The University of Adelaide will make changes to its policies, processes and culture as part of a series of measures to improve the handling of reports of sexual assault, sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour, as recommended by an independent report.
The report – Towards a safer and more inclusive culture: University of Adelaide ICAC response – was commissioned from external consultants KPMG Australia as part of the University’s work to address the recommendations made in August 2020 by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC).
The KPMG Australia report, released in full, contains 22 recommendations. The recommendations relate mainly to improvements needed to the handling of cases for staff, including changes to processes, policies and culture.
“As Vice-Chancellor, I want to take this opportunity to apologise to victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other inappropriate behaviour occurring at the University of Adelaide.”University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Peter Høj AC
The University will adopt all 22 recommendations, and has prioritised five of them for immediate action:
- Develop leadership capabilities to lead change.
- Introduce recurring ethics and integrity training for all staff.
- Establish an Integrity Unit – to which students and staff can report sexual assault, sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour
- Review the University’s Human Resources (HR) function and capabilities.
- Streamline and update the University’s policy framework for sexual assault, sexual harassment and misconduct.
Watch a video message to students and staff from the University of Adelaide’s Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Peter Høj AC, and the Chair of the University’s ICAC Response Steering Committee, Professor Katrina Falkner.
Professor Høj said: “Sexual assault, sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour are found across our society – and Australia’s higher education sector is no different. This behaviour is not acceptable in our society, and there is no place for it here at the University of Adelaide. The only acceptable number of cases is zero.
“The KPMG Australia report has found underlying problems with the University’s culture, with some students and staff saying they did not feel safe to report sexual assault, sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour. Others have said that their experience of reporting has left them unhappy with how the matter was handled, and some of them were distressed.
“As Vice-Chancellor, I want to take this opportunity to apologise to victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other inappropriate behaviour occurring at the University of Adelaide.
“While we recognise that not all of our students and staff will necessarily feel the same way, or have had the same experience, we are listening to these voices in our community, and they are telling us we need to do better. These issues need to be addressed. We will and must do better.
“Our students and staff deserve to feel safe and respected at all times,” Professor Høj said.
The University’s Council has also made a formal apology to victims, noting the report and endorsing the decision of the University’s management to unreservedly accept all of its 22 recommendations.
Professor Falkner said the KPMG Australia report and the work of the ICAC Response Steering Committee provided an opportunity to make important changes to the way the University responds to these issues.
“The report’s recommendations have addressed all of the issues raised by ICAC, but the University also asked KPMG Australia to go beyond the scope of what ICAC had recommended,” Professor Falkner said.
The new Integrity Unit will have the authority to investigate misconduct reported to it by students and staff, according to the University’s rules, policies and, for staff, conditions of employment.
“Importantly, the new Integrity Unit will provide victims with a single, continuous point of contact, working with them to ensure a victim-centric approach, providing tailored support options, and keeping them updated on the progress of any investigation,” Professor Falkner said.
“The establishment of an Integrity Unit, and revising our policies and processes, will bring positive and lasting changes, helping our students and staff to feel safe and supported in making a report. This will enable us to build a stronger, more supportive culture for the benefit of everyone at our University.
“We also recognise that changes to culture will take time.”
The University is establishing an Implementation Working Group, to be led by Professor Falkner. The implementation of all recommendations from the report will be linked to the Vice-Chancellor’s KPIs.
Professor Høj said: “These changes must be led by example from the top, and will require every member of our University community to understand and support what we are doing.”
More information about the University’s ICAC response, including a copy of the full KPMG Australia report, can be found here: adelaide.edu.au/icac-response