Last year the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released a national report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. The report showed that 26% of all students surveyed had experienced some form of sexual harassment in a university setting during 2016.

Data specific to the University of Canberra highlighted that the majority of sexual harassment occurred on public transport to or from the university, with the second highest occurrence being on university grounds such as the carpark.

According to UC’s Manager of Operations and Maintenance, Mr Glenn Mowbray, improving the safety of the carparks and grounds at UC has always been a priority.

“We’ve got over 200 cameras across the campus at UC, as well as dedicated walkways covered by these. As well as this, security responds immediately to call outs,” Mr Mowbray said.

“Out in the grounds, we’ve done about a million dollars of footpath and lighting upgrades, and we’re trying to connect not just the carparks to buildings but we want to see more interconnected buildings. We want to improve safety all the way to the public transport points, and through and past the residences. We’re really primarily looking to prevent rather than react.”

“We have added CCTV on entry and exit to every carpark on campus. Carpark 7, in particular, which had the highest prevalence of break-and-enters and other incidents has been our biggest focus. We now have a dedicated traffic officer who patrols the carparks and this gives us eyes and ears to complement the Security team’s work,” he said.

Many of the initiatives that have been implemented pre-date the report released last year, or have been in the works for quite some time. Mr Mowbray said that this was because UC is dedicated to preventing such incidences, and has been working to improve the campus for a number of years.

“We’ve been trying for a while to get active engagement with students through security presence at events such as O Week or Stone Week. Rather than an enforcement approach, we really want to act as a help point for students.”

He acknowledged, however, that safety on campus is a continual discussion and that there are always improvements which can be made.

“At the moment, we’re writing a new Security and Incident Reporting Tool. What that will allow us to do is document any incidents that are reported through to us, track and trend, and we’ll be able to benchmark those against what’s happening on campus as well as other institutions,” he explained.

“We’re also exploring a safety app, which some other institutions have already implemented. This would feature an emergency call button so that Security can immediately identify the location of exactly where you are on campus. That’s early days at the moment, but is something we’re currently looking into.”

Mr Mowbray noted that aside from the findings of the report, feedback from students is key to the continual development of UC’s security and safety procedures and initiatives.

“As with all of the services at UC, the Security and Estate Management team is there for our students. We’re here for our staff. We want to people to enjoy going to UC and to feel safe. We invite feedback from the UC community. There are, of course, areas we can improve on but we really want to hear from students where they see the need for improvement.”

Students who are worried about their safety on campus should contact Security on 6201 2222. To provide feedback about campus safety, students are encouraged and welcomed to email security@canberra.edu.au