The National Student Safety Survey (NSSS) is a nationwide survey conducted by the Social Research Centre (SRC) on behalf of Universities Australia.

It collects data on the scale and nature of students' perceptions of safety and experiences relating to sexual harm (including sexual assault and sexual harassment) at Australian universities.

The NSSS builds upon the data and recommendations from the Change the Course survey completed by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2016 and Universities Australia's Respect. Now. Always. initiative.

2021 National Student Safety Survey

In March 2022, the SRC released the results of the latest NSSS, conducted in September and October 2021. The survey set out to collect data on the scale and nature of university students' experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The results indicate that sexual harassment and sexual assault remain relatively common experiences for Australian university students.

A total of 10,000 ACU students were selected at random to receive an email. Participation was voluntary and responses were anonymous.

While the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment at ACU is below the national average, the survey results highlight that ACU still needs to do more to build students' confidence and awareness of the reporting processes and support services available at the university.

In response to the 2021 National Student Safety Survey, ACU has developed an action plan that aims to increase education, awareness, prevention and response to sexual assault and sexual harassment on all ACU campuses.

The inaugural Annual Report into Sexual Misconduct will be published in early 2024.

2016 Change the Course survey

In late 2016, all 39 universities in Australia participated in a national survey on university student experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission, it surveyed more than 30,000 students, including ACU students.

About Respect. Now. Always.

This ground-breaking initiative was launched by Australian universities in 2016 to prevent, and address, sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus and in the university sector.

Respect. Now. Always. is a sector-wide program that aims to:

  1. raise awareness of sexual assault and sexual harassment and lift the visibility of support services for students
  2. obtain data to guide further improvement in university policies and services
  3. assist universities in sharing global best-practice resources across the sector.

ACU is one of the 39 universities across Australia committed to the Respect. Now. Always. program and to improving how we, as a university, report to and support those who have been affected .

Find out more

The National Student Safety Survey (NSSS) was conducted as part of Universities Australia’s Respect.Now.Always initiative. The aim of the survey was to measure the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment experience among university students at Australian universities. It also measures broader perception of safety and views towards student campus life. The findings of the survey will help to measure the extent of these experiences among university students. This in turn will help to understand the context in which these behaviours occur, understand help seeking and reporting behaviours, and inform universities’ services and responses for student safety and wellbeing.

This is an important survey for ACU as it gives us valuable information on which to base new initiatives and strategies for addressing issues of student safety and wellbeing.

Participation in the survey will help ACU to protect students and future students. No matter your circumstances, views or experiences, your participation in the survey is important as it will help ensure the results of the study accurately represent the experiences of students at our university.

The evidence is clear. Sexual assault and sexual harassment occur right across our society. Universities are not exempt from that. One in five women in the Australian community over the age of 15 have experienced sexual violence. Universities like ACU have an important role to play in preventing sexual violence from happening and to find out the best ways to respond to survivors with compassion and support.

When someone experiences sexual assault or sexual harassment, the person they choose to talk to plays a vital role in their support. When someone discloses such personal information to you, it is important that you remain calm and reply with a safe response to ease their possible feelings of fear, discomfort, or anxiety. You are not expected to have all the answers, it is just important that you make them feel safe, heard, and supported.  

It can be difficult to know how to respond and you may be unsure about how to help. Remember to Listen, Reassure and Respect. Below are some guidelines that may assist you.

Hearing another person’s experience of sexual assault or sexual harassment can be difficult and it is normal to be impacted by this experience. It is important you take time to recognise signs that you are being impacted and know that support is available for you too. To find out about the support services available please visit the Support section above.

  • Remain calm.
  • Move to a suitable environment, free of distractions.
  • Refrain from asking why questions such as “why were you walking alone?”
  • Don’t talk about your own experiences
  • Allow the person to use their own words.
  • Give the person your full attention.
  • Don’t interrupt them.
Reassure and support
  • Acknowledge the strength and courage of the person.
  • Reassure the person that it is OK that they have told you what has been happening.
  • Use phrases like “I’m here for you”, “Thank you for telling me”, “You’re not alone”.
  • Respect that the person may only reveal some details.
  • Ensure that the person does not feel rushed or panicked.
  • Explain what will happen next using language the individual will understand.
  • Respect the person’s wishes if they do not wish to make a formal report.
What to avoid
  • Asking too many or leading questions.
  • Expressing judgement, shock, panic, anger, or disbelief.
  • Dismissing, minimising, or challenging the disclosure.
  • Confronting the alleged perpetrator.
  • Providing legal advice.

To report a disclosure of sexual assault or sexual harassment to ACU please visit the ACU Respect.Now.Always. webpage

If you require further information, please contact the National Manager, Safeguarding and Student Safety on 02 9739 2002 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday or alternatively email

ACU has implemented a range of initiatives to ensure students safety and to prevent harm. Some key initiatives that ACU has implemented include:

  • Establishment of a Respect.Now.Always Advisory Committee chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and President. The committee oversees the implementation of the Respect.Now.Always Action Plan and provides advice and recommendations to the Vice-Chancellor Advisory Committee on initiatives to promote and facilitate safe, inclusive and equitable student experiences on all ACU campuses and at all university-endorsed activities.
  • Creation of the ACU consent video to identify what constitutes consent and respectful relationships.
  • ACUNSA presidents are trained and educated on ‘Respectful relationships’.
  • Staff who work directly with students, and who are more likely to receive disclosures about sexual misconduct, are provided with additional training and support to ensure a person-centred response and referrals to appropriate services.
  • Independent review conducted of student accommodation.
  • The adoption of best-practice guides from Universities Australia, the Australian Human Rights CommissionOur WatchTertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), resulting in the development and implementation of ACU’s Student Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Policy and Procedure.
  • All students living in ACU student residences undertake an induction program, which includes understanding consent and respectful relationships.  

To view more initiatives undertaken by ACU in the university’s response to the Australian Human Rights Commission, visit the ACU Respect.Now.Always webpage

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