Students rebuked for playing the wrong sort of dress-ups

THE university at the centre of a scandal involving college students dressing up as "traditional" Aboriginal people at a cultural diversity dinner has condemned the behaviour of the young women as "culturally insensitive".

Fairfax Media reported yesterday that the group of eight Cromwell College residents at the University of Queensland (UQ) had painted their faces and limbs brown at the function last week.

The publication of the photo over online social media caused uproar in the indigenous community and forced an internal college investigation and the immediate introduction of cultural awareness training.

The university has distanced itself from the incident.

"The university is very disappointed and disassociates itself from culturally insensitive behaviour," UQ Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Education) Professor Cindy Shannon said.

"UQ is committed to educating all its students about the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and the best ways to celebrate and value those cultures.

"We are working with the college on an education plan to ensure that cultural sensitivities are understood and acted on appropriately," she said.

"This incident involving a few students at a college function is not representative of the wider university community."

Cromwell, a co-educational residential college established in the 1950s, had previously defended the students' behaviour, saying they were acting out of ignorance rather than any desire to mock indigenous culture.

The students were depicted in the photo – taken last Tuesday – with wild hair, holding sticks and wearing material fashioned into makeshift loincloths.

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