Universities Australia has defended a move to dump a federal government-funded consent campaign during an inquiry into Australia's sexual consent laws on Thursday.
It comes after The Saturday Paper last week reported the peak body abandoned the $1.5 million grant funded campaign after a number of vice-chancellors objected to it because of its "explicit nature".
Fronting the inquiry on Thursday, Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said this was "certainly not the case".
She said both the Department of Social Services and Universities Australia agreed to change their strategy after focus group testing and other consultations indicated that the concepts they were working on would not "reliably drive attitudinal or behavioural change".
On Tuesday, Department of Social Services' group manager for women's safety Greta Doherty told the inquiry that the body's initial proposal to the government was to develop a campaign that would raise awareness of sexual assault on campus aimed at students.
The peak body instead developed the recently published "Good Practice Guide" for primary prevention practitioners.
"This guide will help us to bolster those ongoing efforts to address sexual harm in university settings," Ms Jackson said.
When questioned about the vice-chancellors that reportedly blocked the original proposal, Ms Jackson said she would not "discuss the internal contents of my plenary meetings".
"In very broad terms, a number of members raised entirely valid concerns about how applicable, one set of messages will be across ... that thread of 1.4 million students from a really broad range of backgrounds and whether very importantly, that campaign materials would have to cut through," she said.
"That view was reinforced absolutely in the additional focus group testing that we did."
On Tuesday, Ms Doherty said Universities Australia approached the department last year with concerns about feasibility.
"Their preference was to not proceed with anything," she said.
"We made the decision that that was not acceptable given the prevalence of violence on campus."
"We wanted to work with what we had to make sure that we could develop and deliver a product, a different product, but a product that still contributes to prevention efforts on campuses."
According to the National Student Safety Survey, one in six students reported being sexually harassed on campus and one in 20 sexually assaulted.
Asked if there was another way to deliver that information to students, Ms Doherty there were limited opportunities to find a different partner because the agreement was with Universities Australia.
She added that the government "couldn't get a whole lot of money back because a third party had been engaged in terms of concept delivery".
On Thursday, Universities Australia was also questioned about declining two invitations to appear in front of the inquiry, with Labor Senator Nita Green stating that "having to be invited three times indicates a reluctance to me".
Ms Jackson said the body initially declined the invitations because it thought it didn't meet the expertise outlined in the terms of reference.
"We are not reluctant in any sense," Ms Jackson said.
"We just thought that we weren't the right people to be be answering questions, but [...] very pleased to be joined by my colleagues."
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