There’s no better time to reflect on our ideas of consent and respectful relationships. Recent events in the news, including allegations of sexual assault by prominent men and calls for more informed sex education in schools, have highlighted the importance of explicit conversations around consent. This is opening up a national conversation as more and more people stand up for themselves and others. Young people are integral to this movement and are making their voices heard.

The UTS Respect.Now.Always. campaign works alongside students to strengthen their knowledge and skills in negotiating consent and respectful relationships. On beginning at UTS, all students and staff will be completing the online program Consent Matters. This is a compulsory program, in recognition of UTS’ commitment to ending gender-based violence. Since its inception in 2018, 70,000 students and staff have completed the training with a 100% success rate. Consent Matters requires students and staff to position themselves as a bystander, and consider the ethical issues involved in a fictionalised case study of a woman and man who may or may not have sex after a night out drinking. Enabling students to discuss, decide upon, and then practice strategies for acting ethically helps them put these behaviours into practice when in risky situations. We want to arm students with the skills they may need to make decisions, while keeping themselves and each other safe. We want UTS students and staff to be at the foreground of noticing unethical behaviour, and knowing what to do to end it.

Consent and ethics

This work on consent training is essential to enabling UTS students to be part of a wider community that values ethical communication. Negotiation and communication skills are fundamental at university and beyond. These skills must be learnt and practiced in order to develop, and at UTS, negotiation and communication skills are part of every course and all graduate attributes. Modelling consent to your students and colleagues includes all aspects of consent: talk about social distancing and the wearing of masks and allow students to freely state their opinions. Anticipate the power that lecturers and managers have, and make space for people to disagree with your opinions. Look for ways to share your power. Assume that those with power have the responsibility to manage it ethically, without expecting that those with less power must do so.

Negotiating power and one’s own boundaries takes practice and awareness. UTS students give advice to other students on recognising and maintaining their own boundaries in the Boundaries podcast. This includes all kinds of boundaries, including saying yes and no to going out with friends, communicating clearly in group work assessments, and how to rectify situations when we have inadvertently overstepped someone else’s boundaries. You can find out more about what Respect.Now.Always. is doing now on and off campus into 2021.

Support services

  • If you are on campus and in immediate danger or need urgent medical attention, please call emergency services on 000 or UTS Security on 1800 249 559.
  • If you are a UTS student or staff member experiencing sexual assault or are concerned about someone in the UTS community, please contact the UTS Sexual Assault Support Line on 1800 531 626. The UTS Sexual Assault Support Line is staffed by professionally trained, trauma informed counsellors 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays). UTS Security will provide the initial response on the support line outside of business hours.
  • As another option, UTS Staff can contact our EAP provider on 1300 307 912.
  • If you would like help completing Consent Matters training, contact HELPS.
  • If you would like support to deal with domestic, family, or sexual violence, call 1800 RESPECT,
  • If you would like free and confidential phone support from Lifeline in Australia call 13 11 14.
  • If you would like to access mental health support services internationally.

Feature image by Daniel Snell Photography

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