Australian Universities Release Concerning Sexual Assault Data

Sex Commissioner Kate Jenkins and NUS President Sophie Johnston at the Change the Course launch. Credit: AHRC

More than half of all Australian university students were harassed at least once last year, a new report has revealed.

Over 30,000 students at 39 universities across the country anonymously shared their sexual assault and harassment experiences in a national survey last year.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has now released these troubling results as part of their report, Change the Course.

La Trobe was labelled the worst Victorian university, with nearly one in three students having been sexually harassed on campus or during their commute to and from university.

But the most troubling statistics came from Bond University on the Gold Coast, Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra and the University of New England (UNE) in NSW.

The survey revealed 38 per cent of students at Bond University and 38 per cent of ANU students had been sexually harassed in 2016.

The AHRC defined sexual harassment as including indecent exposure, sexually explicit emails or text messages, staring or leering, requests for sex or repeated unwanted requests to go on dates and insults or taunts of a sexual nature. 

The report defined sexual assault as including rape, unwanted and inappropriate touching of a person’s breasts, bottom or genitals, as well as other acts when a person is forced into sexual acts without their consent.

The University of New England reported the highest percentage of sexual assaults on-campus out of all Australian universities.

UNE Vice-Chancellor Annabelle Duncan said in a statement on the university’s website that the issue was “everyone’s business”.

“I urge students and staff alike to step up to address this problem. UNE will not tolerate sexual harassment and assault, in any form or in any environment,” she said.

The AHRC report also studied the levels of reporting of harassment and assault at university and examined whether students knew how to get support. 

The Respect. Now. Always. survey found 87 per cent of students who were sexually assaulted in a university setting did not report it to their university.

And 62 per cent of students who had been sexually assaulted had little or no knowledge about where they could go to formally report or make a complaint.

“The Change the course report tells a clear, but disturbing, story,” Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said in a statement.

The report found that out of more than 4,800 students who knew their perpetrators, 7 per cent were a tutor or lecturer from the student’s own university.

The AHRC also received over 1800 submissions for the report, in addition to survey results, being the largest number of submissions ever received by the Commission in relation to a single piece of work.


View a summary of the Change the Course findings below.


All 39 universities involved in the Respect. Now. Always. survey agreed to release their institutions specific data along with the AHRC report, thanks to encouragement from the Commission and external advocacy groups.

Ms Jenkins told Dscribe, although the Commission’s goal was to “not to directly compare universities”, they recognise there is an “acute public interest in knowing the rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment at an institutional level”.

The institutional specific data was published at the discretion of each institution on their university website and was not included in the 254 page AHRC report.

“Universities must be transparent and accountable to their students and the broader community in responding to sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Ms Jenkins said in the wake of the report launch.

Universities Australia have since confirmed that the national survey will be undertaken again in three years.

If you need to speak to someone about sexual harassment or assault, call the national university support line on 1800 572 224. A trauma-specialist counsellor is available 24/7 until November 30.


Sexual assault and harassment of university students data

See the survey results below. We have highlighted Victorian universities in yellow and the highest numbers in orange.

The ABC’s full interactive data table can be found here.

University Sexually harassed (%) Sexually harassed at university (%) Sexually assaulted (%) Sexually assaulted at university (%)
University of New England 50 16 10 4
ANU 57 38 7.9 3.5
Charles Sturt University 48 18 6.6 3.3
University of South Australia  49 24 8.5 3
Bond University 62 38 8.7 2.7
Southern Cross University 53 17 6.9 2.6
University of Sydney 50 31 7.3 2.5
Deakin 50 21 8.2 2.3
University of Western Australia 51 28 7.9 2.2
UTS 52 31 8.3 2.2
RMIT 46 27 7.4 2.1
QUT 54 28 7 2
Maquarie University 52 30 8.1 1.8
University of Tasmania 54 30 6.5 1.8
Griffith University 51 25 6.9 1.8
James Cook University 52 27 8 1.8
La Trobe University 56 30 8.8 1.7
Main report – Australia-wide 51 26 6.9 1.6
The University of Melbourne 50 27 6.2 1.5
Monash University 51 28 6.5 1.5
University of Newcastle 55 31 8 1.4
UNSW Sydney 52 29 5.5 1.3
Charles Darwin University 45 13 5.2 1.3
Wollongong University 49 26 5.1 1.2
University of Queensland 53 28 5.4 1.1
University of Canberra 54 26 7.2 1.1
Australian Catholic University 48 24 8.1 1.1
University of Notre Dame 50 32 8 1.1
University of the Sunshine Coast 54 22 8.8 1
University of Adelaide 51 28 6.7 0.8
Murdoch University 58 26 7.3 0.8
University of Southern QLD 46 26 7.7 0.8
Victoria University 47 26 7.3 0.7
University of Western Sydney 49 25 5.7 0.6
Edith Cowan University 50 21 6.8 0.6
Federation University 39 14 4.7 0.6
Central Queensland University 44 14 4.2 0.5
Curtin University 51 21 6 0.3
Swinburne University 56 17 4 0.2
Flinders University 52 23 5.5 0.2



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