Education

Ahead of AUCSO’s 40th: gendered violence

by Mark Rowe

Ahead of the 40th anniversary annual Easter conference of AUCSO, the association for campus security managers in UK and overseas universities, we interviewed chair Oliver Curran in the March print edition of Professional Security Magazine (pictured). Ahead of next month’s gathering at the University of Liverpool – read about it in the May and June print editions – magazine editor Mark Rowe’s featuring some of the issues in campus protection.

Something you only have to walk around a UK campus to notice is how international the student body has become – which means crime and safeguarding around students is internationalised, for several reasons. Threats to students (and their property) are much the same whatever the country. Students may well have similar expectations around their welfare, whether they come from one country and study in another (or more than one country during their degree course). One expectation is around safety, which in the UK as in Australia reflects a wider debate around what’s termed in the UK VAWG (violence against women and girls).

Day two of the conference (for the full programme visit the AUCSO website – click here) closes with a debate on VAWG.

In Australia, state education ministers have signed up to a plan ‘Addressing Gender-based Violence in Higher Education‘. It’s described as a multi-pronged approach to create higher education communities free from gender-based violence through seven actions:

set up a National Student Ombudsman;
higher education providers will embed what the signatories describe as a whole‑of‑organisation approach to prevent and respond to gender-based violence;
introduce a National Higher Education Code to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence;
work on oversight and accountability of student accommodation providers;
identify ways to see if legislation, regulation and policies can prioritise victim-survivor safety; and
work on data transparency.

Comment

In Melbourne, Monash University’s Vice-Chancellor and President is Professor Sharon Pickering. She described the plan as the culmination of over a year of hard work, involving the federal Department of Education, the higher education sector, community and student groups. She said: “It is a key component of the Federal Government’s National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children over the next ten years.

“Monash University is proud to have contributed, including through convening and working collaboratively with a roundtable of Victorian universities last December and through our engagement with students.

“For our University, making our campuses safe, inclusive and welcoming places is embedded in everything we do – as they should be.

“We understand the power and importance of working together, and the ongoing opportunity to work collaboratively with the sector and students, to eliminate sexual harm and gender-based violence from our communities.

“Our robust strategies, policies and procedures support a thriving, inclusive and safe community for our staff and students now and for the future, through a range of sector-leading initiatives designed in collaboration with students, academic experts and victim-survivors.

“As someone who has worked in this area for more than two decades, I know there is more to do.

“Tertiary education is one of the places where young people become adults – they develop and refine their personal values and beliefs.

“Universities like ours have an opportunity to shape the values and actions of students to drive social change at scale. We have a responsibility to ensure the campus is a safe space and when it’s not, that there are clear, fair and accessible procedures and pathways that are transparent and trauma-informed.

“The Action Plan makes the responsibilities of all stakeholders very clear – for education institutions, accommodation providers, students, staff, government and community – and sets in place an approach where we all work together to prevent gender-based violence and ensure safer communities.

“Monash University looks forward to continuing to work with the Government and the sector to develop the National Code, and we encourage the greater facilitation of student voices in leading this work.”

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