Our Watch welcomes the draft action plan for addressing gender-based violence in higher education

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Author: Our Watch media team
Posted: 22 Nov, 2023
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    Our Watch has welcomed the release of the draft Action Plan, Addressing gender-based violence in higher education.

    Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly was appointed in August as the Expert Adviser to the Commonwealth-led Universities Accord governance Working Group that has developed the plan.

    Following extensive consultation, the ambitious plan outlines the urgent actions that need to be taken by universities, higher education providers and residential accommodation providers to prevent and respond to gendered violence.

    Key recommendations include:

    • The appointment of a Commonwealth appointed Student Ombudsman with investigative and dispute resolution power to centre student voices and needs
    • Universities to embed a whole-of-institution approach to prevent gender-based violence
    • A National Code to strengthen accountability for systemic issues with a focus on prevention and respectful relationship education
    • Improving the standards and accountability of student accommodation
    • Universities to work with states and territories on potential legislative and regulative reform in order to prioritise the safety of victim survivors in responding to disclosures and reports of gender-based violence.

    Ms Kinnersly said actions in the plan could be the catalyst for significant change.

    “Safety should be a fundamental right, and that needs to include all parts of our lives – including where we work, live and study.

    “It is alarming that universities and student accommodation have sadly not been places of safety for many students and staff.

    The 2021 National Student Safety Survey showed that 1 in 6 students has been sexually harassed and 1 in 20 has been sexually assaulted.

    “But this violence is not experienced equally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students living with disability, LGBTIQA+ students, non-binary and transgender students experienced sexual assault and sexual harassment at significantly higher rates.

    “Gender-based violence is preventable if we address and challenge the root causes – gender inequality and disrespectful attitudes – which is possible within the systems, structures and policies of universities.

    “The good news is that we are not starting from scratch, universities have done some good work in addressing gendered violence to date, but this action plan will improve consistency, build on existing momentum and connect this work to the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children.

    “By committing to this plan, higher education has a powerful opportunity to help 1.5 million students and over 130,000 staff to be safe, equal and have thriving futures,” Ms Kinnersly said.

    Additional information for public release:

    Our Watch has been working to end violence against women through primary prevention since 2013. During this time Our Watch has worked in partnership and in consultation with key governments, universities and student groups to address the drivers and structural causes of violence in university settings.

    Our Watch currently works directly with a number of universities across Australia to support them with embedding violence prevention across their institutions.

    In 2021, Our Watch launched Educating for Equality, a whole-of-institution approach for universities to help guide, support and build upon existing work to promote gender equality and prevent gender-based violence.

    Media contact

    Please contact media@ourwatch.org.au or call 0448 844 930.

    If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

    1800RESPECT is the national domestic, family, and sexual violence counselling, information and support service. If you or someone you know is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, domestic, family or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, chat online via www.1800RESPECT.org.au, or text 0458 737 732.

    To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit media.ourwatch.org.au.

    Our Watch

    Our Watch is a national leader in Australia’s work to stop violence against women and their children before it starts. The organisation was created to drive nation-wide change in the practices, norms, and structures that lead to violence against women and children.