National Student Safety Survey

Content warning: This page discusses experiences relating to sexual harassment and sexual assault. If you find this content distressing, support is always available via the Safer Community team.

At RMIT, we are committed to creating a culture where everyone is safe, respected and included.

As part of that commitment, we participated in the National Student Safety Survey, which ran from 6 September to 3 October 2021.

The survey aimed to gather critical information about students’ experience of sexual assault and sexual harassment (see Definitions), on and off-campus. 

The survey results have now been released. The national results can be viewed on the National Student Safety Survey website. RMIT’s results are outlined below.

They will help universities across Australia – including RMIT – create a safer environment for everyone, and better support those who experience sexual harm.

RMIT's results

A total of 665 RMIT higher education students took part in the survey. We are grateful to everyone who shared their views. We know this may have been distressing for some.

The key findings were:

  • 10.5% of respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment since starting university, with 3% experiencing it within the last 12 months.
  • 2.8% of respondents said they had experienced sexual assault since starting university. 
  • More than 50% of students don’t know where to go to make a complaint about sexual harassment or sexual assault. 
  • More than 50% of students don’t know where to seek support or assistance for when they have experienced harassment or assault.
  • Very few students who have experienced sexual harassment have accessed support from RMIT. 
  • There are areas of the university where sexual harassment is more likely to occur, including general campus areas, lecture theatres and computer labs. 
  • While off-campus, students are most likely to experience sexual harassment in hospitality or retail environments. 

RMIT will continue to uphold the highest standards of respect and care and do everything we can to eliminate sexual harm, gender-based violence and inappropriate behaviour.    

While the results of the National Safety Student Survey shows that some progress has been made, there is clearly still more work to be done.

We will take time to understand our results and the national results, and engage with our community, to work out how we can focus on changes and actions that will have the greatest impact on student safety and security.

The plans we already have in place to prevent and respond to sexual harm will be updated as necessary, taking the survey results into account.

Read RMIT’s media statement on our response to the National Student Safety Survey results.

Safer Community

A message from Alec Cameron, Vice Chancellor at RMIT University.

About the survey

The survey was conducted by the Social Research Centre (SRC) in collaboration with Associate Professor Anastasia Powell from RMIT, on behalf of Universities Australia. It was approved by the RMIT Human Research Ethics Committee.

It built on a previous survey carried out in 2016 by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Since then, Australian universities and students have instigated at least 800 major initiatives to prevent and address sexual violence across society. Read about some of the initiatives introduced by RMIT.

Nationally, 43,819 students took part in the survey. This included students at different levels, international students who were normally based in Australia, and those studying remotely. Participation was voluntary and anonymous.

Alongside the survey, the SRC ran a project for any student who wanted to share more about their experience of sexual harassment, sexual assault or unwanted sexual behaviour. It was open to all higher education students who had been enrolled in an Australian university in the past five years.

If you need support

We know that sexual harassment and sexual assault are difficult topics for many people to discuss and we are here to support you.

RMIT students and staff impacted by sexual harm can contact the Safer Community team for support or to report an incident. The service is open to all students and staff, regardless of where or when the sexual harm occurred.

We know that certain groups within our community experience sexual harm and violence at a disproportionate levels, particularly women and girls.  

We also know that people who may experience harassment or discrimination related to their race, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation are more at risk of sexual harassment or sexual assault.

More support services

Learn more about emergency and crisis support services available at RMIT and within the community.

What is RMIT doing to create a safer community?

RMIT has put in place an extensive range of programs and initiatives to help ensure every student and staff member feels valued, respected and safe. These include but are not limited to:

  • Developed the Vice-Chancellor’s Prevention of Gender-based Violence Workplan, detailing actions to prevent and respond to violence across the entire University community.  
  • Conducted an independent review of policies and procedures that relate to safety and respect with agreed action to develop new policies and procedures, for example Family and Domestic Violence and Child Safety.
  • Run our annual ‘Be the Change’ campaign to build understanding of the gendered nature of violence, awareness of support services and key prevention actions. 
  • Provided opportunities to grow practical knowledge and skills through workshops, events and learning modules, including Gender-Based Violence Prevention, Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Harm, Respectful Research training and Bystander Intervention training.
  • Launched the two-year Gender Equity and Justice – Community, Teaching and Learning project which aims to take a whole-of-university approach to challenge the social and educational conditions that allow disrespect, gender inequality and gender-based violence to exist.
  • Appointed a Child Safe Advisor position and expanded our Safer Community team resources.
  • Developed a Sexual Harm Risk Assessment tool for application by the Safer Community team.
  • Mapped desired capabilities, knowledge and skills in the Respect and Wellbeing space for staff and students as part of a commitment to continuous learning.
  • Provided remote support to students experiencing gender-based violence during COVID-19.
  • Established a campus shuttle bus (Bundoora campus) and improved lighting and access across all RMIT campuses.

More information

Learn more about the survey in Universities Australia’s FAQs.

Definitions

For the National Student Safety Survey, Universities Australia define sexual harassment in line with the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), as: “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.”

They define sexual assault as: “any unwanted sexual acts or sexual contact that happened in circumstances where a person was either forced, threatened, pressured, tricked, or no effort was made to check whether there was agreement to the act, including in circumstances where a person was asleep or affected by drugs or alcohol.” 

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.