The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is running a survey to assess the extent of educator sexual assault and harassment.

According to the NTEU, the fear of repercussions on their casual employment status has deterred university staff from reporting instances of sexual harassment and assault. 

A 2019 survey highlighted that while harassment rates within the workplace were comparable to the broader community, anonymous feedback mechanisms were placing staff members at risk.

Between 50 to 80 per cent of undergraduate teaching at universities is carried out by casual staff, as per the Universities Accord discussion paper. 

This high rate of casualisation is perceived to render staff members more vulnerable to harassment and assault, as they are often hesitant to raise issues for fear of being labelled troublemakers.

Allison Barnes, the National President of NTEU, says the survey should provide an updated overview of the challenges faced by educators. 

The 2019 survey indicated that women were nearly twice as likely to experience sexual harassment in the workplace. 

One in four staff members reported incidents of unwanted touching or cornering. Additionally, almost 40 per cent of respondents lacked confidence in the reporting process due to concerns about potential career repercussions.

The previous survey also revealed that university-specific situations, such as receiving anonymous evaluations from students, were avenues for further harassment. 

Staff members recounted incidents of sexually suggestive comments on teaching evaluations, making it evident that harassment extended into these academic spaces.

Indigenous staff members have been particularly affected by sexual violence issues within universities. 

Sharlene Leroy-Dyer, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Queensland's Business School and Chair of the NTEU's National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy Committee, sayst little has changed for staff members since the 2019 survey. 

Students, safety advocates, and crossbench politicians have joined forces to urge the federal government to establish an independent task force responsible for monitoring universities' progress in addressing sexual violence. 

Such a body would oversee both student and staff cases, ensuring accountability and transparency in dealing with sexual misconduct.

The federal government has initiated an investigation into the establishment of an independent authority to address safety concerns raised by students and staff. 

Patty Kinnersley, CEO of Our Watch, a gendered violence prevention organisation, is advising the working group tasked with this investigation. 

The working group is expected to present its findings to state, territory, and federal education ministers in November.