ACT Working Group on sexual assault welcomed by leading women’s organisation

31 March 2021

YWCA Canberra welcomes the announcement by the ACT Minister for Women Yvette Berry to establish a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Working Group to coordinate the community sector and relevant other stakeholders on responses to sexual assault in the ACT.

Young women make up a strong proportion of those who are sexually assaulted and harassed in our community.

YWCA Canberra’s 2019 survey of more than 1000 Canberra women revealed unacceptably high rates of sexual harassment in public spaces, including the workplace.

Women aged 18-24 were targeted at significant rates, with more than 80% of respondents saying they had experienced some form of public sexual harassment in the previous twelve months.

These findings were also reinforced by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2018 which found similar rates of harassment among young women when surveying more than 10,000 Australians as part of the national survey into workplace sexual harassment.

CEO of YWCA Canberra, Ms Frances Crimmins, said the announcement from the Minister for Women was a welcome and necessary step, given these alarming statistics.

“Through our advocacy work, we have shared the stories of young women and their experiences with gender inequality and called for changes that will improve their safety and community participation,” Ms Crimmins said.

“This includes our calls for the introduction of Respectful Relationships Education in all ACT schools in line with the best practice guidance and evidence-based standards outlined by OurWatch.

“While we acknowledge the ACT Government’s commitment to building gender equality in schools through the Positive Behaviours for Learning model, we remain unconvinced that this model is effective in breaking down harmful gender stereotypes and introducing young people to lifelong concepts such as consent, establishing personal boundaries and age-appropriate reflections on relationship dynamics.

“The ACT also remains the last Australian jurisdiction to not have an affirmative definition of consent, rather our Crimes Act lists only those circumstances where consent can be negated.

“We urge the Working Group to respond to the recommendations of the Justice and Community Safety Report on Inquiry into the Crimes (Consent) Amendment Bill 2018 and in doing so, reaffirm our calls for legislative reform to introduce a positive definition of consent.

“We welcome the opportunity to participate in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Working Group and be part of improving outcomes for women and girls in Canberra.”

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Media contact: Zoya Patel, 0455 655 330, Zoya.Patel@ywca-canberra.org.au  

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