Stuart Kelly’s suicide ‘linked to O-Week hazing’: University college report

NSW police have imposed an exclusion zone around the campus.

NSW police have imposed an exclusion zone around the campus. Photo: Getty

The parents of Stuart Kelly, whose brother died in a one-punch attack, believe he may have been sexually assaulted or targeted in a sadistic college hazing ritual before he killed himself.

Stuart, 18, moved into St Paul’s College at the University of Sydney during O-Week in February 2016, but abruptly moved out the next day.

Ralph and Kathy Kelly believe their son may have been hazed and possibly sexually assaulted that night, before he committed suicide six months later.

It’s just one of the allegations in The Red Zone, an explosive 200-page report into hazing and sexual violence at university colleges from advocacy group End Rape on Campus Australia (EROC).

Mr and Mrs Kelly said Stuart hadn’t cried since his brother Thomas’s life support was turned off in July 2012, the catalyst for Sydney’s controversial lockout laws.

But he was crying when his parents picked him up the day after he moved in.

“He didn’t cry at the funeral. It was the first time I’d seen him cry since,” Mr Kelly said in the report.

Stuart never returned to college and began withdrawing from his friends. He never confided in anyone what happened at college, and died by suicide in July the same year.

A friend later told his parents in an email that he believed “something awful happened” to Stuart, who was “very hesitant” to talk about the “touchy subject”.

“I strongly believe that something terrible happened to Stuart while in university. He also told me how I shouldn’t look forward to university and that high school is a good experience but everything changes when you go into university,” the friend said.

“Because of this I have reason to believe something awful happened there and it could be likely that that contributed to his death. I think if the police were to look into anything, it should definitely be that. Stuart deserves justice.”

St Paul’s has refuted the allegations, which it independently investigated and found were “not substantiated”.

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 will not be tolerated.”

The report recommended a coronial inquest into Stuart’s death and his time at college.

It also called for hazing practices to be criminalised, for the federal government to roll out a taskforce investigating sexual violence at colleges, and for a review into NSW legislation that governs Sydney University colleges.

The Red Zone report

The Red Zone report, named after the annual spike in sexual violence allegations sprouting from O-Week, was released on Monday to coincide with the start of Orientation Week at the University of Sydney.

It found students habitually drink faeces, urine and vomit in hazing practices across the country.

Male residents at Sydney University’s St Andrews College were alleged to have repeatedly masturbated into female students’ shampoo and body wash, forcing women to inadvertently wash themselves in semen.

An annual ritual at St John’s College, also at Sydney University, involved red-headed men setting their pubic hair on fire in a bid to become unofficial college leaders.

Male residents at Sydney University also drank live goldfish at a formal dinner, according to the report.

While Sydney University colleges were the most notorious, the report said “bullying, misogyny and abuse” was not confined to the prestigious institution.

The report – made up of interviews, police reports, news articles, and hundreds of freedom of information requests – serves as an encyclopaedia of allegations made over the last 90 years.

“We’ve been able to chart almost a century of abuse, hazing and vile conduct at these institutions,” lead author Nina Funnell said.

“Today we are standing with all survivors of sexual assault and hazing from all colleges around the country, but especially the Sydney University colleges.”

Co-author Anna Hush said college cultures needed to be completely overhauled.

The Red Zone report shows that these poisonous cultures of violence and misogyny have been allowed to fester in these institutions for generations.”

Readers seeking support should contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

University’s Australia’s dedicated counselling hotline: 1800 572 224.

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