ATSE welcomes the Department of Education’s initiative in developing an Action Plan to address gender-based violence in higher education. Sexual assault and harassment in the higher education system acts as a barrier to participation, including in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The Draft Action Plan outlines a coordinated, whole-of-sector plan responding to sexual violence in higher education and commits to sustained cultural change.
ATSE strongly supports efforts to create a culture of safety in STEM. ATSE has previously provided a submission to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) consultation to update their 2020 Good Practice Note on preventing and responding to sexual harm in the higher education sector (ATSE 2023a).
ATSE makes the following recommendations to strengthen and support implementation of the Action Plan:
Recommendation 1: Adopt a risk-based approach for the Action Plan and National Code.
Amend the Action Plan to specifically mention accountability for risk management by providers’ governing bodies.
3: Require whole-of-institution approaches to consider the risks for STEM and for research students, and how responses will be managed.
4: Promote the Safe Place model for institutional responses to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and bullying.