Report details university hazing rituals

A new report has detailed humiliating hazing rituals at Sydney University's residential colleges.
A new report has detailed humiliating hazing rituals at Sydney University's residential colleges.

Student safety advocates say hazing must be criminalised after a disturbing report detailed long-running sexual humiliation and other rituals at Australian universities.

The report, released on Monday, describes a series of rituals aimed at new students during what's been dubbed The Red Zone, a reference to orientation weeks meant to familiarise newcomers with life at their universities.

But the report's authors say O-week ends up being a dangerous and degrading experience for too many students, particularly when it comes to sexual assaults and alcohol consumption.

The Red Zone report describes rituals including male students masturbating into female students' shampoo and body wash bottles.

Others include students being encouraged to post graphic and embarrassing photos about their sexual activity online.

It also details games where students are egged on to consume more than a dozen drinks without a bathroom stop, causing them to wet their pants, and practices such as locking new students in bathrooms and tipping vats of dead fish on them.

Former Sydney University student Tori Dixon, who attended St John's College in 2013, said she had a positive time at college, but believes hazing will always be part of the experience.

"I never saw anything, but then again I don't think I saw anything because the people I was hanging out with were just harmless fun kind of people," Ms Dixon told AAP.

"To me, to be honest, it just sort of seems like something that always happens and I think a lot of people go to Sydney colleges knowing that this stuff happens."

The report includes case studies at 12 universities, including all eight of Australia's leading universities, and much of it is not new.

Its authors say nothing is changing and students continue to be exposed to toxic and dangerous environments.

"While there have been dozens of attempts over the years to stop the abuse over this period, sexual assault and hazing activities have continued," one of the report's authors Nina Funnell told the ABC.

She wants hazing criminalised and a federal taskforce to investigate what's going on in such colleges.

One of the case studies deals with Sydney student Stuart Kelly, who took his own life four years after his older brother died in a one-punch attack in Kings Cross.

His parents are demanding an inquest and suspect something catastrophic happened to their son on the one night he stayed at Sydney University's St Paul's College.

The college says it has investigated Mr Kelly's death and has found no substance to allegations he suffered something terrible at the college.

It insists "there is not a culture of hazing" at St Paul's, but rather a "very positive, warm and welcoming community".

"The college is committed to the values of respect and dignity, including equality of respect for women and men, and actions inconsistent with these values are not tolerated," it said in a statement.

Nevertheless, Sydney University said it would support a coronial inquest into Mr Kelly's death.

Universities last year vowed to overhaul how they responded to sexual assaults and harassment after a report by the Human Rights Commission in 2016 found 1.6 per cent of students from Australia's 39 universities were sexually assaulted in the previous two years.

Australian Associated Press