Trinity commissions external review of Residential College culture

By Emily McAuliffe

Trinity College is committed to providing a welcoming community in which students and staff feel respected, safe and supported in their academic, professional and personal lives.

Trinity College works hard to create a residential college community that is as safe as possible, while allowing 300 young adults the space to explore life. It’s an important balance, and one that’s considered each and every day.

This balance is addressed in two ways. 

Firstly, Trinity College approaches the creation of a healthy community in a transparent and purposeful way, ensuring everyone understands the college's expected standards of behaviour. Specifically, this means ensuring all students are familiar with our code of conduct and are educated in matters of mental health, sexual consent, responsible use of alcohol and the potential civil and legal repercussions of serious breaches of the code. All students will be aware that there is no tolerance for serious breaches of our code of conduct. 

Secondly, the code of conduct is enforced. This means relatively minor transgressions of the code are dealt with through discussion, mediation, or in some cases, disciplinary action. After all, we believe students should learn from their experiences wherever possible, understanding that these young people are going through a significant developmental phase of life. More serious contraventions, which are those that pose a risk to the health or wellbeing of students or staff, can result in periods of suspension or permanent exclusion from the college. In all instances, affected students, including the person who may have erred, have access to pastoral care.

The college’s approach to providing the safest community in the context of modern society, requires regular consideration of the effectiveness of policies and practices, which evolve continually in response to changing cultural, societal and legal expectations. Of course, the principal and continuing foundation of our policy and practices is that any behaviour that demeans, harasses or results in assault is unacceptable at Trinity College.

An external review of strengths and weaknesses is important in evaluating the health of any community. The Australian Human Rights Commission report on sexual assault at universities recommends institutions undertake reviews of culture, policies and practices by an independent expert. Examples of such reviews include the University of Sydney’s review of the culture in its colleges (the Broderick review), and ongoing reviews of residential facilities at other universities.

Therefore, Trinity College has commissioned a review of the culture of the Residential College. The purpose of this review is to secure an external, professional view of the current culture of Trinity's community, noting what is done well and what could be done better, and to provide advice on specific actions to address any shortcomings.

The review will begin this semester with reporting anticipated for the first half of next year. It will have two components – a survey of all Residential College students and a qualitative review using methodology similar to that of the Broderick report. 

Trinity College has commissioned experts in quantitative sociology at the University of Melbourne to create and conduct the survey, while the qualitative review and compilation of the overall report will be performed by Adjunct Professor Marcia Neave AO (pictured), former judge of the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Victoria, and commissioner of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence. The final report will incorporate both components of the review, delivering an evidence-based assessment of the health of the college’s culture and providing both commendations and recommendations for specific actions. 

‘The culture of Trinity affects the way young adults experience college life and the connections and friendships they form at a crucial stage in their development as young adults,’ says Marcia. ‘I am impressed by Trinity’s proactive approach in commissioning this review as it has not been triggered by any particular event. Rather, it has been instigated by the Warden and Dean of the Residential College with the support of the board, understanding that this process will contribute to an even more lively, intellectually stimulating and supportive college environment.’

While the purpose of this review is to provide an understanding of the college's current culture, anyone with concerns of a historical nature is encouraged to contact Trinity College Warden, Professor Ken Hinchcliff, on

11 Oct 2018