Shadow Minister for Education Sarah Henderson has welcomed the Government’s appointment of Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly as its sexual violence and prevention expert, and has called for stronger measures to combat the incidence of sexual assault and harassment on university campuses.
“Patty Kinnersly is a leader in her field, and will play an important role in guiding further work to protect and support students from sexual violence and harassment”, said Senator Henderson.
The Albanese Government has announced a working group to provide advice to Ministers on university governance reform as part of its response to the Universities Accord interim report, released in July 2023.
According to the National Student Safety Survey in 2021, one in 20 (4.5 per cent) students had been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months. One in six (16%) had been sexually harassed since starting their studies.
Of those who reported sexual assault in 2021, only 29.7 per cent were satisfied with their university’s processes, and more than half of the students who participated in the survey knew ‘very little or nothing’ about their university’s sexual assault and harassment policies. Almost half knew ‘nothing or very little’ about where they could seek support or assistance within their university.
“These are very alarming statistics, and universities need to take much stronger action to combat sexual assault and harassment on their campuses”, said Senator Henderson.
“All university students deserve to be safe in lecture theatres, on campus grounds and in residential colleges.”
“It is also concerning that the Government has not foreshadowed the critical need to make student safety central to its proposed student support policy, as included in the higher education bill currently before the Parliament.”
“Universities must properly be held to account when they fail to protect students’ safety and wellbeing,” Senator Henderson said.