Sydney University law ad falls foul of watchdog

The University of Sydney has had one of the billboard ads from its recent Unlearn campaign sanctioned by the ad watchdog for using material “which discriminates against a section of the community” in relation to ethnicity.

“Unlearn Criminal’ was labelled “offensive” for showing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander “women” gripping a fence with the words written over the top.

The unlearn criminal billboard: sanctioned for giving a racist impression

Responding to the complaint, The University of Sydney, said: “The advertisement does not depict Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women, nor does it depict a prison setting per se.”

The university argued the billboard uses the hands of children not women and the image used “does not allow the audience to identify the children depicted in the advertisement as belonging to any particular race or having any particular ethnicity”.

The ad watchdog agreed the hands appear to be “dark skinned” adding the word ‘criminal’ used on the billboard is prominent.

“The overall impression of the advertisement is that non Caucasian people are criminals,” the Ad Standards Board said upholding the complaint.

Answering to the ruling, the University of Sydney noted the advertisement has been taken down and the campaign period for ‘Unlearn Criminal’ has ceased.

The Billboard at a train station captioned “we’ve reimagined the way we teach, so our students can reimagine the world”


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