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Student Equity and Social Inclusion Policy

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Section 1 - Summary

(1) This Policy defines Victoria University’s (VU) ongoing commitment to equity and social justice for students.

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Section 2 - HESF/ASQA/ESOS Alignment

(2) HESF 2.2 Diversity and Inclusion; 2.3 Wellbeing and Safety

(3) ASQA Clause 1.7 Supporting Learners and Providing Access to Support Services

(4) ESOS: Standard 6, Overseas Student Support Services

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Section 3 - Scope

(5) This Policy applies to all students and staff at both domestic and offshore campuses, including student residences, and staff and students undertaking VU work, study or professional experience in places other than VU campuses.

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Section 4 - Definitions

(6) Accessibility

(7) All-Gender

(8) Community

(9) Direct Discrimination

(10) Discrimination – Discrimination means treating someone unfairly or less favorably because of a characteristic such as their sex or race or age. Discrimination can also be setting a requirement that people with a particular characteristic (protected attribute) cannot meet and which is not reasonable.

(11) Diversity

(12) Equity

(13) Gender Affirmation

(14) Harassment

(15) Human Rights

(16) Indirect Discrimination

(17) Intersectionality

(18) Social Inclusion

(19) Social Justice

(20) Universal Design

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Section 5 - Policy Statement

Part A - Equity and Social Inclusion

(21) VU is committed to the promotion of equity and social justice for students. VU will:

  1. Recognise the spirit and principles of equal opportunity legislation and practice, based on international human rights conventions;
  2. Initiate social inclusion activities in partnership with the community;
  3. Undertake proactive programs for designated student equity groups;
  4. Making a commitment to implement strategic initiatives to promote equity and social justice, particularly in the western region of Melbourne; and
  5. Respond appropriately to issues of racism, unlawful discrimination and harassment.

(22) Principles of equal opportunity, equity and social justice are embodied in the Victoria University Act 2010 (Vic). These core principles are strongly aligned with “Victoria University Strategic Plan 2022-2028”. In the section titled “Our Vision” it states:

  1. we have a deep and unwavering commitment to inclusion, to respectful relationships and diversity. We will be a place where people will love to study and work, and are supported to realise their potential and aspirations.

(23) Planning and strategy development recognise that VU’s past is characterised by “policy, systems, infrastructure and technologies to ensure accessibility and equity for our students”. 

Equity, Diversity and Social Justice

(24) VU is committed to being fair, equitable and sensitive to the diverse needs of all its students in all its policies and practices. The following principles of equity and social justice will be integrated into all the University structures, policies and procedures:

  1. Fairness and parity in the provision of University services and programs to students;
  2. Fair access to educational opportunities at the University;
  3. Fair opportunities for successful participation of students in University programs and services;
  4. Opportunities for genuine participation in decision-making for students;
  5. Promotion of a learning and work environment which is socially inclusive, values diversity and allows students to realise their full potential, where students are able to study and work effectively without fear of racism, discrimination or harassment; 
  6. Protection of the human rights of students; and,
  7. Opportunities for challenging mainstream normative systems through a decolonial lens.

Social Inclusion

(25) VU will work in partnership with the community to achieve social inclusion by encouraging participation in all levels of education, especially by people from previously excluded groups.

(26) VU will develop and operate plans and programs to increase access and promote success in education for designated under-represented groups.

(27) VU is committed to providing policies and programs which recognise and address the character and needs of the people of the western region of Melbourne.

(28) VU is committed to the principles of Universal Design across all teaching and service delivery areas and encourages all staff to practice inclusivity. Curriculum design, teaching delivery, assessment and service delivery will be accessible to students with a diverse range of abilities as far as practicable, and taking account of the inherent requirements of the course.

Equal Opportunity

(29) In order to meet its obligations under this Policy, VU undertakes to promote equal opportunity and anti-racism in all aspects of VU’s activities through strategic initiatives and by eliminating unlawful direct and indirect discrimination and harassment on the grounds of:

  1. Race, colour, national or ethnic origin, descent, nationality;
  2. Sex, gender identity, lawful sexual activity, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, breastfeeding, family responsibilities, status as a parent or carer;
  3. Religious or political belief or activity, industrial activity, irrelevant criminal record;
  4. Age, physical features, disability (past, present or imputed), medical record; and
  5. Personal association with a person who is identified by reference to any of the above listed attributes.

(30) VU’s policy should be interpreted to include all attributes protected by Federal and State anti-discrimination legislation, and acknowledges that in many cases grounds may intersect.

VU’s Commitments

(31) VU will develop and implement plans and programs to increase access and promote success in education for designated under-represented groups.

(32) To promote equity and equal opportunity, VU will:

  1. Provide an inclusive teaching, learning and working environment that values universal design, cultural and linguistic diversity, fosters mutual respect, anti-racism and cultural competence and responds to diverse needs;
  2. Ensure that its structures, policies and practices are free from direct and indirect discrimination;
  3. Educate VU’s community on the goals and principles of inclusive teaching, inclusive service delivery and philosophy of equal opportunity, equity and social justice;
  4. Develop a plan to help break the cycle of poverty through education by promoting financial inclusiveness for all VU students through a range of measures that work towards alleviating financial distress and improve access to education and success by enabling students to overcome financial hardship;
  5. Recognise and welcome students and staff of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities and create an environment where students are free to be themselves and bring their whole selves to their student experience;
  6. Develop a Gender Affirmation Guide and VU Gender Affirmation procedures to support students and staff wanting to affirm their gender and ensure an individual’s gender affirmation journey is a positive experience;
  7. Affirm the place of Aboriginal people as the original inhabitants and owners of this country. Promote the inclusion and support of Aboriginal students through community education, student enrolment and broader education strategies, and the work of the Moondani Balluk Academic Unit;
  8. Improve educational outcomes for students who identify as female, addressing gender imbalances and promoting flexibility for students particularly those in supporting caring and parental roles. Create a culture of safety and respect, and deliver programs and initiatives that challenge gender stereotyping and help change attitudes and behaviours around sexual assault and sexual harassment;
  9. Recognise and welcome students from diverse backgrounds, languages, ancestries, ethnicities, cultural traditions, and religious. Enact policies and practices and behaviour that support inclusion and equality and do not perpetuate systemic discrimination or exclusion due to bias;
  10. Use non-discriminatory, inclusive language and practices; and
  11. Provide effective mechanisms to resolve equal opportunity-related complaints. Students may make a complaint of discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation or vilification.  Allegations of student misconduct are managed under the Student Charter Policy.

Part B - Accountabilities

Responsibility

(33) All students and staff are responsible for understanding and applying the principles of universal design, equal opportunity, equity and social justice. All senior staff, academic and teaching staff, managers and supervisors are responsible for ensuring that the teaching, learning, service delivery and working environment is safe, inclusive and free from discrimination and harassment.

Implementation

(34) Actions required to implement this Policy include:

  1. Development and implementation of anti-racism and social inclusion strategies in partnership with the community;
  2. Ensuring that all of VU’s policies, procedures and plans are consistent with equal opportunity principles and practices;
  3. Development and implementation of proactive measures and strategies to address the under-representation and disadvantage experienced in education by equity target groups;
  4. On-going review and implementation of the Victoria University Accessibility Action Plan for Students 2021-2023, student equity and diversity plans and other strategic documents to meet legislative and government requirements;
  5. Ensuring procedures to resolve equal-opportunity related complaints are regularly updated and provide prompt, fair and effective outcomes for students;
  6. Pro-active measures to assist all areas of VU to promote social inclusion, inclusive teaching practice and inclusive service delivery, equal opportunity in education will be identified, encouraged and monitored by Accessibility Services, Staff Inclusion and Diversity and Cultural Diversity, Moondani Balluk and overseen by all Senior Executive (or Directorate) Leaders in all areas and across VU. Such measures will take into account groups identified through analysis of VU’S student profile data as well as those targeted in anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation and relevant government policies and programs.

(35) To ensure the effectiveness of this Policy, VU will:

  1. Require senior managers in VU to integrate equal opportunity, equity, diversity and social inclusion objectives into the functional and operational plans for their area of responsibility;
  2. Ensure that staff and students are trained in inclusive teaching practice, inclusive service delivery, equal opportunity, equity, diversity and social justice matters;
  3. Monitor and review progress in the implementation of inclusive teaching practice, inclusive service delivery, equal opportunity, equity, diversity and social inclusion;
  4. Develop performance indicators for equal opportunity, equity, diversity and social inclusion outcomes to facilitate accountability; and
  5. Provide expert, professional assistance through Accessibility Services to decision-making bodies and senior managers in order to facilitate embedding inclusive practices, equal opportunity, equity, diversity and social justice strategies and mechanisms throughout the University; and
  6. Provide support to all students and staff affected by this Policy.

Promotion

(36) Information regarding this Policy will be included on VU’s website and in staff induction material and reinforced in staff professional development activities. Promotion of the Policy to our students will be available in a range of languages.

Training Plan

(37) VU will ensure that students and staff are trained in inclusive practices, equal opportunity, equity, diversity and social justice matters.

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Section 6 - Procedures

(38) Nil

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Section 7 - Supporting Documents and Information

(39) Student Charter Policy

(40) Admissions Policy and Admissions Procedure

(41) Student Retention and Success Policy and Student Retention and Success Guidelines

(42) Assessment for Learning – Adjustments to Assessment Procedure (HE)

(43) Learning and Teaching Quality Standards – Minimum Standards for Online Presence Procedure

(44) Student Complaints Procedure

(45) Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic)

(46) Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth)

(47) Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth)

(48) Disability Discrimination Act (1992) (Cth)

(49) Disability (Access to Premises) (Cth)

(50) Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)

(51) Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)

(52) Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

(53) Disability Act 2006 (Vic)

(54) Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)