Message from the Vice-Chancellor

The Hunting Ground documentary, released in Australia next week, provides an opportunity for Australian universities to take leadership on the issue of violence in our communities, particularly violence against women. Although the film is about sexual assault on university campuses in the United States, it reminds us that we must ensure that our campuses provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students, staff and visitors.

La Trobe University recognises the inherent worth and dignity of all individuals. We believe in equality and the right of all people to live and work in a secure and respectful environment. We aim to provide a safe and welcoming University community.

The La Trobe University community abhors violence in all its forms. We know that violence against women, and men, is preventable. Although violence is an immense challenge to overcome, it requires all of us to be a part of the solution.

Incidents of violence in Australia are widespread. For example, data shows that one in three Australian women have experienced physical violence, and one in five have experienced sexual violence. The Hunting Ground captures the confronting reality of sexual assault, and raises important issues around the impact of violence on survivors. Its stark message should leave no doubt that we must work together to eliminate the nation’s shocking record of violence.

Universities are uniquely placed to influence public opinion and educate the community, and we have a responsibility to take leadership on issues that have such a significant impact on members of our community. La Trobe is a research leader in gender equality, violence prevention and support. Our researchers are promoting positive change in policy, practice and people's lives.

While The Hunting Ground is uncomfortable to watch, it raises issues that we cannot ignore. In recent months, work has been happening behind the scenes through Universities Australia to develop initiatives to strengthen the Australian university sector’s safety strategies. A project to obtain accurate data about sexual assaults on Australian university campuses is underway as a first step in providing an evidence base to strengthen awareness and prevention strategies and improve university’s response procedures.

La Trobe University is hosting screenings of The Hunting Ground at its campuses over the next few weeks. You can view the program schedule online (this schedule will be updated as new screening times are confirmed). The screenings will include discussion with a panel of experts including La Trobe staff who can answer questions and lead conversations about the issues raised in the film.

We are actively improving our knowledge, processes and policies to ensure that we develop a unified response to effectively address violence where it occurs on our campuses or where it otherwise affects members of our community. La Trobe provides focused support to people affected by violence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through our Support and Prevention Hotline 1300 687 399. This service provides free, private and confidential support from an independent professional consultant who will explain the service, outline available options and guide you through support pathways.

Our concern is the safety and wellbeing of students and staff and we want to ensure that no one within the La Trobe community feels alone. We are always here to listen, believe and support.

If you require emergency support please contact:

Emergency Services on (0)000 then Campus Security on 2222 if using an internal line, or 000 then 9479 2222 if using an outside line.

I encourage you to attend one of The Hunting Ground screenings and to be part of the positive changes that are needed to ensure that our campuses are safe places for everyone. Together, we can help to eliminate violence from Australian society.

Professor John Dewar