One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

ANU Students Mark Two Years on from AHRC Report into Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment on University Campuses

  • 2017 AHRC Change the course report found that at least 116 ANU students were sexually assaulted in 2016, 52 of those students were assaulted on campus

  • While the ANU marks the day with their Foundation Day Lecture, Student Associations mark the day with sit-in, black flag installation and the release of a second progress report entitled One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

  • PARSA and ANUSA once again call on the university to deliver on promises.

August 1st 2019 is the second anniversary of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Report into Sexual Assault and Harassment on Australian University Campuses. This day has been marked by the ANU Postgraduate and Research Students’ Association (PARSA) and ANU Students’ Association (ANUSA) with a black flag installation, sit-in outside the ANU Foundation Day Lecture at University House and a report entitled One Step Forward, Two Steps Back condemning the university’s slow progress towards its commitments.

The 2017 report found that The Australian National University ranked #1 in the country for the percentage of students who had been sexually harassed at university, and #2 for the percentage of students who had been sexually assaulted at university.

In the past two years, the ANU has made some achievements that deserve to be commended, however, progress has been extremely slow and implementation needs to be better resourced in order for the university to deliver on their commitments. Every day that progress is delayed, more students are harmed.

This 2019 report differs only minimally from the same arguments made by student advocates on this day one year ago, and while the past year has seen the establishment of the Respectful Relationships Unit, so little progress has been made in the same areas of concern highlighted in 2017 and again in 2018. The ANU still systemically fails at the stages of implementation and communication.

Eden Lim, ANUSA President, said:

“August 1st 2019 marks another year since the AHRC report, and another year of delayed progress towards the recommendations made by experts, advocates, and ANUSA and PARSA.

“While we are proud of the establishment of the Respectful Relationships Unit, this is only a start, and complacency is unacceptable. We are exhausted, tired and frustrated from the constant need to say the same thing over and over again. We know it doesn’t fall on deaf ears, but still little action is forthcoming.

“Communication has been only upon demand, and the burden placed on student advocates is damaging. Last year we titled our report Surveys but No Service, and this year we tossed up calling it No Surveys and Insufficient Service, as the university has not met a key commitment to run another survey on this issue.

“We’re still here two years on, and we’re still saying the same thing”

Zyl Hovenga-Wauchope, PARSA President, said:

“Although PARSA is committed to academic integrity, I feel as if I am plagiarising my predecessors in expressing my significant disappointment in the continued lack of action from the ANU on the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

“As we did in 2018, we acknowledge that there has been some progress, and that there are many advocates in the ANU community who have been doing as much as they possibly can to drive institutional and cultural change, but the lack of comprehensive leadership on this issue has failed them as well as the student community.

“Communication has been sporadic, opaque and incomplete, meetings have been infrequent, toothless and unfocused, and we feel like we have been going in circles for over two years.

“We are still concerned by the limited action towards addressing the unique challenges faced by Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students due to their relationships with staff (as supervisors and colleagues). Though we appreciate the University's efforts engaging with us to learn more about the problems, we have still not seen the implementation of adequate systemic processes to protect and empower postgraduate students.”


For more information, contact: or 0482 038 076.

Note to editors:

The sit-in will be held from 2pm-3pm on Thursday the 1st of August outside University House at the ANU, photos are also invited of the black flag installation in Kambri which will be in place from 10am-4pm. Media are invited to respectfully attend.

Find the report here.

Contact PARSA

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Australian National University
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