#collegesafety | Former ANU student successfully sues John’s College over sexual assault during ‘pub golf’ ritual

A former student has successfully sued an Australian National University college after a court found she was raped in an alleyway during a hazing ritual five years ago.

Warning: This story contains details about sexual assault which may be upsetting for some readers.

In a civil case, the ACT Supreme Court found the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was assaulted during a bar-hopping ritual called “pub golf” at Canberra’s John XXIII College (John’s) in 2015.

The former student argued the college failed in its duty of care by kicking intoxicated students off the premises during the event, in which bottles of alcohol were taped to the hands of participants who would have to drink a certain amount to make “par”.

Justice Michael Elkaim agreed, and today awarded the woman $420,200 in damages.

“I do not think the [college] can be held responsible for allowing the pub golf to proceed,” Justice Elkaim’s judgement said.

“I do think the defendant breached its duty of care in directing students to leave its premises and in the manner in which it dealt with the complaint.”

John XXIII College students taking part in pub golf in 2013.(Supplied)

Woman ‘a foreseeably vulnerable person’

Throughout the hearing the court heard the woman was raped by another student in an alleyway next to popular Canberra nightspot Mooseheads, after college staff kicked the intoxicated students off campus.

The case before Justice Elkaim was a civil matter, and the alleged offender has never been charged or tried for the criminal offence of rape.

The court heard that, on the night of the assault in 2015, students were heavily intoxicated and vomiting by 9:00pm.

A college staff member kicked the students off college grounds, before the group attended several licenced venues.

“She took no deliberate steps to place herself in a position of vulnerability,” Justice Elkaim said.

The woman’s lawyer told the court she woke in her own bed the next morning and found her jeans undone and underwear pulled down with no memory of the night before.

It was not until 10 days later that a close friend told the woman another student had been “joking” about having sexual intercourse with her in the alleyway.

“The plaintiff had sexual intercourse with another student who also resided at John’s,” Justice Elkaim said in his judgement.

“The plaintiff did not consent to this activity; in fact she was so intoxicated she has no memory of the event.”

Comments by college head ‘entirely inappropriate’

External view of John XXIII College at the Australian National University
A female students from John XXIII College told the ACT Supreme Court she woke in her own bed the next day, with no memory of what happened to her.(Supplied: Supri Dbee)

As well as failing in its duty of care, Justice Elkaim also found John’s College inadequately handled the woman’s complaint.

In his judgements, he described several comments made by the head of the college, Geoff Johnston, during a 2015 meeting with the woman, as “entirely inappropriate”.

Throughout the hearing, lawyers for John XXIII argued the college had banned pub golf before it was organised that night by its residents association.

Justice Elkaim instead found the college was “well aware of the appalling conduct that characterised the pub golf event and others like it but, by intended policy or feigned ignorance, condoned the conduct”.

“And a lure to students who thought these attributes were requirements of their introduction to adulthood and university life.”

Justice Elkaim described the former student as a “high functioning, high achieving, ambitious young woman”, who had now suffered “almost five years of distress combined with an abandonment of her hopes”.

The court ordered the college cover the woman’s legal fees.

The matter will return to court later this month when total costs will be decided.


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