Wesley College has referred allegations of sexual assault and harassment to Victoria Police after disclosures of more than a dozen instances of alleged sexual assault, harassment, and disrespect to girls by male students.
A series of complaints were made following the March 4 Justice event in Melbourne, as Principal Nick Evans encouraged anyone with a complaint to come forward.
“There are things that emerge in this space that are criminal —as simple as that — and it’s not appropriate to have a pastoral response for accusations of a crime,” he said.
“They will be passed on to the police.”.
Kim Bence, the head of the St Kilda Road campus, confirmed that complaints had been referred to police in recent days.
A boy from another private school told ABC Radio Melbourne he wrote to Mr Evans after hearing derogatory comments on a bus on Monday, in the presence of people who had attended the march.
“I heard one of them say, ‘Oh we should’ve bombed the women’s march,’ kind of joking around,” he said.
Some of the students involved were recorded in a TikTok video on the bus – the same day as the nationwide March4Justice rallies which called for equality and an end to violence against women.
A number of students went on to boycott the uniform in protest of how the school handled the incident.
Wesley College was also listed in a national petition calling for “urgent reform to require sexual consent to be enthusiastic consent”.
Schoolgirls from Melbourne’s Wesley College awere asked to answer questions relating to their experiences around sexual assault and consent in the petition which encourages them to “name and shame” their attackers.
Since then a number of students have come forward to recount their experiences of harassment at the school.
Ms Bence said the school had been having discussions with senior students and she was shocked by what they were told.
“It’s just the enormity of what’s happening on a day-to-day basis, their interactions in corridors in what I would classify as public spaces. I think that’s where the real concerns lie for me,” she said.
“What we have been privy to in the last 24-48 hours would indicate there are certainly students who do not feel safe.
“This has been devastating for our entire community.”
The school has also engaged education consultants and child protection agency Bravehearts, which will deliver “respectful relationships and personal safety” programs at the school.
Topics covered will include consent, confidentiality, bullying, internet safety, sexting, pornography, stress and how to seek help.
Mr Evans said the school had not been listening carefully enough and the programs that were in place to teach respectful relationships had not been effective.
“I apologise unreservedly,” Mr Evans said.
“Sadly, and as I have observed on a number of occasions over the last few days, Wesley College is but a microcosm of Australian society and we reflect it.
“Many personal testimonies have been shared with us and in other fora that show how deep this issue runs.”
The school said it had partnered with the child safety organisation Bravehearts in recent times and education consultants had been engaged to canvas the experience of students.
Sexual assault and family violence support lines:
1800 Respect National Helpline: 1800 737 732
Sexual Assault Crisis Line Victoria: 1800 806 292
Safe Steps Crisis Line (Vic): 1800 015 188
Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491
Lifeline (24-hour Crisis Line): 131 114
Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277