Trigger warning: sexual assault
Over 40 university groups and individuals have signed an open letter calling for an independent body to respond to sexual violence at universities.
Victim survivors, current and former students, and sexual violence service providers all signed the letter, asking the Government to “urgently intervene” in how sexual violence incidents are reported.
They estimated that at least 14,300 students will be sexually assaulted in university contexts per year.
The letter was led by the End Rape on Campus and Fair Agenda advocacy groups, along with the National Union of Students.
A national 2021 survey of over 43,000 students found one in six had been sexually harassed since starting university. Half of all respondents knew nothing or very little about their university’s formal reporting process for sexual assault.
A student safety body for unis
The letter called for the formation of an independent oversight body to improve accountability and transparency.
The expert-led body would assess how universities respond to sexual violence. It could also penalise those with insufficient actions to student complaints.
The body would be given further formal powers to ask universities about their sexual violence response plans. This would extend to punishments for perpetrators.
Federal Government response
Federal Education Minister Jason Clare didn’t offer a position on the body. However, he said a “sustained effort is needed to improve student safety on campus”.
Clare said concerns related to student safety have been raised with a government-appointed panel tasked with reviewing Australia’s higher education system.
The panel is expected to release its interim report in the coming weeks.
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