relationship.
“We need to see university counselling services with enough staff that students don’t have to wait for months to be seen – instead, we are seeing some universities pour money into flashy but ineffective resources such as off-the-shelf consent modules and mobile apps with links under-funded services,” says CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams.
“Universities have collectively admitted that there is a problem with sexual violence on campus – now it is time to address the problem with concrete actions.”
For comment: CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993
The 2017 Australian Human Rights Commission report, Changing the Course: National Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian Universities , provided a comprehensive look at the extent and nature of sexual violence at Australian university campuses. Among postgraduate students, 45% reported being sexually harassed, and 5% reported being sexually assaulted, in the year prior to the survey. One in ten postgraduate students who were sexually harassed at university reported that the perpetrator was a tutor or lecturer from their university. Postgraduate students were four times as likely as undergraduate students to be harassed by a colleague when working at the university, and three times as likely to be harassed by a supervisor as part of a work placement.
One year on from the release of the Changing the Course report, we call on universities to urgently act on the following six demands in order to prevent and address sexual violence in university communities:
Media release: CAPA backs Victorian Government’s call to reinstate penalty rates
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is alarmed by the findings of the Victorian Government’s inquiry into penalty rates, and echoes the inquiry committee’s call to reinstate penalty rates to their previous levels.
The report released by the Victorian Government yesterday argued that women, young people, and rural and regional workers have been further marginalised by Federal government’s cuts to penalty rates implemented last year.
Unsurprisingly, the report found that the proposed economic benefits of slashing penalty rates had not been borne out. While the inquiry committee noted that employers said they would be able to hire more staff and give staff additional hours with the reduction in penalty rates, neither of these benefits have materialised.
CAPA believes the reduction of Sunday penalty rates for employees in hospitality, retail, and pharmacy is a clear attack on young Australians, who overwhelmingly work in these sectors. Students who attend university during the week and work on weekends are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of penalty rate cuts.
Financial struggle is typical for postgraduate students, many of whom rely on casual work to mitigate the cost of living as they undertake their studies. As CAPA argued in our submission to the Federal penalty rates inquiry, a decrease in the income of postgraduate students is likely to push students into part-time rather than full-time study, which will have an adverse impact on completion rates.
Postgraduate students are a demographically diverse group, ranging from young people who have not yet entered into the full-time workforce, to older students who are returning to study and are more likely to have family commitments such as caring for young children and elderly parents.
“Postgraduate students overwhelmingly tell us that they are struggling financially and that this is a huge source of stress alongside their demanding studies,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams.
“The cuts to penalty rates have only added to the existing hardships faced by students, who now work the same hours for less money.”
For comment: CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993
Erica Cervini, The Australian
Researchers want universities to get serious about the professional development of casual academics, who now undertake the bulk of undergraduate teaching.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University argue that because casual academics are the face of teaching, they need quality support so they can have a positive impact on their students’ learning.
Natasha Abrahams, president of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, said a common concern among her members, many of whom work as casual academics, was that they felt on the periphery of their faculties and departments.
“Sessional staff often don’t feel like they’re very much a part of their workplace,” she said.
Feeling a part of the academic community was heavily dependent on casual staff having quality paid induction programs.
Media release: Australia’s peak student organisations stand united against Opposition’s damaging statements about international students
Australia’s peak student organisations, the National Union of Students (NUS), the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), and the Council of International Students Australia (CISA), today have spoken out against the Labor Party’s stance on international students’ working rights.
The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, released a statement last week claiming that the number of migrants on temporary work visas had “blown out” under the Coalition government and suggesting a crack-down on international students who are working alongside their studies. This would curb the opportunities for students to support themselves financially and could discourage future students from pursuing education in Australia.
In 2018 alone, Australia accepted 525,000 students from all over the world constituting a 12% increase in admissions from the previous year. International students studying and living in Australia contributed $22.0 billion to the economy in 2016, making the international education sector Australia’s third-largest export. The international students also heavily bequeath multiculturalism, diversity and soft diplomacy to the social fabric of Australia which makes it a top pick for students wanting to pursue education abroad.
The peak student organisations NUS, CISA, and CAPA are concerned that changes to international students’ working rights will marginalise these students despite their economic and cultural contributions to Australia.
Mark Pace, President of the National Union of Students (NUS) says: “With a growing international student population, the federal government needs to introduce legislation to ensure these students have equitable working conditions and fair pay. International students are more likely to be exploited in the workplace, it is up to the government to provide a system which supports international students academically and financially throughout their studies.”
Bijay Sapkota, President of the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) says: “Most international students come from countries with low socio-economic incomes and invest heavily in education abroad. Discrediting their work rights to engage in 20 hours of employment a week, will deprecate their abilities to support themselves and realize a value for their investment in Australia.”
Natasha Abrahams, President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), says: “We should crack down on dodgy employers who illegally underpay international students, rather than penalising those students who are just trying to support themselves in a broken system.”
9 News Canberra
Watch video: https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1073087576178468&id=766239413529954
Natasha Robinson, ABC
Universities should train all frontline staff as first responders to sexual assault or abuse as part of measures to protect victims on campus.
That’s according to new national guidelines agreed to by the nation’s universities.
The representative body Universities Australia has officially released the guidelines today, a year after a nationwide survey by the Human Rights Commission exposed the extent of abuse on campuses.
“It’s definitely one of the strongest statements we’ve seen made in the sector to date,” Natasha Abrahams, president of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, said.
“I think the guidelines send a very strong signal about what universities, in principal, are not willing to tolerate.
“Having said that, I think it remains to be seen at each university how processes are borne out on the ground. There’s going to be no excuse to deal with this issue poorly in the future.”
Geoff Maslen, University World News
Most masters students work part-time or rely on their parents to pay the tuition fees and living expenses. Many find the effort of combining work and study too arduous and drop out. But some, including Queensland student Mick Fox, persevere.
So he now spends much of his time trying to balance part-time work, study and ‘jobseeker activities’.
When he asked for help from the government’s employment agency, he was told he should give up his studies, get a full-time job and go back to university when he had earned enough to survive as a student.
“I am the first person in my family to undertake university study and, coming from a low-income background, it seems that the system is not there to support you. Instead, they want to place you in any form of employment even if it’s unsuitable while leaving higher education to those who can afford it.”
Fox is a vice-president of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), which is campaigning for greater support for postgraduates who are not eligible for scholarships or government allowances.
Read more: http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20180704090900292