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MEDIA RELEASE: CAPA welcomes scientists’ call to protect research students from supervisor sexual harassment

1 Mar 19

CAPA welcomes scientists’ call to protect research students from supervisor sexual harassment

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) welcomes Science Technology Australia’s (STA) recommendation for universities and other STEM organisations to implement protections for research students in cases of sexual harassment from supervisors, including by formally adopting the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships.

The Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships were developed jointly by CAPA, Universities Australia, the Australian Council of Graduate Research, and the National Tertiary Education Union. The Principles state that a sexual or romantic relationship between a supervisor and their research student is never appropriate, due to the supervisor being in a position of power over their student.

The Principles were released in 2018 and represented a unified viewpoint between peak bodies on the important issue of student-supervisor relationships. However, uptake of the Principles by universities has been disappointing.

We welcome the push from scientists for the Principles to be adopted as part of efforts to reduce harassment in scientific workplaces.

“Research students are vulnerable to inappropriate behaviour from their supervisor due to the power differential, as students rely on supervisors for the success of their research and their future career,” says CAPA national president, Natasha Abrahams.

“Universities must work to change the culture which allows inappropriate behaviour to flourish. Formal endorsement of the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships, with the implementation of supporting policies, is an essential first step in fostering respectful supervisor-student relationships.”

STA’s recommendation to adopt the Principles comes as part of their submission to the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces. They also included results of their recent survey of scientists, finding that one in two women and one in ten men reported experiencing workplace sexual harassment.

For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993