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Working in tertiary institutions

3 minutes

This setting includes academic, vocational and training environments – universities and TAFEs.

Why this setting?

Tertiary education settings such as universities and TAFEs have broad reach as places of learning, workplaces and community hubs. Their workforce of upwards of 140 thousand academics and professionals that can influence over 1.4 million students, directly and through their networks. 

Many people access tertiary institutions in young adulthood. This period is a critical stage when gender identities, roles and relationships are being formed. Supporting young men and women at this time to establish positive practices has many benefitsAdditionally, while violence affects women across the life cycle, it is more prevalent among, and has far-reaching impacts upon, young women. 

Engaging entire groups in these settings can achieve wide cultural shifts in attitudes and behaviours towards gender equality and violence. 

Key opportunities

  • Tertiary institutions can leverage the expertise that already exists within them, including through academics from different disciplines, such as law, sociology, medicine and others.  
  • Tertiary institutions offer an opportunity for role modelling the transformation of gender stereotypes in different industries, such as women teaching science and technology and men in human services. 
  • Tertiary institutions can equip students with the skills to apply a gender lens to their chosen profession  for example, to deliver respectful relationships education in a school setting, or respond to disclosures of violence in a health or human services setting. 
  • Tertiary institutions are workplaces that can embed gender equitable practices across their workforces, including through recruitment, leave provisions and other workplace policies and practices. 
  • Tertiary institutions have the opportunity to engage international students, recent migrants, young adults with disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students as part of a whole-of-population approach. 
  • Tertiary institutions can work in partnership with associated organisations, such as student unions and student accommodation and colleges, to add value to initiatives. 

Things you can do

  • Consider a whole-ofinstitution approach that involves, students, academics/teachers, other staff, campus residential accommodation and the wider community.  
  • Look at the institution as a workplace and examine the gendered norms, practices and structures of the institution as a whole 
  • Include tailored knowledge and skills relating to gender equity and prevention of violence against women in the curriculum of all degrees. For example, a journalism degree could provide students with skills to effectively report on cases of intimate partner violence. 
  • Implement direct participation programs in bystander intervention, which give participants the skills to address sexist and harmful behaviour. 

Resources for prevention work in Australian universities and TAFEs