Sunday Times

  • March 9, 1997, p. 33

    UWA amends Rindos report

  • By Joe Poprzeczny

    The University of WA has ammended a key section of an internal report into the Rindos affair after complaints by at least one of the academics it criticised.

    The section referred to problems within UWA's controversial archaeology department and when they were first drawn to the attention of Vice-Chancellor Professor Fay Gale.

    UWA has claimed the changes, received by the senate two weeks ago, were "minor factual errors" but they were considered major by complainants.

    The report was prepared by St. Hilda's headmistress June Jones, Federal Court Judge Bob Nicholson, Water Corporation chief Dr. Jim Gill, and Wongan farmer Erwin Garrett-Lennard.

    Dr. Gill downplayed the amendments. He said they did not point to errors in the report.

    He said the report would not be altered.

    "We feel we didn't get anything wrong" Dr. Gill said. "We have just put in a few footnotes."

    "There are now a couple of things there by way of amplification."

    One of the footnotes carries a statement which unreservedly withdraws findings against two academics.

    The report claimed several academics failed to report problems in the archaeology department, headed by Professor Sandra Bowdler, before and during an 1991 review of her department.

    At least one academic, Professor Charles Oxnard made a written complaint to the Chancellor, Judge Geoffrey Kennedy, and pointed out contrary evidence existed.

    The report criticised Professor Oxnard and Professor Bob Parfitt, saying they had not re-directed student complaints about Professor Bowdler.

    A footnote now in the report reads: "This comment is unreservedly withdrawn."

    The report also criticised professors Bernard Moulden and Neville Bruce who, as members of the 1991 review, criticised Professor Bowdler's activities and management style.

    "Similarly, the review committee did not redirect the allegations made to them," the report said.

    A footnote now reads: "In relation to the review committee, recommendations one to three of their report (Moulden and Bruce) stressed the need for the Vice Chancellor to become involved.

    "Additionally, Professor Moulden and Associate Professor Bruce on January 16, 1992, wrote to the heads of division of agriculture and science and arts and architecture and the vice-chancellor, urging further action."

    The head of agriculture and science at the time was Professor Alan Robson, now Professor Gale's deputy, and Professor John Jory headed Arts and Architecture.

    A UWA statement released with the report said: "Once Professor Gale assumed direct intervention she set in train processes which ensured professional judgments were made in relation to the issue consistent with UWA's policies and procedures."

    The footnotes show Professor Gale was alerted to problems at least in January 1992 by professors Moulden and Bruce.

    Judge Nicholson's associate said: "His Honour does not wish to comment on the report."

    Dr. Gill and Judge Nicholson contacted UWA Registrar Malcolm Orr after being asked by the Sunday Times to comment on the footnoted amendments.

    Mr Orr said: "As secretary to senate I would again reiterate the committee was charged with examining the adequacy of university processes and procedures now in place and those in place in 1992.

    "Senate has accepted the report and therefore its recommendations.

    "The inquiry was an examination of university documents, not a fact-finding exercise, nor did it seek to apportion blame.

    "At its February 24 meeting senate, by way of footnotes, agreed to minor amendments to eliminate possible misinterpretation.

    "Professor Gale agreed to implement the report recommendations, some of which have been in place for some time."

    Until his death, Dr. Rindos had insisted that problems in Professor Bowdler's department existed before he reached Perth.

    In January, senior UWA administrators tried to have the report accepted by the senate but it was only received and noted.

    Some academics say there are likely to be more demands for changes to the report.

    State Parliament is investigating UWA's management and the removal of Dr Rindos.

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