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Council to enact all recommendations from independent review

9 June 2021

Kingston Council has announced it will accept all the recommendations of an independent review conducted into a recent presentation at Parkdale Secondary College.

Council engaged Hunt and Hunt Lawyers to conduct a thorough review into the Kingston Youth Services-run program, after concerns were raised about a presentation delivered at Parkdale Secondary College on 21 April 2021.  The review included in-depth interviews with Council employees and Parkdale Secondary College staff at the presentation. 

City of Kingston Interim CEO Tim Tamlin reiterated that Council was deeply sorry that the presentation had caused hurt to students and parents, and committed to making all the changes recommended as a result of the review, to ensure a situation such as this could never happen again.  

“The intention of our Diversity and Inclusion program has always been to bring people together, so everyone is included, heard and understood,” said Mr Tamlin.  “The independent review found the positive intent of the hour-long presentation was unfortunately lost due to a one-minute unscripted section.  We will be taking immediate steps recommended under the review to prevent this from occurring again.”

“We will implement all recommendations and provide additional staff training before resuming any school programs,” said Mr Tamlin. “We want students, parents, teachers and the wider community to be confident that any programs being delivered in our schools are respectful, non-judgemental and carefully considered.”

The review found that:

  • the presentation included a short activity that - while it was not intended to shame the students, to make them feel uncomfortable or to be malicious in any way - was unwise and an error of judgement
  • the activity asked students, if they were comfortable, to stand if they were white, straight males from Christian influenced households and told they belong to a group that holds the most privilege in this world.  When some students clapped this statement, the presenter responded with an unscripted off-the-cuff comment “no, that's not what we're doing here. The problem with having the most privilege is you're also the biggest oppressor.”
  • no-one else knew about the activity and consequently the school is not responsible for, nor endorsed the activity or subsequent comments.
  •  apart from the brief standing activity, which lasted 40-60 seconds, the remainder of the presentation was positive and valuable for students 
  • the off-the-cuff comment was a significant error of judgement by the presenter. 

The independent review provided four recommendations:

  1. Increased supervision of presentation content including activities.  
  2. Create a list of guiding principles i.e. treating all individuals with respect; being tolerant of all beliefs/values; refraining from singling out any particular groups (such as gender, race, religion, gender identity); and avoiding jargon/complex words.
  3. Consider any issues that might arise and design the program with care.
  4. Work from a script particularly on controversial issues to ensure consistent messaging and quality control.

Read the independent review Summary Findings and Recommendations. The final full report is confidential, subject to legal privilege.

As previously stated, Council will not be making any comments about employment or legal matters in line with our policy and privacy obligations as an employer.


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