Statement from University of Adelaide’s Chancellor, the Hon. Catherine Branson AC QC:
The Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) has today released a statement relating to allegations of improper conduct by the University’s former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Rathjen AO, and the University’s handling of those allegations.
The Commissioner has found that the former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rathjen, was guilty of serious misconduct for the purposes of the ICAC Act. No finding of misconduct or maladministration was made by the Commissioner against any other person.
The University has fully cooperated with all aspects of the ICAC inquiry, which began when the former Chancellor, Rear Admiral the Hon. Kevin Scarce AC CSC, reported the matter directly to the Commissioner.
The University of Adelaide is pleased that the ICAC statement has been released as it allows us to address the understandable public concern about the nature of the issues under investigation and to properly inform our own staff and the broader University community.
The conduct of the former Vice-Chancellor as outlined in the ICAC statement is unacceptable and does not represent our values or expectations of behaviour at the University from any staff member, especially our most senior leader.
This behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated, whether in a University, another workplace, or any part of our community.
We are particularly distressed by and apologise for the impact that the former Vice-Chancellor’s behaviour has had on others. We acknowledge that it has reflected badly on our University.
The University regrets the initial handling of this incident, which followed external legal advice given to the University. While Professor Rathjen’s actions were his own, we acknowledge that the way in which the matter was initially dealt with by the University was not appropriate.
The University accepts and will adopt all of the recommendations made by ICAC to improve our processes. We are already applying what we have learned to ensure that the University becomes a stronger, safer and more respectful place to work and study. We will use this very high-profile example to reinforce what is acceptable and what is not.
We are committed to maintaining and strengthening a culture and environment which allows students and staff to thrive, an environment in which individuals feel respected, safe, valued and welcome – that is our obligation as education providers and as an employer.
We have already resolved to commission an appropriately qualified and experienced person to conduct an independent review of our processes and our checks and balances, in relation to the accountability of our most senior leadership.
The University’s new Staff Values and Behaviour Framework has recently been embraced by a large senior leadership group and will soon be shared with all of our staff and titleholders. This framework helps to reinforce the values of our University and to ensure that those values are reflected in the behaviour of staff.
As Chancellor, I’m confident we will become a better institution from this experience. I firmly believe that our values and culture must be led from the very top. I am committed to ensuring this happens.