Documents released under the Official Information Act have revealed a student living in one of Victoria University of Wellington’s (VUW) halls of residence died at the hall in January 2018.
Salient has received comments from a Residential Advisor (RA) working at Education House when the body of the deceased student was discovered there in January 2018.
That RA was the individual who tipped off Salient about the death this week, feeling that they needed to speak out following the recent death of a student in Christchurch.
Speaking to Salient, they confirmed that the death of the Australian student occurred in January 2018.
The RA is unsure whether the student was an Australian or New Zealand citizen, but said they understood his entire family “were all in Australia, and I think his family came in from Australia.”
This matches statements made by VUW to Salient.
The RA told Salient that they had received a call from the student’s mother in Australia, the Saturday morning before the body was discovered. She was concerned for her son’s wellbeing, and reportedly hadn’t heard from the student in a while. Credit card details showed he’d been purchasing lots of alcohol, which concerned her.
The RA says they checked on the student, who was alive at the point and seemed fine, but reported the concern to a hall manager to keep an eye on the situation while the RA was spending time away from the hall.
The RA received a text the following Wednesday, from a resident reporting a smell coming from the student’s room.
The RA told the hall manager the next day (Thursday), who handled it from there.
The coroners informed Salient that the case was still open, and so a report was not available. However, the RA says they were told by the head of hall that “they had ruled out suicide. So maybe they put it down as accidental death.”
The RA added that the head of hall had said “He just doesn’t seem like the person that would do that to himself.”
However, the RA told Salient that the death wasn’t publicised, that no media reached out to them, and that they “don’t think it would have been escalated to university [communications].”
Despite counselling provided to staff and students in the hall at the time, the RA told Salient how badly the death had affected them, saying “people don’t understand how disruptive it is to your life.”
“I still probably think I have PTSD from that, to be honest.”
“It really fucks you up.”
They said the Head of Hall apologised to them for the lack of training.
When asked whether they think there would have been significant changes to the halls since the death, the RA said that they “really really doubt it”.
In light of the death of the Christchurch University and Victoria University students, a VUW hall has said it has amended its annual awards ceremony to remove the “hermit” award.