Statement on the Advertising Standards Bureau decision

1 February 2018
The University of Sydney respectfully disagrees with the Advertising Standards Bureau's decision regarding 'Unlearn Criminal' and issues the following statement in response.

“The University of Sydney is disappointed the Advertising Standard Bureau has chosen to stand by their decision and uphold the complaint against Unlearn Criminal, one poster of eight in our Unlearn campaign, despite an independent review recommending they reconsider.

We respectfully disagree with the decision. The interpretation of the advertisement as discriminatory is not at all aligned with the values of our staff, students or alumni, nor the intent of the campaign.

Our market research showed that there was a strong understanding of the ‘unlearn’ concept and how it applies to the University’s new undergraduate curriculum, and 67 percent of our target audience groups reported feeling more positive about the University as a result of seeing the campaign.

We are surprised and disappointed at the outcome, but nevertheless stand by the work of our academics the campaign aimed to highlight.”


When we asked research participants what the 'Unlearn criminal' poster was seeking to communicate, responses included the following:

  • "Trying to teach that asylum seekers should not be treated as criminals and locked up."
  • "That widely held assumptions about 'criminals' and asylum seekers need to be challenged to progress."
  • "Refugees are not criminals."
  • "Studying at Sydney Uni gives students a fresh perspective and open mind about issues such as wrong and right."
  • "Changing our notions of what was traditionally seen, or is sometimes still considered, criminality, by depicting what looks to be refugees."