Sophia Charter Display Launched

Sophia Charter Display Launched

Family, friends, and stakeholders present to commemorate

A new display was launched in the Link last Wednesday, March 8, in honour of the Sophia Charter. The event included speeches from Deputy Vice Chancellor Tony Ballantyne, Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich, representatives of the student group Hold On To Your Friends, and Sophia’s parents Elspeth and Bede.


All speakers acknowledged the “tragic wake up call” that the Sophia Charter was born out of, when Otago Uni student Sophia Crestani was killed in a stairwell crush in 2019 at a flat party, calling into question dangerous aspects of Dunedin student culture.


Mayor Radich indicated that the topic was “slightly personal” to him, as his daughter was friends with Sophia and present at the party where she died. He said that in this way, he could “deeply appreciate Bede and Elsbyth’s commitment to keeping Sophia’s memory alive through the Sophia Charter”, a document that he said “has the goal of a strong student neighbourhood, where residents take responsibility for themselves, each other, and the wider community.”


Jules also said that “whether it’s addressing issues of rubbish in the streets, increasing recycling opportunities, improving road safety, and providing resources to make flats warmer and healthier”, the DCC intend on upholding their commitment to the Sophia Charter however possible.


Hannah and Ben spoke on behalf of Hold On To Your Friends, a group formed by those who were close to Sophia. They spoke of how the Dunedin student culture was something “Sophia loved”, however, part of their group's mahi would be to “raise awareness around some of the dangers of student culture, and how to navigate it without missing out on anything.” The group will be running this year’s Sophia Charter Castle St clean-up, held on March 24, and encouraged anyone interested in joining to get in touch through their email (


Speaking to Critic Te Ārohi after the main event, campus cop John Woodhouse was optimistic about the future of student party culture: “I think we’ve all got a role to play. When we recognise a dangerous situation, whether that be police or the students themselves, we come together to resolve what is potentially a dangerous situation.” Speaking on how the recent (and notoriously overcrowded) Backpackers party was handled, he said that while a lot of people saw the event as “a negative” he thought the way that it was handled “was a positive.”


The new display in the Link includes an iPad where students can provide feedback and ideas through a new website. Tony Ballantyne said that the purpose of this would be to “give tauira the opportunity to provide us with their ideas on student well-being and safety. We want to enable the student voice so that we can all move forward together as a community.”

This article first appeared in Issue 3, 2023.
Posted 1:06pm Sunday 12th March 2023 by Nina Brown.