Eastern College Australia is a Christian organisation that upholds biblical precepts by instruction and example. The College is committed to the biblical belief that each man, woman and child is created in the image of God as a unique individual of dignity and worth. Therefore, the College seeks to ensure that the dignity of every staff member, volunteer, student and visitor to the College is respected. Staff and students are expected to demonstrate biblical standards of behaviour at all times.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment are unlawful in all States and Territories of Australia under State or Territory legislation and/or under the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act, 1984 (as amended in 2011 and again in 2013 to strengthen protections against sexual harassment, including in the workplace). On 3 September 2021, the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021 was passed. The Bill contains important reforms to address sexual harassment in Australian workplaces which were recommended by the Australian Human Rights Commission following its world-leading National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces, Respect@Work.
To outline what behaviours constitute sexual assault or sexual harassment and to set out how the College will respond to incidents. The policy also provides a framework for providing a safe environment for students and staff in relation to incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
This policy applies College-wide, to all staff, volunteers, students and other stakeholders whether they be an individual, group or organisation when they engage in employment, study or Eastern-related activities on-campus, at Eastern’s events (off-campus), in the online environment or study Eastern’s courses at partner locations.
For behaviour that occurs in other contexts, aspects of this Policy may apply, especially those related to student support, risk management, precautionary actions and disciplinary actions.
Any persons who believe that a person to whom this Policy applies has engaged in sexual assault or sexual harassment may bring a complaint under this Policy and associated Procedure.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment that occurs within marriage as well as other consensual relationships are within the scope of this Policy.
Sexual assault includes a range of behaviours, all of which are unacceptable and constitute a crime. Sexual assault occurs when a person is forced, coerced or tricked into sexual acts against their will or without their consent, including when they have withdrawn their consent (TEQSA Good Practice Note: Preventing and responding to SASH in Australian Higher Education, 2020).
Sexual assault is any physical contact, or intended contact, of a sexual nature without consent, using physical force, intimidation or coercion including sexual intercourse, indecent assault, penetration by objects or other sexual activities.
While the definition of sexual harassment varies across Australian (and other) jurisdictions, it generally involves an unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which, in the circumstances, a reasonable person, aware of those circumstances, would anticipate the possibility that the person would feel offended, humiliated, or intimidated (TEQSA Good Practice Note: Preventing and responding to SASH in Australian Higher Education, 2020).
Sexual harassment may be physical, verbal and can occur online and through media involving information technologies. Sexual harassment may involve unwanted physical contact; such as touching or fondling; staring or leering in a sexual manner; sexually suggestive comments, innuendo or jokes; displaying, sending or circulating sexually explicit pictures or posters; unwanted invitation to go out on dates; unwanted requests for sexual intercourse or sexual contacts; offensive sexual gestures; indecent exposure; intrusive questions about a person’s sexual activities or body; unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person; insults or taunts based on the sex of the individual; making promises or threats in relation to sexual favours; conduct of a sexual nature; and sexually explicit telephone calls, emails, SMS text messages, or social media posts and messages.
Some forms of sexual harassment are also criminal behaviour and may be treated as a criminal offence. These include sexual assault; physically touching a person; indecent exposure and obscene phone calls or emails/letters.
Consent to sexual activity
Whilst definitions for consent to sexual activities also vary between jurisdictions, consent is essentially an agreement between people to engage in a sexual activity. Other important elements of consent are that it is mutual, freely given, informed, certain and clear, enthusiastic, reversible, specific and required throughout the activity.
The age of consent to sexual activity varies across Australia and across the world. The age at which a person is able to legally consent to sexual activity is 16 across most parts of Australia, with the exception of South Australia and Tasmania, where the age of consent is 17. The age of consent can also vary across some parts of Australia if there is a relationship of authority between the two parties, such as between someone in a teaching or student service role, where the age of consent then becomes 18 years. Internationally, the age of sexual consent can vary greatly and be as low as 12 years in some countries. It is important that international students receive information about the age of sexual consent in Australia. Students who are from countries where the age of consent to sexual activity is lower than it is in Australia might otherwise assume that the age of consent is the same as in their country of origin (TEQSA Good Practice Note: Preventing and responding to SASH in Australian Higher Education, 2020).
Not saying or not doing anything does not imply consent. Consent cannot be given where a person is unconscious or in a state where they are unable to freely and clearly express consent.(https://kidshelpline.com.au/teens/issues/what-consent)
A disclosure involves the sharing of information about an incident with another person. Disclosures can be made to anyone, but usually to someone known and trusted. Disclosures do not necessarily involve formal reporting of the incident but usually seek information and support (UA Guidelines 2018, p.12).
Formal reporting is where a formal account or statement is made, and where the person and/or institution has authority to take action. Reporting may result from a disclosure, but is not the only possible outcome (UA Guidelines 2018, p.12).
SASH Contact Officer - First Responder
A Staff member who, as part of their general duties, may provide support and information to anyone who has been subjected to sexual assault or sexual harassment. Where another member of staff has received a report of sexual assault or sexual harassment and is not a first responder, they will provide support and assistance for the reporter to liaise with a First Responder (TEQSA Good Practice Note: Preventing and responding to SASH in Australian Higher Education, 2020).
Active Bystander or upstander
Someone who witnesses and intervenes in a situation involving harassment, bullying, abuse or other harmful/ inappropriate behaviour, with the intention to disrupt, or ‘call out’ the behaviour and prevent the behaviour from continuing (VicHealth: Take action: Empowering bystanders to act on sexist and sexually harassing behaviours, 2019).
Actions taken to promote the safety and well-being of students and staff and to minimise the risk of harm to them, and to preserve the capacity of the College to deal effectively with a disclosure or report of sexual assault or sexual harassment.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment are affronts to the dignity of an individual, contrary to biblical patterns of behaviour and totally unacceptable to the College.
The College seeks to provide for its students, staff, volunteers or visitors a safe environment that is free of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The College does this by using reasonable endeavours, including:
- Promoting and fostering a safe environment;
- Raising awareness about sexual assault and sexual harassment;
- Providing a means for reporting incidents;
- Offering support to those subject to sexual assault and sexual harassment; and
- Taking appropriate action in response to confirmed sexual assault or sexual harassment.
Students, staff, volunteers and visitors are required to maintain standards of behaviour set by the College as a condition of enrolment, employment or engagement.
- The Governing Board has established a sexual assault and sexual harassment Taskforce with responsibility for the implementation of strategies to prevent and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment within the College. The Taskforce also monitors the outcomes of strategies and recommends improvements. The Taskforce will consist of representatives from staff and students and their responsibilities are established in the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Taskforce Terms of Reference. The Taskforce reports to the Governing Board through the Executive Principal.
- The risk of the occurrence of sexual assault and sexual harassment is to be regularly assessed and treated appropriately under the risk management framework of the College, which is described in the Risk Management Policy and Procedure.
- When courses and units are reviewed, there is to be consideration of the integration of material relevant to sexual assault and sexual harassment with a view to graduates of the College being both aware and informed of issues related to, and skills in supporting those who experience sexual assault or sexual harassment. The learning outcomes of courses will guide where such integration is appropriate.
- Provision of a safe environment
- An approved sexual assault and sexual harassment awareness program will be delivered to all new students during orientation. Participation and engagement with the awareness program will be a condition of maintaining enrolment in the College. Any exceptions to the requirement for a student to participate in an awareness program must be approved by the Dean of Studies. An example of a situation where an exception may be made is where participation in the awareness program could have a traumatising impact on a person who has previously experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment.
- The sexual assault and sexual harassment awareness program must be made available to students of all study modes and must be culturally sensitive.
- All employees, contractors, volunteers and students will be advised upon employment, engagement or enrolment that the College does not tolerate sexual assault or sexual harassment. For employees, contractors or volunteers, this would normally occur during induction.
- The awareness program will be informed by reliable and up-to-date research and scholarship and will be reviewed regularly by the sexual assault and sexual harassment Taskforce. The review will consider the feedback provided by the participants in the program.
- A sexual assault and sexual harassment awareness program will be included in the induction process for all staff. Staff (employees, contractors and volunteers) will be required to read the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedure for their induction and evidence of participation will be collected and filed.
- All staff approved to teach the College’s courses as well as staff that interact substantially with students as part of their roles must participate in the sexual assault and sexual harassment awareness program and are required to read the Policy and Procedure as part of their induction.
- The College will have at least one SASH Contact Officer.
- Training will be provided to the SASH Contact Officer(s) regarding the reporting of sexual assault or sexual harassment and responding to those who make a report. Training will also be provided to student advocates recognised by the College.
- A supervisor or mentor will be identified for all SASH Contact officers. The primary role of the supervisor or mentor will be to offer support through debriefing and where appropriate to guide decision making. The confidentiality of reported information and the protection of the privacy of persons involved in incidents will be maintained in this relationship.
- Work Health and Safety inspections must be regularly performed by the College to ensure there is a safe and secure environment for students and staff. These inspections will include considerations that may be relevant to the prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
- Personal relationships
- The College is committed to demonstrating impartiality and integrity by requiring staff to declare any existing or prospective personal relationships. An academic staff member involved in teaching or assessing a student who is a relative, family or personal friend must disclose the relationship. All disclosures will be treated with respect and confidentiality, and appropriate records maintained. Failing to disclose personal relationships is a misconduct.
- Where an existing or prospective personal relationship exists between staff member and a student or another staff member, the staff member must disclose it to their line manager as soon as is reasonably practicable after becoming aware of it. If the staff member’s line manager has a conflict of interest in the matter, then the staff member must disclose the existing or prospective personal relationship to the next higher level of authority. Line managers, when notified, will deal promptly with the information and will implement an appropriate procedure to mitigate impact and protect the integrity of the College’s processes and decision-making, and the safety of the student or staff member involved.
- All College staff must adhere to the highest standards of honesty in scholarship and professional practice. A staff member must not improperly use their official powers or position or allow these powers to be improperly used. Improper use of a staff member’s position includes actions which may result in real, potential or apparent advantage or disadvantage to student, another staff member, or any other person or organisation. The nature of student/staff interactions and the roles of supervisors and managers may place a staff member in a position of power over other staff or students. This imbalance of power may create the potential for undue influence over a student or staff member, due to the capacity to influence outcomes. In particular, the development of a sexual relationship where a power imbalance exists creates the potential for abuse of position, for damage to the less empowered and potentially vulnerable individual, and for conflicts of interest.
- Reporting incidents
- Any person who believes that a person to whom this Policy applies has engaged in sexual assault or sexual harassment may report the matter to a SASH Contact Officer, the Dean of Studies or by a sexual assault and sexual harassment reporting mechanism described in the Procedure.
- The SASH Contact Officer(s) are available to offer advice to students and staff on the process of reporting sexual assault or sexual harassment.
- Students may seek support in reporting an incident from a recognised student advocate, or another support person of the student’s choice.
- Where a reported incident may involve a criminal offence (such as a sexual assault), the person receiving the report will inform the person making the report about making a formal report to the police and offer support to do so. The decision to report or to not report to police will be respected and persons will not be pressured to report or not report the incident to the police.
- Incidents may be reported to both the police and to a SASH Contact Officer, the Dean of Studies or by a sexual assault and sexual harassment reporting mechanism described in the Procedure, or to one but not the other.
- The College will use reasonable endeavours to maintain the confidentiality of reported information and protect the privacy of persons involved in incidents. Confidentiality and protection of privacy will be maintained subject to any applicable mandatory reporting obligations, such as for incidents involving a child and for reports of serious crime.
- Those to whom this Policy applies are also expected to maintain the confidentiality of information held by them about a reported incident and protect the privacy of persons involved in that incident. It is appropriate for persons involved in incidents to speak in confidence with a trusted friend or family member, pastor or counsellor for the sake of personal support and maintaining wellbeing.
- There are no time restrictions on when an incident may be reported, though the capacity for the College to investigate and take action may be limited in certain cases such as where persons involved are no longer students, staff or officers.
- Incidents may be reported which occurred in a context outside the College’s control and influence and where the College is unable to investigate or take action against a perpetrator. In such cases, the response of the College to the report may be limited to offering appropriate support to the reporter of the incident.
- Reports may be made anonymously, although the College’s capacity to investigate may be limited in such cases.
- An incident may be reported to the College on behalf of another person, but the College will generally only investigate the report where the person who was sexually assaulted or sexually harassed directly provides to the College confirmation of what happened.
- Response to incidents
- The wishes of the person who has experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment will be taken into account in the investigation and the response to reported sexual assault or sexual harassment. A person may report an incident without wanting it to be investigated. However, the College may still be required to investigate.
- When a report is made to the relevant SASH Contact Officer of an incident at that College, the Dean of Studies will determine the response, such as an investigation of the incident, and must advise the Executive Principal of the steps being taken.
- Where a report is made about the College’s Executive Principal, the Chair of the Governing Board or their delegate, is to determine the response. If the Chair of the Governing Board is unable to address the reported incident, the matter is to be transferred to the Police.
- The response of the College must be in accordance with this Policy and the Procedure.
- When a report is made to which clause 5c does not apply, the Dean of Studies is to determine the response, such as an investigation of the incident, and must advise the Executive Principal of the steps being taken. If an investigation is required, it will be conducted under the direction of the Dean of Studies who is to be the final decision maker. Where a report is made about the Dean of Studies, or the Dean of Studies is unable to direct the investigation or be the final decision maker for any reason (such as a conflict of interest), the Executive Principal or their delegate is to direct the investigation and is to be the final decision maker.
- Principles of procedural fairness must be applied in the investigation of all allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment. These principles include:
- lack of bias, actual or perceived, on the part of the investigator and decision-maker;
- evidence-based decision making, considering only relevant facts;
- provision of detailed allegations to the alleged perpetrator; and
- an opportunity for the alleged perpetrator to respond.
- All reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment are to be investigated and responded to in a timely manner. When a staff member, volunteer, student or visitor disclose or report an incident and/or seek assistance, they are treated fairly, with dignity and respect, heard with compassion, not with judgement or blame. The incident will be heard with the assumption that their report is genuine (this also applies to the alleged perpetrator’s story), afforded privacy for all conversations, provided with information about options for reporting within, and externally.
- An official record must be kept of all investigations, including formal statements, key evidence and determinations. Confidentiality and privacy will be maintained and protected in accordance with clause 4f.
- The College will not investigate an incident that is being investigated and/or prosecuted by the Police or is currently before a court of law. In such cases, the College may take precautionary actions and may gather information available to support that end. However, no investigation or disciplinary action will be taken until the Police have discontinued/completed their investigation or the outcome of any prosecution is known.
- Precautionary action is not a form of disciplinary action, and will be determined based on the interests and wellbeing of the person reporting the incident, the alleged perpetrator and others potentially impacted by the circumstances.
- The College cannot determine if a criminal offence has occurred but will investigate reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment to ensure appropriate disciplinary action is taken and to support the safety and wellbeing of students and staff.
- Decisions about a reported incident will be based on the balance of probability following due consideration of all available evidence.
- All parties will be kept informed of any action the College chooses to take in relation to their disclosure, report or complaint and the expected timelines for resolutions of matters reported. The College will seek to minimise, and not prolong, responses to sexual assault and sexual harassment, to avoid the potential of any additional trauma or harm to all individuals involved.
- Disciplinary action
- The College will take proportionate and fitting disciplinary action against all students, staff and volunteers found to have committed sexual assault or sexual harassment following an investigation by the College, or a decision of a court of law.
- The disciplinary action to be taken will take into account all relevant circumstances including the nature of the incident and the severity of the impact on those affected. Possible disciplinary action ranges from compulsory participation in an awareness program to expulsion (in the case of a student), termination of employment (in the case of staff) or removal from a position (in the case of a volunteer).
- Where academic staff of the College are found to have committed sexual assault or sexual harassment, the College may remove or suspend their approval to teach students.
- The College will take disciplinary action against any student, member of staff or volunteer who threatens, intimidates, harasses, or does or threatens any other harm to a person in response to them reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment, or to prevent the reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Protections under the Whistleblower Policy may apply where an incident involves illegal activity or misconduct and where the person reporting the incident is a member of the staff of the College or a member of the Governing Board.
- Appeals against any decision concerning disciplinary action will follow the relevant grievance policy for students or staff.
- Support services
- The College will ensure information about appropriate support services is available to students, staff and volunteers. The College will offer referral to appropriate support services to students and staff impacted by a report of sexual assault or sexual harassment.
- The range of support services will, where possible, include counsellors with specialist training in responding to sexual assault and sexual harassment, be available to students from all study locations, include 24-hour support services and be culturally and linguistic appropriate for student cohorts.
- The SASH Contact Officers will offer assistance with referral to support services.
- The College’s website will include details of relevant support services and details for the SASH Contact Officer(s).
- Persons involved in a reported incident will be referred to personal wellbeing support, support with study if applicable and sources of legal advice.
- Quality management
- The College will maintain records of all reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The Governing Board will review de-identified summary data of reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment and oversee the implementation of responses to any concerns identified in reviewing the data.
- Recurring incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment within the College which suggest an unsafe environment will be reported to TEQSA as a material change.
- The College will assess the effectiveness of the implementation of this Policy and the Procedure through periodic surveys of students and benchmarking of outcomes against the sector.
- An independent external review of this Policy and the Procedure and systems related to sexual assault and sexual harassment will be conducted every five years and be reported to the Governing Board. The review must be performed by a person with expertise in the area. An action plan will be developed to address identified concerns and the Governing Board will oversee the implementation of the plan.
- The Executive Team (the Executive Principal and direct reports) will monitor the compliance with this Policy and the Procedure.
- The Governing Board may request evidence of Work Health and Safety inspections which address security and safety issues that may be relevant to the prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
- Reviews will be performed of private/specialised services contracted by the Colleges to offer support to students and staff who have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment.
- This policy statement will be made available to all students, staff, volunteers and visitors.