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Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) The University of Western Sydney is committed to ensuring that its work and learning environment is free from sexual harassment, that sexual harassment will not be tolerated under any circumstances and that action will be taken against any staff member or student who breaches this policy.

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Section 2 - Definitions

(2) Nil.

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Section 3 - Policy Statement

(3) The University of Western Sydney aims to:

  1. create a working and learning environment that is free from sexual harassment and where all members of the university community are treated with dignity, courtesy and respect.
  2. implement training and awareness raising strategies to ensure that all staff and students know their rights and responsibilities.
  3. provide an effective procedure for complaints based on the principles of natural justice.
  4. treat all complaints in a sensitive, fair, timely and confidential manner.
  5. guarantee protection from any victimisation or reprisals.
  6. encourage the reporting of behaviour which breaches the sexual harassment policy.
  7. promote appropriate standards of conduct at all times.

Part A - What is Sexual Harassment?

(4) Sexual harassment is any unwanted, unwelcome or uninvited behaviour of a sexual nature which makes a person feel humiliated, intimidated or offended. Sexual harassment can take many different forms and may include physical contact, verbal comments, jokes, propositions, the display of offensive material or other behaviour which creates a sexually hostile working or learning environment. Sexual harassment can occur between men and women; women and other women; and men and other men.

Part B - Examples of Sexual Harassment

(5) Sexual harassment can take a variety of forms. It may involve physical contact, verbal remarks or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. It can also include the display of offensive materials. Some examples of sexual harassment that could occur in an educational institution include:

  1. uninvited touching;
  2. uninvited kisses or embraces;
  3. smutty jokes or comments in the workplace or the classroom;
  4. making promises or threats in return for sexual favours;
  5. displays of sexually graphic material including posters, pin-ups, cartoons, graffiti or messages left on notice boards, computers, desks or lockers, or in teaching materials, such as overheads, course booklets etc;
  6. repeated invitations to go out, especially after prior refusal;
  7. "flashing" or sexual gestures;
  8. sex based insults, taunts, teasing or name-calling;
  9. staring or leering at a person or at parts of their body;
  10. unwelcome physical contact such as massaging a person without invitation or deliberately brushing up against them;
  11. touching or fiddling with a person's clothing e.g. lifting up skirts, flicking bra straps;
  12. requests for sex;
  13. sexually explicit conversation;
  14. persistent questions or insinuations about a person's private life;
  15. offensive phone calls or letters;
  16. stalking, sexual insults or taunting;
  17. offensive e-mail messages or computer screen savers.

Part C - What Sexual Harassment is Not

(6) Sexual harassment is not behaviour which is based on mutual attraction, friendship or respect. If the interaction is consensual, welcome and reciprocated it is not sexual harassment. Behaviour can become sexual harassment if the interaction changes from being based on mutual attraction, friendship or respect to non-consensual, unwelcomed and unreciprocated interactions.

Part D - The Circumstances

(7) A person can be sexually harassed by a supervisor or manager, a co-worker, a lecturer, a student or a contractor. Sexual harassment is unlawful at the workplace, on the university campus environs, and in any work-related or educationally-related context, including conferences, work or student functions and activities, business or field trips. Similarly, harassment between students may also be unlawful if it occurs at organised social events, on field trips or excursions or in University residences.

Part E - The Legal Implications

(8) Sexual harassment in employment and education is against the law and will not be tolerated under any circumstances (Sex Discrimination Act 1984, NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977). Forms of sexual harassment that also constitute a criminal offence include:

  1. physically molesting a person;
  2. indecent exposure;
  3. sexual assault;
  4. stalking; and
  5. obscene communications (telephone calls, faxes, letters etc).

(9) Behaviour which is unwelcome and unwanted sexual conduct in the workplace is not permitted. Management has a duty to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and learning environment and is held responsible if it occurs, unless all reasonable steps have been taken to prevent and/or eliminate it.

Part F - Responsibilities of Academic and Administrative Supervisors

(10) All academic and administrative supervisors have a responsibility to:

  1. monitor the teaching, learning and working environment to ensure that acceptable standards of conduct are observed at all times;
  2. model appropriate behaviour themselves and, if required, seek advice and assistance from the Equity and Diversity Unit in managing staff and students where behaviour may be in breach of this policy;
  3. promote the University's sexual harassment policy within the learning and working environment;
  4. treat all complaints seriously and confidentially and take immediate action to resolve the matter;
  5. ensure that no victimisation occurs against the person who makes a complaint; and
  6. refer complaints to the Complaints Resolution Unit as appropriate, eg where they do not feel that they are the best person to deal with the situation, e.g. where there is a conflict of interest, or if the complaint is particularly serious or complex and requires independent investigation.

Part G - Responsibilities of Staff and Students

(11) All Staff and Students have a responsibility to:

  1. comply with the University's sexual harassment policy;
  2. offer support to anyone who is being harassed and advise them on where to seek assistance and support; and
  3. maintain confidentiality of information provided during an investigation of a complaint. Students and staff need to be aware that spreading gossip or rumours may expose them to a defamation action.

Part H - What Can You Do?

(12) Any person who feels that they are being sexually harassed or observes incidences of sexual harassment has the right to complain and take action. Behaviour which is unwelcome and unwanted sexual conduct in the workplace is not permitted. If you experience the problem you can:

  1. ask the person to stop, where you feel comfortable. While this may be difficult, it can be an effective way of stopping the unwelcomed behaviour.
  2. contact your Academic or Administrative supervisor, or the Equity and Diversity Unit for advice, if the harassment continues, or if you don't feel comfortable talking with the person about their behaviour. They can assist you in dealing with the problem in a completely confidential manner.
  3. make a complaint to the Complaints Resolution Unit.

Part I - When a Complaint is Made

(13) All complaints of sexual harassment will be treated seriously, investigated promptly, impartially and confidentially, and in accordance with the University's Complaints Handling and Resolution Policy. If sexual harassment is found to have occurred, action will be taken to stop the behaviour and depending on the seriousness of the case, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against the offender(s) under the relevant provisions related to student or staff misconduct.

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Section 4 - Procedures

(14) If required, seek advice from the Equity and Diversity Unit, a University Complaints Case Manager or your Academic or Administrative supervisor.

(15) Refer a complaint to the Complaints Resolution Unit.

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Section 5 - Guidelines

(16) Nil.