St Thomas More College is home to 400 Perth university students who hail from regional and rural WA, interstate and overseas. The College prides itself on providing a safe and inclusive environment for all who live on campus.
Head of College, Tom Mitchell and Deputy Head of College, Bec Wood collectively have more than 22 years’ experience working in residential colleges.
“We are extremely proud of the culture here at St Thomas More College. Both the physical and emotional safety of our students is at the forefront of what we do here on campus. We believe that the culture here at St Thomas More College is inclusive and welcoming,” he said.
“This is in part due to the processes and values we have built over time here at Tommy More, but also due to the superb leadership and mentoring provided by our senior students: they being our Resident Advisors, Student Club Committee and Mentors.”
The College consistently strives to improve and recently, as part of a wider College Row initiative, instigated a thorough cultural review in response to some issues that had been identified in other states.
“We already had a significant number of longstanding initiatives in place putting student safety front and centre in all that we do. Of course, the purpose of the report was to find ways in which we can improve. We have identified a number of improvements that can be made across College Row as a whole, but overwhelmingly, what this report identified to us, is that College provides a safe and convenient home away from home,” he said.
The College Row report found that 97.1% of responding students across the Colleges feel safe on campus. Our goal, of course, is 100% and so we will continue to look at how we can improve the sense of safety for all” said Tom.
Below are some of the initiatives St Thomas More College has in place to promote the safety of all students on campus:
- Extensive Resident Advisor and Student Club Committee Training
Outside of office hours, 365 days a year, a Resident Advisor is placed on duty to offer assistance to students. To apply to become a Resident Advisor, students must complete the College’s Leadership Development Program which focusses on developing a paradigm of leadership predicated on emotional and social intelligence. Student Club Committee candidates generally choose to undertake this same training.
The prospective Resident Advisors undertake a rigorous application process that includes a written application, references and an interview.
Following their appointment, they undertake training with the elected members of the Student Club Committee. This training takes nearly two weeks and includes:
- Leading with emotional and social intelligence
- Two days of Mental Health First Aid
- One day St. Johns First Aid
- A.R.C (Consent and being an ethical bystander)
- Responding to Disclosures of Misconduct
- Responsible Service of Alcohol
- Red Frogs Leadership
- Operational Matters
- Fire and Evacuation Training
- Team Building
- Protective Behaviours
- Event Management and Managing Alcohol at events
This ensures that our College leaders are fully equipped to provide the best possible care to all students under their wing.
Our Resident Advisors all live on campus spread across the wings of the campus, so they are able to look out for the welfare of our residents more readily, even when they are not on official duty. The Resident Advisors hold regular ‘wing meetings’ to communicate and resolve any issues that might arise.
- A detailed Handbook that outlines acceptable and unacceptable behaviour
All students who enter St Thomas More College are required to fully read the student handbook, which covers, appropriate behaviour for people living within the Tommy community context. Clear and concise policies are important to facilitate a harmonious and safe environment for young adults who are often living out of home for the first time. Our aim is to create a safe, functional, and welcoming young adult environment.
The handbook is readily available at all times through the College website and linked within the weekly student newsletter that is sent to all students.
- Orientation Program that further demonstrates acceptable behaviour
Led by our Student Club Committee and overseen by the Head and Deputy Head of College who reside on campus, Orientation Week is often described by students as the best week of their life.
The College has worked hard to ensure that this week is welcoming for all students and sets the tone for future events on campus. Both Semester 1 and 2 Orientation Weeks include compulsory attendance sessions with College staff that provide students with education and guidelines for a happy and harmonious college experience for all students. These compulsory sessions also address key factors around the manner in which respect permeates every interaction at College.
- Red Frogs, RAC and UWA Health Promotion incursions
St Thomas More College has a number of incursions on campus, including an active partnership with Red Frogs Australia (whose aim is to support, serve and safeguard young people) and the RAC (focusing on alcohol and road trauma). The College also has a close partnership with the UWA Health Promotion Unit who visit regularly to promote alcohol harm minimisation and mental health initiatives.
The College employed a Resident Advisor specifically to implement programs in health and well-being as of 2018. The work done in this area has been invaluable.
The College believes these programs provide another level of education and guidance to students, over and above what they might receive should they live off campus.
- ¾ of events don’t include alcohol consumption
St Thomas More College has a number of personal and professional development programs for students, including a first-class leadership development program, career seminars, community service activities and Tell Me More Seminars (lectures with people of interest). These events are well attended by students. Of the social events held during O Week and throughout the year by the College and by the Student Club Committee, the vast majority do not involve alcohol. Whenever there is an event including alcohol, an alternative, concurrent event is run for those who would prefer that option.
Our students, as young adults, are invited to quarterly Formal Dinners, where staff and Resident Advisors are in attendance and monitor and model appropriate social behaviour in a context where alcohol is being served.
- Our Head of College and Deputy Head of College reside onsite
Both the Head and the Deputy Head at St Thomas More College reside on campus in order to provide out of hours support and guidance to all students, as required. Both Tom and Bec have young adult children who have been integrally involved in the life of the College.
While the College has CCTV and keycard access to all buildings and private rooms, students are also safeguarded by the mature adult presence on campus, with the Head of College residing at the back of the grounds and the Deputy Head of College residing at the front.
With the active role of the Resident Advisors, spread throughout the campus, and our Head and Deputy Head of College in such close proximity, students have much greater access to experienced guidance and support in comparison to students who live off-campus.
- An ethos of support and inclusivity
The staff and students at St Thomas More College have developed a warm and inclusive environment that provides support for all students, regardless of their background, year level, course or affiliations. This welcoming culture is a stand out feature of the College and a testament to the kind nature of the students on campus. The culture is one that Tommy More believes is unparalleled.
- Social Media and Publication Monitoring
While recognising that students who live on campus are young adults, internal student Facebook Groups and publications are monitored by the Deputy Head of College to ensure that they further support the values of the College and support the best interests of all students.
It is very rare that posts require moderating, as the Student Handbook, Orientation Programs and general senior student mentoring provide clear guidance with regard to responsible, safe and respectful communication.
This education provides students at St Thomas More College with invaluable tools for later in life when managing their social media profiles and career development.
- Partnership with the Student Club Committee
St Thomas More College is committed to maintaining its elected Student Club Committee, who operate as a collaborating association, with regular guidance, consultation and direction from the staff at the College.
This enables the Student Club Committee to act with the best interests of students in mind, provide a suite of events that enhance the student experience and offer a more approachable support system to residents.
However, through their extensive training, operational guidelines and close consultation with the Deputy Head of College, in particular, the College is able to ensure that the Student Club Committee models the ethos and values of St Thomas More College, and maintains a safe, secure and inclusive environment for all who live on campus.
The Student Club Committee submit Event Management Plans for all events and the safety of residents is paramount in that planning.
- Confidential reporting
Students are always encouraged to provide feedback and report any negative experiences they have on campus, which will be treated with total confidentiality.
At times, incidents are required to be reported to the Deputy Head of College, however senior staff and students are provided with in-depth training on maintaining confidentiality and although rare, dealing with incidents on campus.
The St Thomas More College handbook outlines processes for reporting a range of scenarios so as to provide clear and transparent processes, which in turn ensure an environment where all students feel heard, and have access to counsel and support when required,
St Thomas More College is proud to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students.