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Rapist's promotion at James Cook University to be reviewed

A Queensland university that promoted a staffer after he raped a student has drafted in the woman who found "pervasive" sexual harassment among federal police, to review its culture.

An external review is underway into how James Cook University allowed Douglas Steele to be appointed academic adviser in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Centre and remain there even after pleading guilty to the 2015 rape of a female Indigenous student.

Former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick will be responsible for reforming the school's approach to sexual assault and harassment on the tail of a review into how Steele's case was handled.

Ms Broderick led a review into the Australian Federal Police that found 46 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men reported being sexually harassed or abused.

The university has already acknowledged failings but denied senior staffers knew about the charges, laid in October 2015, or eventual guilty plea in September last year.

JCU confirmed he was given the academic adviser role, which came with more money, in early 2016.


"JCU acknowledges that there has been a failure of our internal processes," Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Chris Cocklin said in a statement on January 21, several days after the 33-year-old was sentenced to two years' jail.

"Those who did know that Douglas Steele had pleaded guilty to rape failed to report that information to the appropriate staff within the University.

"As a University, we take full responsibility for serious mistakes that have been made.

"Had the appropriate people known about Mr Steele pleading guilty to rape, he would have been immediately sacked.

"Had the University been aware of the rape charge facing Mr Steele, he would not have been appointed to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Centre."

An external, independent review is picking apart how the matter was handled, including the timeline of how the matter unfolded.

A spokesman declined to reject News Corp reports a senior staffer was told in 2016, saying it would form part of the review.

Ms Broderick has now been brought in to review the findings of the initial review, to be completed soon, and examine its culture, sexual assault and sexual harassment policies.

"I look forward to collaborating with JCU on this important review. We will examine the University's policies and engage with key stakeholders to ensure JCU is implementing strong and effective responses to sexual harassment and sexual assault, and fostering a culture of respect, inclusion and safety for all," she said.

Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Chris Cocklin said the Broderick review, to begin in March, would follow closely the university's own investigation.