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Website lets students report harassment online

MEDIA RELEASE 22 August 2008

Website lets students report harassment online

An interactive website launched today will enable students to lodge complaints of racially-based harassment anonymously via a simple online form.

The Report-It project is the next phase of the Safer Students campaign launched earlier this year by project partners the Christchurch City Council, the University of Canterbury, CPIT, the Human Rights Commission, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, and the New Zealand Police (Canterbury District).

The highly visible poster campaign, depicting students of various ethnicities carrying out a hongi with the word welcome in different languages, was received very positively by New Zealand and international students alike. It was re-launched recently with a fresh set of posters.

In conjunction with the campaign, the project team also commissioned research using computer touch screen-based questionnaires to find out what international students thought about living in Christchurch and whether racially-based harassment was an issue.

While the large majority (86 per cent) of respondents said they felt safe in Christchurch, half said they had experienced harassment as a result of their ethnicity.
The survey also identified that the main barrier to not reporting harassment was not knowing how and who to tell.

With the introduction of www.report-it.org.nz students will be able to lodge complaints, anonymously if they wish, on the website and can choose to have the incident followed up through the partner organisations, which now include Lincoln University.

In launching the site, Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the large majority of City residents valued and cared about overseas students having a safe and enjoyable time in Christchurch.

“They are very welcome, and will meet many good people here," he said. “However, there is a minority perpetuating mindless harassment, and it is our duty to provide a safe and confidential way for students to report this behaviour.

“This does not mean Christchurch is a more racist city than any other, but rather that we recognise this anti-social behaviour exists, and we are prepared to do something about it.”

Canterbury University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Student Services), Professor Scott Davidson, said the University community was enriched by the presence of its international students.

“They are an important dimension of life on campus and the University is committed to ensuring that their experience here is enjoyable, as well as academically rewarding. This initiative will help not only the University, but the whole city, to ensure that international students feel welcomed and supported,” he said.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said that for the Human Rights Commission, working together with local government, tertiary education institutions, Ngai Tahu and the Police had been a very effective way of addressing an issue such as the safety of international students,

“As Race Relations Commissioner I believe that the only way we can address issues of racial discrimination and harassment is through positive action in the community, the educational environment and the workplace. The Safer Students campaign has been a very creative and successful way of doing this. “

Lincoln University Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Sheelagh Matear said Lincoln welcomed the opportunity to join with Christchurch City Council and other organisations in the initiative.

“We look forward to it making a contribution to developing this region as a multi-cultural society.

“A positive international student experience in Canterbury involves more than the university and more than the students - it needs to include the wider community, sports clubs and cultural organisations, leisure and social opportunities and businesses and work environments. Initiatives such as this one have an important role to play in bringing these groups together to explore how we can all contribute.”

Mark Solomon, Kaiwhakahaere, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, said Ngai Tahi was proud to be involved with the Safer Students campaign. “

“Manaakitanga is a core value within the Ngāi Tahu culture, in its simplest terms it means looking after and supporting our manuhere (guests), a duty that we take seriously as tangata whenua because our mana (integrity) is upheld through the act of manaaki, ” he said.

In the first instance online reports will go through to the project team, and if requested, will be forwarded to the appropriate organisation . This process, and the popularity of the site, will be assessed in six months time.

At present, the project is only a pilot aimed at students from the partner organisations. The potential to widen it will be assessed at the six-month review.


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