Policy Submissions

Submission to AHRC National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces

7 Mar 19

Download – Submission to AHRC National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces

In this submission, we focus on harassment experienced by postgraduate research students in the course of their studies and employment at education providers. Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students occupy a hybrid space in which they are considered students, but in many cases face expectations and working conditions in line with those of staff. Research students and paid research staff may be working alongside one another on the same project and with similar hours and expectations of work output. Unfortunately, some HDR students face harassment and other inappropriate behaviour from their research supervisors and/or colleagues. Students in these situations fear the consequences for their research and career if they report. Many HDR students are also employed at their university as teaching or research staff, almost always in precarious employment conditions which cause them to be reluctant to report experiences of workplace harassment. We make the following recommendations to improve uptake of reporting channels:

Recommendation one: That all Australian universities and research institutes formally adopt the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships.

Recommendation two: That all Australian universities use the ACGR Respectful Research Training package for educating doctoral students and supervisors on appropriate supervision relationships.

Recommendation three: That clear reporting processes on off-site harassment incidents be established for university students and staff.

Recommendation four: That universities must drastically reduce the use of casual and short-term staff in teaching and research positions, so that staff feel less fearful of reporting workplace harassment.

These recommendations will go some way to address current issues of low reporting rates, however, more action is needed to create the cultural change necessary to eradicate workplace harassment and its gendered patterns.