A message from Vice-Chancellor Professor S Bruce Dowton on the launch of the Respect. Now. Always. Action Plan

Respect Now Always event

Above: The Vice-Chancellor addresses staff and students at a 2017 University event to discuss the findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission report into sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities.


On Thursday I will launch Macquarie University’s Respect. Now. Always. (RNA) Action Plan to the University community.

It is now one year since the Australian Human Rights Commission released its report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities, ‘Change the Course’, and we gathered to discuss the implications and required actions we needed to take as a University.

At Macquarie University, we do not tolerate acts of sexual assault and sexual harassment. As an institution, we are committed to preventing these behaviours and fostering a culture of safety and respect. The Respect. Now. Always. Action Plan underpins the University’s commitment to provide a safe environment for students and staff through cultural and organisational change.

If you have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment, I want you to know that you do not have to cope on your own. We can help you get the right support and ensure that you, and other community members, are safe on campus.

In the 12 months since the Commission released its report, we have partnered with students and staff to pursue the commitments we made to establish a safe and respectful culture on campus, and to provide compassion, care and support to those who seek help. Our process has been collaborative, comprehensive and evidence-based. I am grateful to the students, staff and community members who took part in the initial survey, and to those who continue to give their feedback so openly.

Through the RNA Project, progress to date includes:

  • An extensive education program focused on building the capacity of the Macquarie community to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment:
    • Consent Matters is an online learning course available via the iLearn RNA site. All students will be required to complete the course during their studies. To access the course, click here.
    • Face-to-face workshops for students are available throughout Session 2. The workshop focuses on understanding consent in relationships, decision-making and communication in relationships, as well as how to take action, safely, to prevent sexual assault or sexual harassment. You can book into a workshop via the iLearn RNA site.
  • Information about education, support on campus and reporting options is available via the iLearn RNA site. I would encourage all students and staff to enrol in iLearn RNA.
  • In addition, the RNA team has delivered tailored face-to-face workshops to student groups and staff with identified needs and risks relating to sexual assault and sexual harassment.
  • Over the next 12 months, all Macquarie staff will have access to training on understanding sexual harassment and sexual assault, and responding to disclosures.
  • For those staff and student leaders who are most likely to receive disclosures, additional face-to-face training will be provided.

Our response has also focused on the support available to students and staff, including:

  • Commissioning an independent, expert-led audit of Macquarie’s counselling services;
  • Establishing a Student Care and Trauma Team in Campus Wellbeing to meet the needs of students who require emergency care;
  • Working closely with our accommodation partners to review existing systems and develop agreed standards for responding to sexual assault and sexual harassment;
  • Engaging the Northern Sydney Sexual Assault Service and Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia to ensure our actions are guided by independent, expert advice;
  • Increasing community awareness of support services and reporting options. This information is displayed via a stand-alone RNA webpage and iLearn RNA;
  • Reviewing existing policies and procedures for effective enforcement, and developing a single sexual assault and sexual harassment policy.

I acknowledge that there is still much work to be done. Meaningful change requires that we target the cultural factors known to contribute to acts of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Moving forward, I am calling on all members of the Macquarie community to bring about the change we need.  We all have a role to play in developing a culture of safety and respect. Whether it be through participating in RNA workshops, completing Consent Matters, challenging attitudes and practices that may lead to harmful conduct, or providing us with feedback, all students and staff can commit to taking action.

I invite you all to attend the launch, and engage with the panel discussion on sexual harassment. I remain personally and deeply committed to this important project. Together with the leadership of our Executive Sponsors, Nicole Gower and Professor Kevin Jameson, support of the Respect. Now. Always. Staff and Student Advisory Groups, and continued engagement with the Macquarie community, I am confident that we will make meaningful progress towards ensuring that the University is a place of safety and respect.

Professor S Bruce Dowton

Vice-Chancellor


To register for the Respect. Now. Always.Action Plan launch event, click here or download the Respect. Now. Always. Action Plan.

Support at Macquarie
For students: Campus Wellbeing can provide confidential counselling, discuss report and complaint-making options at the University and refer you where appropriate. Campus Wellbeing provides same day appointments for any urgent issues.

To contact Campus Wellbeing, you can phone, email, fill in the self-referral form online, or drop by Reception:

T: (02) 9850 7497
T: 1800 227 367 (24/7)
E: campuswellbeing@mq.edu.au
W: online self-referral form

Campus Wellbeing is located on Level 2, 16 Wally’s Walk (Building C8A). Opening hours Monday – Friday 8.30am – 5.30pm.

For staff: Staff or their immediate families can access free confidential counselling or support via the Employee Assistance Program.  Support and information about reporting is available from your immediate supervisor or from Human Resources.

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