Support, two people chatting

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CONTACT SOMEONE AT UNE FOR SUPPORT?

In 2016 Universities Australia (UA) began the Respect.Now.Always initiative. As part of this initiative, UA engaged the Australian Human Rights Commission to undertake a national survey of university students to gain a better understanding of the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities.

For us, a large component of this campaign is about starting a conversation and sharing information, giving people the knowledge and the confidence to speak out and seek help, guidance, and support. Over the past few years, UNE Life & UNE has been working hard to saturate this message with visuals, collateral, training, resources, and conversations.

We know that reaching out and speaking up is a big deal, so we thought it might be a good idea to explain the reporting process a little more…

So, what happens when you contact someone at UNE for support?

This isn’t a quick answer, because the path can be very different depending on the person who reports, their specific circumstances, and the contributing factors. The main thing to know is that the person who is reporting is in control, and any UNE support team will put their needs first!

There is a range of support services across the University that you can rely on for support and assistance with reporting, which we will explain a little further later.

When reaching out to these support services, they will listen to you and provided you with options and assistance to make an informed decision. Action will not be taken unless you want it to be — except if there is an immediate threat of danger to you or someone else.

Priority no#1 is to keep you safe!

At times, measures may need to be taken to ensure the safety of others, as well as your own. The support teams will always discuss this with you to ensure you’re kept in the loop where needed! They will assist you to get any help you may need and want, this could include medical care, counselling and if you would like to report what happened to the police.

It is not mandatory to report incidents to the Police unless a child or a small category of other persons is involved, as set out in the Crimes Act 1900. 

We will listen.

Every scenario is different, the teams will work with you to best understand how they can support you.

To do this, you will be asked;

  • if you feel safe
  • if you need anything,
  • about your immediate circumstances,
  • about your concern.

Understanding the things that are most important to you will help determine the path that the reporting takes – and will mean the teams will be able to explain and explore your options to help you decide the best possible action.

What are the options?

Like this entire process, there is never a “one size fits all” solution, so listing the options isn’t necessarily helpful in this instance. Rest assured that each option might have a slightly different path depending on the circumstances, these paths will be discussed with you so you can make a fully informed decision about which option is most appropriate for you.

What if you don’t want anyone to know?

This is okay! If you would like your conversation to stay anonymous, this is entirely your right. You can call the Student Grievance Unit (SGU) or fill in the online reporting form if you don’t feel comfortable discussing who you are. Just let the team know that you’d prefer to remain anonymous and they will respect this. From here they can keep a record in case you would like to use this information at a later date OR they can give you as much information as possible about your situation.

However, it does make it easier for the teams to assist you if you let them know who you are. But they will always respect what you want and how you want to report the situation.

What can you report?

As a student, you can report anything that is considered unlawful OR anything that goes against the UNE Behavioural Misconduct Rules or The Residential College Code of Conduct.

UNE has a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harm and harassment and is committed to providing a learning, work, and social environment that is free from sexual harm and harassment.

Some of the key things that are considered unlawful are;

So, who are the teams that you can talk to?

There are a range of teams and people that you can speak to if you’ve been assaulted or have experienced threatening or inappropriate behaviour you’re never alone at UNE!

What happens with my report?

This really depends on what you want to happen with it. In any scenario – whoever is reporting is totally in control. 

One thing to remember here is that where the University is acting it is a civil law investigation (this is the investigation or breach of UNE policy or procedure), if the report is passed on to the police for more investigation it turns into a criminal lawsuit.

  • Anonymous online reporting– The University is committed to ensuring that all staff and student complaints are handled in a way that facilitates and promotes a culture that values complaints and their effective resolution as well as addresses staff and student confidence about making a complaint. UNE staff and students can lodge anonymous complaints 24/7 via the Grapevine service which is owned by an external organisation, Wise Workplace Investigations Pty Ltd. Your information is kept anonymous, and this information helps us recognise appropriate training and education, and other primary prevention measures, building a safer environment for the future.
  • Disclosure reporting – This type of reporting is typically to a person and the information doesn’t go further than here. It’s simply to help you get it off your chest and to discuss your options and seek support.
  • A formal report – this is a full statement, either written or an audio recording (with the permission of the person/s being recorded) to ensure accuracy. It’s detailed and conducted as best as possible to ensure the person reporting is comfortable, and it’s held as a confidential record that if needed can be used at a later date.
  • A formal report + a request for an investigation – this is a full statement, either written or audio recording, to ensure accuracy plus a request from the reporting student for an investigation. The University will investigate under civil law breaches of the University policies, rules, and procedures and using the UNE Misconduct Rules as its governance.The University does not, cannot and will not investigate criminal matters. A University investigation can require physical evidence (CCTV, photos, etc), statements from others who may have information, and can take a bit of time. Once this report has been made, an invitation to respond will be sent to the other person.It is really important to note that a copy of all statements and information will go to the person being asked to respond. This is to ensure they are given the opportunity to respond in a fair and transparent manner as required by law. A response can be given via a face to face interview, via telephone or zoom or in writing.An interview is conducted between the responding student, an investigator, and a decision-maker (usually a member of the UNE executive team) will be arranged. This offers the other person a chance to put their version of events and evidence forward face to face. If a response is made in writing this response together with all the information is provided to the decision-maker. Cases are decided on the balance of probability.  This means that based on the information available, the information supports 51% to 49% that it is more probable than not, that what one person says happened is more apparent than what the other person says happened.A preliminary decision and possible penalties in consideration (if penalties are deemed to be appropriate) are made and a second invitation provided to the responding person. This invitation provides an opportunity for the responding person to talk to the decision-maker about the preliminary decision and possible penalties in consideration and to talk about any identified adverse comment – this helps with matching up, clarifying and confirming the information and gaps.The next step requires a little time for the decision-makers, this is to ensure they can think about, review, and considered all the information and decided on or if there are penalties required. A final decision and penalty (if deemed appropriate) will be made and an official letter sent to the responding student.If the responding student, is dissatisfied with the outcome, they have the right to appeal and also have the right to approach any external agency they feel may be able to help with their matter.

A University investigation does not stop any Police investigation and the reverse is also true. However, a University investigation may be delayed for a period of time so the Police investigation is not impeded.

Where is the information held?

If you have chosen that your report can be held, it will be looked after in a confidential container. The only people with access to this are SGU and the Vice Chancellor’s office.

What if I want to go to the police?

The team at SGU are here to support you with this, they can facilitate your conversation with the police, they can even go with you to the station. Their role is to ensure you are supported in every possible way.

*The police also have an anonymous reporting and disclosure process, if you would prefer to do this.

How long will the process of reporting take?

This is dependent on many things, and, each and every case is very different. Some cases could be settled within a matter of weeks, others might take 12 months.

Things that might make your case take longer could include the type of case you’re reporting, the severity, or the complexity of the case. It also depends on people – on their responses, how willing they are to talk, and how quickly they do so.  If looking for evidence is required or getting witnesses involved this can also take time.

We would suggest not to focus on a time frame of a report but focusing on your welfare and how we can help you improve this.

When can people report?

This, like this whole process, it’s subjective and is up to the individual. When you feel that you’re able to talk about it, the teams are here to support you.

Obviously, if this event has happened recently, more details are easily remembered, and investigating is a little easier, but, you’re able to come forward and talk whenever you’re ready.

There is no time frame – we’re here to support current students and past students. If this has happened to you, we’re here to talk and can make a record of this. We are also here to support you if your experience did not have anything to do with the University.

The bottom line is, we want to be there for you, to support you and your welfare. We can help you make the best decision for you, whether it be talking to someone else, taking further action, or visiting a doctor. No matter what, there is someone here to support you and your wishes.