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Wednesday 22 March 2023 11:19am

Sophia Charter representatives of all stakeholders image
Representatives from all stakeholder organisations in front of the unveiled display, with Sophia's parents Bede Crestani and Elspeth McMillan (front row, far left).

A new display in Otago University's Ōtepoti Link reaffirms a wider community commitment to reducing harm to and enhancing the wellbeing of North Dunedin students.

The static display outlines The Sophia Charter, an agreement put together following the tragic death of Otago student Sophia Crestani at a flat party in 2019, and share information about Sophia's life and her parents' commitment to keeping tauira safe.

The Charter is a shared commitment from Dunedin stakeholders, including the University, Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), Otago Property Investors Association, the Dunedin City Council (DCC), Te Pūkenga Otago Polytechnic and the Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) and students.

The display also provides information about the two memorial scholarships in Sophia's name that will help support tauira in perpetuity.

An iPad is set up as part of the display inviting tauira to have their say on what can be done to make North Dunedin safer.

About 200 people attended the event on the University's Ōtepoti campus to launch The Sophia Charter website and the display, a new permanent feature within the Link.

Sophia Charter Bede Crestani and Elspeth McMillan image
Sophia's parents, Bede Crestani and Elspeth McMillan, together unveiled the ipad.

Sophia's parents, Elspeth McMillan and Bede Crestani, were joined on stage at the launch by a few of the remaining students at Otago with a personal connection to Sophia, as well as recipients of scholarships established in her name.

Mr Crestani told those gathered the goal of the Charter was to make the Ōtepoti Dunedin campus the “safest and best” in the country.

There had been a “ground swell” of improvements taking place within the campus community in the last couple of years, he said.

He noted there were still improvements to be made, and that it was a long-term goal for all stakeholders.

Together, Sophia's parents unveiled the iPad.

The event precedes the annual volunteer-led North Dunedin clean-up, a rubbish collection day, held on March 24.

University Student Services Director Claire Gallop says the display and website are the result of Sophia's family and stakeholders of the North Dunedin community coming together and renewing their commitment to supporting students in an environment that is both safe and fun.

Sophia Charter Hannah van Kampen image
Student, and Hold On To Your Friends representative, Hannah van Kampen makes use of the iPad.

It is hoped students would use the iPad to provide their ideas.

“We want tauira to know that we want to hear from them. Student safety isn't just about authorities putting systems in place to protect people, we need students to take responsibility for themselves too, and we want to hear from students about what we can do to help support them to do that.”

It also highlights the reality that student wellbeing is not one group's responsibility, but the responsibility of stakeholders and students.

A new initiative 'Hold On To Your Friends' aimed at creating a safer culture on campus - was also outlined at the launch by Sophia's friend, Hannah van Kampen.

Sophia Charter Mayor Jules Raddich image
Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich spoke at the launch event.

Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich told those gathered the event was personal for him, as his daughter knew Sophia and had been at the party the night of Sophia's death.

The display was not only a way to keep Sophia's memory alive, he said, but also a way for all Charter stakeholders to hear from students.

He said when students chose to study at Otago, it was never just about the classes that were on offer, it was about wanting to be a part of the vibrant student community.

The council wanted to work with students and for students to make the city a safe place for them to be.

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