Discrimination, harassment, sexual assault

All students and staff have an important role to play in keeping FedUni a great place to learn and work. This means being aware of our own behaviours, and their potential impact on others.

The University will provide reasonable adjustments/flexible working arrangements to the learning and working environment to ensure all people have equal opportunity to access and participate in University activities.

Discrimination

Discrimination happens when a person is treated unfairly simply because of a specific personal characteristic such as:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Physical features
  • Sex
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Lawful sexual activity
  • Intersex status
  • Race, colour, nationality or ethnicity
  • Status as parent or carer
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Marital status
  • Religious belief or activity
  • Political belief or activity
  • Industrial activity

Sometimes discrimination happens in an indirect way, where an activity or rule is applied 'equally' to all, but which has an unequal effect on a particular group of students or staff.

Some examples are:

  • A timed exam. That might look fair to all, but might unfairly affect most blind/vision impaired students who need longer to have the exam paper read to them and to dictate their answers.
  • Early morning meetings. Everybody might have to get up early, but staff who have to get children to school just might not be able to get there "on time".
  • A teaching/meeting/socialising space that only has access by stairs. Everyone (equally) has to negotiate the stairs but that may not be possible for a staff member or student with a mobility disability.

Sometimes harassment and lack of appropriate flexibility can be a form of discrimination.

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Harassment

Harassment on the basis of certain personal characteristics (discriminatory harassment) is a form of discrimination and can take the form of a wide range of deliberate and unintentional behaviours, which are unwelcome and uninvited and that cause another person to feel intimidated, offended and/or humiliated on the basis of these personal characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Physical features
  • Sex
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Lawful sexual activity
  • Intersex status
  • Race, colour, nationality or ethnicity
  • Status as parent or carer
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Marital status
  • Religious belief or activity
  • Political belief or activity
  • Industrial activity

Harassment can occur even if the behaviour is unintentional. It is the effect on another person that is important.

Harassment is hard to predict - what might be acceptable to one person might be offensive to another. We have to think in advance.

Behaviours which might result in another person feeling intimidated, offended and/or humiliated include:

  • Physical intimacy or contact
  • Intrusive personal questions
  • Spreading gossip about a person's (real or assumed) race, religion, sexual orientation, disability etc
  • Sexist or racist language or humour or images
  • Displays of offensive images (eg on social media, computers, posters, or graffiti) which target characteristics such as race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age
  • Negative comments, jokes or insults eg at the expense of others' characteristics such as race, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, age, religion.
  • Negative comments or actions about adjustments made because of a person's disability or culture or carer responsibilities

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Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is where a person engages in any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. Sexual harassment can occur even if the behaviour is unintentional, and a single incident can amount to sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment refers to a wide range of behaviours and includes behaviour which may be written, printed, verbal, non-verbal or physical (including transmission or display of inappropriate electronic communications, use of social media).

Examples of potential sexual harassment include:

  • Physical intimacy or contact
  • Sexual jokes, images, emails, gestures, remarks or conversations
  • Intrusive personal questions
  • Spreading gossip about a person, such as sexual gossip
  • Displays of sexually explicit images (eg on social media, computers, social media, posters, or graffiti)
  • Requests for sexual acts or favours, or unwelcome or repeated gifts or requests for ‘dates’
  • Sexual assault, rape or stalking (which are also criminal offences)

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Sexual assault

Sexual assault is sexual activity that a person has not consented to. It can refer to a broad range of sexual behaviours that makes someone feel:

  • Uncomfortable
  • Frightened
  • Threatened

Sexual assault can include:

  • Rape
  • Incest
  • Indecent assault
  • Child sexual assault
  • Sexual molestation

Find out more information on what is sexual assault and consent from the Victoria Police website.

Consent

Consent is an agreement freely and voluntarily given by a person with the cognitive capacity to do so. Consent is not freely and voluntarily given if you:

  • Are being forced
  • Are unconscious or asleep
  • Are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Are under threat or intimidation
  • Are in fear of bodily harm
  • Have a mistaken belief that the offender was your sexual partner

Silence does not mean consent

If a person does not protest, physically resist, or suffer injuries, this does not mean they freely agreed to sexual activity.

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Reasonable adjustments and flexibility

Treating everyone the same does not necessarily result in equal treatment.

Often students and staff with disabilities require adjustments and flexibility so that barriers to their participation are removed eg documents in alternative print, assistive technology, interpreters, note-takers, additional time, changed teaching methods, or changed work practices.

Students and staff with responsibilities as carers may need flexibility, such as in selection of tutorial or meeting times to suit childcare, flexible work arrangements to accommodate family crises, or bringing a child to the University when arrangements break down.

Students and staff may need flexibility to accommodate religious or cultural obligations, such as alternatives to a Saturday field trip/meeting day, or extensions because of time away for an important ceremony.

It is hard to say what is reasonable or appropriate in every case. But FedUni aims to, and is often obliged by law to, do its best to make sure students and staff do not have unfair barriers through an unfair lack of flexibility.

Help is available to explore how to provide flexibility in the study and work environment, what might be possible, and what is reasonable. Here are some good starting points:

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Your rights as students and staff at FedUni

As FedUni staff and students you can expect:

  1. To receive appropriate flexibility due to disability, pregnancy, or carer, religious or cultural responsibilities.
  2. Not to be treated unfairly (discriminated against) because of a personal characteristic that you have or someone assumes you have.
  3. Not to be subjected to discriminatory harassment (made to feel intimidated, offended or humiliated) because of these characteristics.
  4. Not to be subjected to sexual harassment.
  5. Not to be subjected to sexual assault, rape or stalking (which are also criminal offences).
  6. To have your concerns about discriminatory treatment or sexual harassment dealt with promptly and fairly.

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Your responsibilities as students and staff at FedUni

FedUni expects students and staff to play their part in making FedUni inclusive and free from harassment and discrimination.

When you enrol or sign an employment contract at FedUni, you sign on to FedUni expectations on how you treat other members of the FedUni community.

Within any FedUni activity, you must make sure that what you say and do doesn't discriminate against, or have the potential to make, a student, staff member, or other person feel intimidated, humiliated or offended (harassed), either on a sexual basis (sexual harassment) or on the basis of any of the characteristics listed above for discrimination and harassment.

Staff have some additional responsibilities:
Within the scope of your particular role, you are required to provide appropriate flexibility for students and staff (for example, because of disability, pregnancy, carer, religious or cultural responsibilities).

Some staff (including managers, supervisors, teachers and academics) have additional responsibilities. Depending on your role it may be your responsibility to make sure that the staff and students you are responsible for, know, and are accountable for, their own responsibilities. You may also be required to act on concerns that are brought to your attention.

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