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Tribunal rejects student’s complaint of race and sex discrimination

A finding by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board also found the complaint lacked substance

A University of Sydney student’s complaint of race and sex discrimination against the University has been dismissed by a tribunal this week after the student missed several procedural deadlines.

Back in 2018, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board found the student’s complaint lacked substance.

The student—whose identity has been anonymised as “DVA” due to a non-disclosure order—failed to appear before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The University was represented by former Uni Office of General Counsel lawyer Sarah Heesom.

The Tribunal heard that DVA complained to then Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) Shane Houston that she had been sexually assaulted by a Uni staff member under Houston’s supervision in March 2017, four months before Houston’s sudden dismissal in September 2017.

A Uni spokesperson strongly denied that the subject of the complaint was a current or former staff member as well as Houston’s involvement.

“The former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), Dr Shane Houston, was not involved in this matter.”

“The original disclosure was made to a different member of staff. We won’t identify who that person is, as we do not want to risk identifying the complainant or the subject of her complaint.”

DVA argued that the Uni’s inadequate investigation of her complaint amounted to sex discrimination.

“We have endeavoured to investigate the complainant’s allegations of sexual assault, and to offer support. Regrettably, the complainant has declined to engage with the University or with external parties acting on our behalf,” the spokesperson said.

The Uni thereafter investigated DVA following separate allegations of inappropriate conduct against DVA which pre-dated her complaint.

After those allegations were substantiated, the Uni excluded DVA from the Indigenous Strategy student spaces in the Old Teachers’ College to “protect the health and safety of students and staff,” an act which DVA also claimed was race discrimination.

The Uni’s recent litigation efforts follow a spike in human rights and anti-discrimination claims in 2017 when the the Uni fought four complaints at the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and Australian Human Rights Commission, including a notable claim by former USU Board and Uni Senate aspirant Georg Tamm.