Sexual and gender-based abuse and discrimination in academia in Australia: Survey


‘It destroyed my research career’: survey of sexual and gender-based discrimination and abuse in Australian Academia

Australian Women’s History Network working group

Dr Katherine Ellinghaus, Dr Nikki Henningham, Dr Andy Kaladelfos, Dr Alana Piper, Dr Laura Rademaker, Dr Anne Rees, Dr Jordana Silverstein, Dr Mary Tomsic, Naomi Wolfe

July 2018


In March 2018, an online survey of ‘Sexual and gender-based abuse and discrimination in academia in Australia’ was released to be filled out by those who have worked – or continue to work – in academia. Today we are launching a report based on the responses to this survey.

The survey attracted 159 responses from academic institutions around Australia. 90.6% of respondents identified as female.

48.7% of respondents have experienced sexual abuse or harassment in the workplace.

66.2% of respondents have experienced sexual or gender-based discrimination in the workplace.

Academics and PhD students reported sexualised bullying, unfair workloads, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, usually from superiors and supervisors.

Respondents made clear that sexual and gender-based problems are ‘rife’ in our universities. They also made clear that current practices of reporting, assistance provision and accountability mechanisms are completely inadequate and ineffective.

This report presents an outline of people’s experiences of discrimination, harassment and abuse, in both quantitative and qualitative forms. It also presents a discussion of their experiences of the aftermath: of what it did to their careers, their workplace experiences, and their relationships with their work and their friends, colleagues, and families. Finally, the report outlines a series of recommendations provided by respondents.

This AWHN survey was intended as a preliminary investigation that would draw attention to the issue of sexual and gender-based harassment, abuse and discrimination in Australian academic workplaces. The survey does not provide a comprehensive insight into the incidence of these behaviours, and should not be taken as conclusive. The respondent pool was small and self-selecting, issues of anonymity were concerns for some, and the survey was open for only four weeks.

However, these results do suggest that unacceptable behaviours are both widespread and underreported within Australian universities. Further research and discussion are therefore imperative. The AWHN is committed to working with its membership and partner institutions to continue addressing this issue, with the goal to ensure a safe working environment for all.

You can read the report here


To contact the AWHN please email

For immediate contact, the convenors of AWHN can be reached at (03) 8344 4147

You can find the AWHN on twitter at @auswhn


Media coverage:

The Drum

The Conversation