TEQSA has provided its Report to the Minister for Education: Higher education sector response to the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment. It has advised that most universities have moved effectively and comprehensively to implement the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Change the Course report. However, there is still more work to do by some higher education providers, such as offering access to counselling and information about emergency sexual assault services.
TEQSA will now look for evidence that higher education providers are doing what they say they are doing to prevent and reduce the incidence of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Penalties could apply if higher education providers are not providing the level of support they have indicated. TEQSA will investigate and respond to complaints about providers’ responses to incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment and the Government will support providers to implement actions that will help to ensure the wellbeing and safety of students.
Sexual assault is a crime and it is never acceptable. Universities and higher education providers have a duty of care to their students to ensure they are doing everything possible to reduce sexual assault on campus, to support anyone impacted and to build a culture of respect.
Universities are independent organisations, fully responsible for their actions. Leadership is a key factor in addressing this issue and the TEQSA report is a wake-up call to universities that more leadership is required. The Change the Course report was commissioned by Australia’s universities, so they should act to fully implement all recommendations of that report. More can still be done and the higher education sector must double its efforts to protect students and provide the support required.
As Australia’s independent national quality assurance and regulatory agency for higher education, TEQSA is the best-placed institution to hold universities and higher education providers to account and to ensure they are meeting their legislative requirements and community expectations when it comes to addressing sexual assault.