Message from the Vice-Chancellor

21 May 2021

A message from The University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Deborah Terry AO

Following media coverage in The Australian, I felt it was important that I write to our staff and students over the weekend. I want to provide my absolute assurance that the University takes matters of sexual assault and misconduct very seriously.

Providing a safe and respectful place to study and work is a basic right that our community deserves. In recent years, we have done a lot of work to raise awareness, educate our community and provide confidential and trauma-informed support and reporting based on respect and empathy.

Even with this progress and focus, I acknowledge that sometimes our processes can be complex and lengthy, and this can cause further distress for the individuals involved.

This is one of those times and I am deeply sorry for the distress this has caused.

While we cannot, and will not, shy away from the responsibility of doing better, I do want to acknowledge that these can be incredibly difficult matters that have life changing outcomes for complainants and alleged perpetrators.

Importantly, we must continue to listen and respond to our communities and learn from our experiences – and that work is already underway.

Last September, I asked external experts – Adjunct Professor John McKenna, QC and Emeritus Professor Carol Dickinson – to undertake a review of our student disciplinary policy and processes, including in relation to the management of sexual misconduct complaints.

The findings of the review and recommendations were endorsed by UQ Senate in December. Following this, a working group was established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations.

The changes we are already progressing include:

  • Simplifying our three policies – Student Code of Conduct Policy; Student Integrity and Misconduct Policy; and the Sexual Misconduct Policy – that relate to how we manage these matters. We understand this is essential when it comes to dealing with difficult matters that can have a resounding impact on the lives of those affected.
  • Providing additional mandatory sexual assault and sexual harassment training and support to our staff who are on the front line of our response.
  • Working more closely with residential colleges on sharing information on matters of student safety.
  • Working towards a greater level of screening of potential employees who may have had complaints about misconduct upheld through the University’s disciplinary processes.
  • Making information that we provide to students through our Respect website easier to find by intuitive search functions.

The University has also fully cooperated with Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency’s (TEQSA) compliance assessment relating to the matters raised in the media. The assessment indicated that UQ had met its obligations under the Threshold Standards. They were satisfied with our framework and support mechanisms in place, and supportive of the initiatives that the University is progressing to ensure improvement.

My hope and commitment is that the continued work we are doing in this area will improve the prevention and management of sexual assaults affecting our community.

The University has often said that there is no place on our campuses for sexual misconduct, and that statement carries enormous responsibilities. At the heart of it, is ensuring that those with the courage to come forward to make a complaint or seek our help, feel they are supported throughout that process.

If these matters raise issues for you, our UQ Respect website has more information on the support available or you can email If you require assistance over the weekend, you can call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for 24/7 counselling support or our own UQ crisis line (1300 851 998).