On June 24, the University announced that we will make changes to our 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. These changes are outlined in an independent report – Towards a safer and more inclusive culture: University of Adelaide ICAC response.
The Vice-Chancellor and Professor Katrina Falkner, the Chair of the ICAC Response Steering Committee, prepared a video message to the University community in response.
The report 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 University has released the report in full, and it is available to read online.
The KPMG Australia report contains 22 recommendations, which the University will adopt in full. The recommendations relate mainly to improvements needed to the handling of cases for staff, including changes to processes, policies and culture.
Five of the recommendations are being treated as a priority 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.
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.
The Vice-Chancellor issued an apology to victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other inappropriate behaviour occurring at the University of Adelaide:
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.
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.
The Vice-Chancellor thanked students, staff, alumni and volunteers who participated in the consultation process for this report and provided feedback on what can be deeply challenging, sensitive and emotional issues.
This report provides an opportunity for the University to make important changes to the way we respond to these issues. Its recommendations address all of the issues raised by ICAC – but the University also asked KPMG Australia to go beyond the scope of what ICAC had recommended.
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, their conditions of employment.
Importantly, the new Integrity Unit will provide victims with a single 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.
The establishment of an Integrity Unit, and revision of 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.
Professor Falkner has been appointed to lead the Implementation Working Group. The implementation of all recommendations from this report will also be linked to the Vice-Chancellor’s KPIs.
Our community has told us we need to do better. We have listened, and we are taking action to build the safe and supportive culture you deserve.