Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, and Senator Larissa Waters welcome reports today that a national ombudsman on student safety will be proposed at next week’s Education Ministers meeting, as long as the oversight body has the teeth to actually hold universities accountable for their failure to protect students from sexual assault on campus.
Deputy Greens Leader & Greens spokesperson on Education, Senator Mehreen Faruqi said:
“Sexual violence on campus is widespread and systemic. The ombudsman must have real teeth, be properly resourced and have solid enforcement powers, so the failures of universities and TEQSA are not repeated.
“I welcome the idea of a student ombudsman, but it must be made concrete urgently and have the powers to hold universities accountable for their responsibility to keep students safe. For too long governments and unis have failed students on campus, where hundreds of assaults are still occurring each week.
“A proper complaints mechanism, combined with transparency, oversight and accountability for universities must inform every approach the government takes to address sexual violence on campus, including the student ombudsman. We’ve only come this far due to the hard work of activists like EROC, Fair Agenda and the STOP Campaign.
“Universities have failed to make real change to protect students, so the government must step in and do so quickly. Unis must be safe places for students to learn and thrive.”
Greens spokesperson on Women, Senator Larissa Waters said:
“The conduct of universities in covering up the sexual assaults and harassment that happen on campus rather than seriously addressing student concerns and keeping students safe has been reprehensible.
“The government has finally heard the calls of advocates like End Rape on Campus, Fair Agenda and the STOP Campaign and is now floating ‘the idea’ of a national ombudsman, to oversight these issues.
“Federal, state and territory education ministers are meeting Tuesday to negotiate changes to university governance; the demands of students and advocates for an independent, expert-led oversight body must be at the forefront of those negotiations.
“We don’t care what it’s called, taskforce or an ombudsman, as long as it’s a body that actually holds universities accountable for the safety of students on campus and in residential halls.
“To be effective this oversight body must; be independent and expert-led, be transparent, have an effective complaints avenue, and actually enforce meaningful accountability for those unis who don’t make the grade.”