“We support the government’s focus on working with universities to address this major societal issue,” Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said.
“Our members have not shied away from dealing with sexual harm and are firmly committed to building on the many initiatives already in place at universities to combat this scourge.
“Australia’s universities have taken a leadership position in responding to this issue over many years, including commissioning the first whole-of-sector survey to better understand the problem.
“We can all do more to address this national issue – governments, businesses, universities and schools working together to do better by our communities.
“Universities Australia’s Charter on sexual harm, released last week, reinforces the seriousness with which we treat this issue and our ongoing efforts to support and protect individuals on campus.
“Our Charter is aligned with many of the actions and functions of the government’s draft action plan to address sexual harm and the proposed national student ombudsman.
“An ombudsman with responsibility for student safety has been the subject of consultations with relevant parties and that has been a good process. The sector’s views have been heard.
“However, the remit of the proposed ombudsman seemingly extends beyond the issue of student safety to include HECS administration and course administration.
“This would constitute a significant reform and detailed examination is appropriate. It would be inefficient to create duplication and overlap with existing regulation and regulatory bodies which deal with these issues.
“We appreciate government’s commitment to consult further. It’s important we get this right.
“Universities will engage deeply with government on the further development of the action plan and the ombudsman to ensure they are appropriately assessed and designed to address sexual harm.”