This Plan could be transformative for student safety

Big news: Education Minister Jason Clare has just released a draft Action Plan that could be transformative for student safety from sexual violence on campus.

For seven years the Fair Agenda movement has been calling for the government to intervene to hold universities to account on this issue - calling for a Taskforce or other intervention to deliver the systemic interventions so desperately needed, by providing: oversight and monitoring, transparency, an effective complaints mechanism, and actual accountability on this issue. 

This new Draft Action Plan provides a viable strategy to deliver that. It was developed over recent months in consultation with representatives of Fair Agenda, and our campaign collaborators End Rape on Campus Australia, The STOP Campaign, National Union of Students.

Yesterday, our team and campaign partners took a moment to reflect on and celebrate just how big a deal this proposed Plan could be if it’s implemented. We wanted to celebrate that with you - as the thousands of people who have helped amplify, resource and maintain the pressure on this issue over seven years. Because what we are doing together is making a difference.

Here’s what what’s contained in the Draft Action Plan:

  • New Standards: the introduction of a National Code that would create rules for universities and residences related to: evidence-based prevention, management of sexual violence reports, the provision of student support and academic adjustments.
  • Oversight of the new National Code’s implementation.

  • A new complaints avenue: The establishment of a new National Student Ombudsman who would have the power to handle student complaints about their providers’ and recommend that a Vice-Chancellor do things like refund a student’s fees.

  • Transparency: requiring annual reporting from universities and residences on things like: disclosures, reports, satisfaction with reporting pathways and processes, disciplinary processes and outcomes - to both the federal Education Minister, and parliament.

  • Accountability: The draft Plan includes a specific proposed commitment to “strengthen provider accountability for systemic issues relating to gender-based violence”. The details about specific powers and sanctions that would be available are still to be determined, but we believe this Draft Plan and other concurrent university reform processes underway puts us on track to see institutions finally held to account. 

  • Critically, the Draft Action Plan emphasises the need to continue engaging and consulting with students and victim-survivors - which is vital to making sure approaches are fit for purpose into the future. 

Yesterday Fair Agenda and our campaign partners had a chance to address Education Ministers around the country about why these changes are so important. Now the Ministers have released that draft Action Plan for ‘further consultation and detailed design work’. It’s a next step to figuring out the specifics so that the government can fund and implement these proposed actions, and actually make  university communities safer. 

As governments prepare to consult on this proposed action plan, and how it can and should be implemented - we have to keep the pressure up to make sure the promise of this Draft Action Plan is realised.

We expect that the prospect of meaningful consequences will make any universities and residences who have been failing students and survivors in this area extremely concerned. And we expect they’ll throw their extensive resources at influencing this consultation and design process, to try to minimise the financial and reputation risks to their organisations carrying on with business as usual. That’s why it’s so important we keep up the pressure and maintain momentum for the transformative reforms proposed in the Draft Action Plan today.

We know our movement’s campaigning has been making a difference. In partnership with our friends at End Rape on Campus Australia the Fair Agenda movement has helped keep this issue on the political and media agenda for years. We have ensured it was recognised as a key and priority area for reform in the University Accords process earlier this year. We have met with Ministers and parliamentarians across the country and political spectrum to convince them of the need for action, and the importance of our criteria for reform. Now we need to carry that momentum forward to ensure the promise of this Action Plan is delivered. 

The Fair Agenda team will be in touch soon about next steps, and how we can collectively realise this change. But in the meantime we wanted to reach out and celebrate this update - because it’s a really big deal, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the consistent pressure for the Fair Agenda movement; helping to back the calls of survivors, students, and our many campaign partners over the years. Thanks for all the ways you’ve been part of this campaign.

Renee, Sharna, Dani & Liz for Fair Agenda

PS - Fair Agenda has only been able to keep up the pressure on this issue over the past seven years with the generous support of members and supporters around the country. Can you chip in to help us keep up the pressure to make the proposed Action Plan a reality?