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Long Overdue: National Action Plan for Sexual Violence on Campus

Wednesday, 22 November 2023

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Association of Postgraduate Students Co-President Jeryn Chang

The Association of Postgraduate Students (APS) welcomes the national action plan on addressing sexual violence on university campuses that was proposed by education ministers, following a meeting of state and territory ministers on Tuesday night. This includes a national code on gender-based violence in tertiary education, mandatory annual reporting by universities, and a national students ombudsman. The action plan also includes the implementation of a dedicated unit within the Department of Education, instead of matters being referred to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).

“This represents an important first step in addressing sexual violence on campus across the country” says APS Co-President Ms Chang. “But this could all lead to nothing but words on paper if education ministers don’t work together to enforce positive change in universities.”

Sexual violence on campus continues to be prevalent in today’s universities. Over the past few years, major steps have been made to increase awareness of sexual violence on campus, as well as the implementation of policies, support, and prevention programs in many universities. Key among these is the Universities Australia Respect. Now. Always. campaign, which was launched in 2016. In addition, UQ Respect has been making significant improvements in addressing sexual misconduct prevention and response. Nationwide however, a chorus of discontent has only grown for how some universities are handling sexual harrasment and assault cases. It's time for a National Students Ombudsman that can address this crisis.

If implemented, this action plan will hold universities accountable for how they respond to cases that will lead to improved student outcomes. Not only should students across the country feel safe on campus, but they should also feel safe and heard when reaching out and asking for help – especially for those in minority groups. However, this action plan must also be accompanied by strong enforcement powers that can meaningfully change how universities approach sexual violence on campus.


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