An elite Melbourne private school will undergo a “phase of deep listening” after allegations of sexual assault, harassment and disrespect by male students were made public.
More than a dozen students and parents of co-educational Wesley College raised allegations of harassment and assault on campus with The Age newspaper on Friday.
In a letter to parents on Friday, Wesley College Principal Nick Evans said the allegations proved there was a “cultural issue that has clearly been in place for a considerable period of time” at the school.
“I apologise unreservedly to those affected on behalf of the college,” he said.
“Sadly … Wesley College is a microcosm of Australian society. We are not alone in this scourge.
“We must face it with honesty, courage and a willingness to confront hard truths.”
Mr Evans said both he and the head of the St Kilda Road campus, Kim Bence, had not been informed of any allegations and urged students to come forward.
The school is in the process of engaging external trauma-informed psychologists and has set up lunchtime forums for senior students.
“We are entering a phase of deep listening,” Mr Evans said.
“We need to better understand the experiences of our students, the issues they face, how they feel, the impact such challenges are having on their health and wellbeing, and ideas about how we can further support them at this time.”
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.
It comes after boys in Wesley uniform were heard making misogynistic statements towards women on a bus, hours after the March4Justice march at Treasury Gardens on Monday.
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”.