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O Week warning, respectful relationships training for students

University students are being reminded of the importance of consent ahead of Orientation Week celebrations.

Professor Margaret Gardner, chair of Universities Australia (UA), said while O Week is a time for new friendships and fun experiences before getting into study for the year, all students deserve to be safe.

“I want to be very clear once again,” Gardner said. “To any student who thinks it’s okay to have sex without the other person’s consent, think again – it’s not.”

Students will soon trial a ‘next-generation’ respectful relationships module as part of a new national approach to the issue.

The online education program – developed through a partnership between UA, violence prevention organisation Our Watch and the Victorian Government’s Office for Women – draws on insights from violence prevention and online learning experts.

It’s part of a broader approach to prevent violence called the Respect and Equality Program.

UA’s chief executive Catriona Jackson said as no single program on its own can bring about change, the training will work in concert with a “comprehensive university sector-led program to enhance counselling services, reporting policies, training for staff and wider violence prevention efforts”.

“Working in partnership with prevention experts, we can tackle the society-wide drivers of violence against women and highlight a shared resolve on safety and respect for all students,” Jackson said.

Our Watch chief executive Patty Kinnersly said: “It is the responsibility of the whole community to prevent violence against women, and this can only be achieved using a whole of community approach, that includes our tertiary education sector.

“Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected wherever they work or study. We look forward to using this evidence-based approach to tackle the issues of disrespect and violence against women.”

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