Petition demands University of Tasmania terminate child sex offender's PhD study

The University of Tasmania says there is nothing it can do to remove a convicted child sex offender from studying at its Hobart campus.

A petition was started this week which demanded that the university ban Nicolaas Bester from the university campus and terminate his PhD scholarship.

Bester was jailed in 2011 for maintaining a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student while he was a teacher at St Michael's Collegiate.

He was sent to jail again last year for four months after bragging about the crime on Facebook while on parole.

During his parole period, Bester enrolled in a PhD course at the university.

Former National Union of Students women’s officer and University of Tasmania student, Heidi La Paglia, who started the petition, said that the university had put its own students at risk by letting Bester stay at the John Fisher student accommodation complex.

She said there had not been an adequate response to a complaint against him after an incident at the university gym.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Professor Brigid Heywood, said consideration over Bester’s place at the university had been considered “with great care, with the safety of staff and student as our highest priority”. 

“There is nothing in the university or government rules governing PhDs which precludes this student​​ from continuing with their research, but we have taken appropriate steps and will continue efforts to balance interests across the campus community,” she said.

"Measures have been implemented to mitigate concerns about this student, which include the student focusing their time on campus only in the facilities where the research project is based.”