With the release of the Australian Human Rights Commission's report 'The University Sexual Assault and Harassment Project', the harsh reality of what occurs on university campuses has been put under a national spotlight.
More than ever, now is a time where we as students can reflect upon the ways in which we can support survivors meaningfully. This can be as simple as validating the experiences and trauma of survivors by simply saying, 'I believe you' or listening when they share their stories.
As students, we must continue to advocate for change and reform within our student organisations and university procedures and processes to ensure that they prioritise the experiences of survivors and prevent instances of sexual assault from occurring in the first place.
The University of Sydney Union recognises our role in creating cultural change and ensuring a safer campus. It has always been, and will continue to be, our top priority to ensure our events are accessible and safe for all.
It is my hope that initiatives such as the Education Program will contribute significantly to the process of eliminating sexual assault on campus and creating a safer campus community.
By educating students as to what consent means, how to ensure all interactions are consensual and how to respond compassionately to survivors who share their stories, we can begin to change the culture that feeds victim-blaming and normalises gendered violence.
However, first and foremost, today is about the survivors of sexual assault. We would like to extend our support and solidarity to student survivors at this time and reiterate our dedication to ensuring all students have a positive experience at the University of Sydney.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing difficulty at this time, there are a number of support services available. The Undergraduate and Postgraduate Wom*n's Collectives have compiled the following list of resources that may be able to address your needs:
Counselling and Emotional Support:
● NSW Rape Crisis Centre: 1800 424 017. Open 24hrs a day and run by experienced professionals who can provide support, counselling and referrals for other services. Also available at www.nswrapecrisis.com.au
● Domestic Violence Line: 1800 656 463. Provides telephone counselling, information and referrals.
● The Sexual Assault Clinic at RPA: 9515 9040. Also provides face-to-face and telephone counselling services and medical services such as forensic kits and STI testing.
● If you are not around main campus, there are 54 other sexual assault clinics across NSW run by NSW Health Sexual Assault Services and are open 24/7.
● Undergraduates can make a free appointment with an SRC Caseworker - http://srcusyd.net.au/ src-help/contact-a-caseworker/. Caseworkers can provide confidential assistance and support with student welfare issues.
● Postgraduate students can visit a Student Advice and Advocacy Officer at SUPRA for free, confidential assistance on welfare issues. Visit http://www.supra.net.au/advocacy.html or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
● The university can provide loans to undergraduate and postgraduate students to assist with financial difficulties. These loans can be up to $2000 without interest, and are repayable within 12 months. Visit http://sydney.edu.au/stuserv/financial_assistance_office/.
● The university also offers bursaries, non-repayable loans for students experiencing financial crisis. To make an appointment, call 02 8627 4809
● The student-run housing co-operative, STUCCO, can sometimes assist with providing temporary crisis housing. To apply, you need a referral letter from a caseworker at SUPRA or the SRC (see ‘Academic Support’ overleaf for details). See www.stucco.org.au/temporary-accommodation for more info.
● Link2Home: 1800 152 152. An information and referral telephone service run by the NSW government for people experiencing housing crises. Call 1800 152 152 (24/7, free from a landline).
● The Women’s Legal Service is an independent organisation in NSW, providing women with free legal services.
- Women’s Legal Advice Line: 1800 801 501
- Domestic Violence Legal Advice Line: 1800 810 784
- Indigenous Women’s Legal Contact Line: 1800 639 784
● LegalAid NSW provides means-tested legal support over the phone. Call 1300 888 529 or visit www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/ for factsheets and more resources.
● The Students Representative Council employs solicitors that can assist undergraduate students with legal matters free of charge, including advice and representation. Visit http://srcusyd.net.au/src-legal-service/ or call 9660 5222 during business hours to make an appointment.
● Postgraduate students can make an appointment with a solicitor through SUPRA by calling 93513715 or emailing email@example.com.