We need to change: Wesley principal

·3-min read

The principal of an elite Melbourne private school has apologised after allegations of sexual assault, harassment and disrespect by male students were made public.

Nick Evans, the head of co-educational Wesley College, said the school made an "unreserved" apology "to anyone who has been affected by this".

"We need to change and these boys need to change," he told reporters.

More than a dozen Wesley students and parents raised allegations of harassment and assault on campus with The Age newspaper on Friday.

In a letter to parents, Mr Evans said the allegations proved there was a "cultural issue that has clearly been in place for a considerable period of time" at the school.

"Sadly ... Wesley College is a microcosm of Australian society. We are not alone in this scourge," he said.

"We must face it with honesty, courage and a willingness to confront hard truths."

Mr Evans told reporters that until a few days ago he would have described Wesley as "respectable" place with "a sense of equality", but that he could not say that now.

"I'm personally devastated," he said.

Mr Evans and St Kilda Road campus head Kim Bence said the school had begun a phase of "deep listening" to better understand the experiences of students and how to support them.

More than 100 students attended lunchtime forums on Thursday, where Ms Bence was shocked by what female students shared about their experiences with male students.

"The enormity of what's happening on a day-to-day ... their interactions in corridors, in what I would classify as public spaces. That is where the real concerns lie at this stage," she said.

She confirmed the school had referred allegations of crime to Victoria Police in the past few days.

In cases where crime is alleged it was not appropriate to have a pastoral response, Mr Evans said, but there were other examples "indicative of atrocious attitudes towards the opposite sex" that would be treated with a disciplinary and pastoral response.

"We have to have an educative response here. We need to change and these boys need to change," he said.

"We need to say to them, 'what you have done is wrong and there are consequences', but we have to actually support that with a conversation about why it's wrong and how they should be behaving appropriately."

The school is in the process of engaging external trauma-informed psychologists and has employed education consultants to design surveys and facilitate focus groups.

It has a partnership with child protection organisation Bravehearts which will deliver "respectful relationships and personal safety" programs at the school.

Topics covered will include consent, confidentiality, bullying, internet safety, sexting, pornography, stress and how to seek help.

It comes after boys in Wesley uniform were heard making misogynistic statements towards women on a bus, hours after the March4Justice march at Treasury Gardens on Monday.

A number of students went on to boycott the uniform in protest of how the school handled the incident.

Wesley College was also listed in a national petition calling for "urgent reform to require sexual consent to be enthusiastic consent".