A security threat made via a phone call caused a mass evacuation at the University of Wollongong’s main campus on Monday morning.
Police and UOW staff remained tight-lipped about the nature of the call, or where it came from, and say it’s too early to rule anything - including a possible terror threat - out of the investigation.
What is known is that a UOW staff member received information about a threat about 10.20am and immediately alerted campus security.
The university’s campus-wide alert system was activated, with staff and students initially evacuated from every building across its Keiraville precinct.
Police were called and at least eight officers responded.
The threat was later isolated to Building 19, the arts building, where officers and UOW representatives conducted a sweep of the area.
Buildings in other parts of the campus were able to resume normal operations.
Acting Inspector Dave Parker, from Wollongong police, wouldn’t elaborate on what officers were looking for during the Building 19 “inspection”, only saying it “was the subject of the ongoing investigation”.
“In company with the staff of the university, who are familiar with the building, familiar with the environment, we go through and assist them and we search together,” Acting Inspector Parker said.
Also under investigation was the phone call itself.
“We are making inquiries, we have a number of leads,” he said.
Asked if any suspicious items were located during the search of the building, the officer said: “We found nothing to make us concerned.”
Despite the lack of police concern, UOW’s chief administrative officer Melva Crouch said it was too early to rule anything out of the investigation.
“I think I’d be rather foolish to do that at this early stage,” she said when asked if the university was not ruling out a potential terror threat.
Ms Crouch said the university’s security system “acted how it was supposed to act”.
“We do occasionally get random phone calls indicating particular threats, so we respond to them all as if they were extremely serious because obviously we have a lot of lives on campus on any given day,” she said
“I don’t want to preempt what the findings are going to be on this [police investigation], but it’s certainly not an incident that is extraordinary in its nature.”
Ms Crouch defended the mass-campus evacuation and said the process was under constant review.
“As you can see a lot of the campus buildings are very close to one another and I think erring on the side of caution is not a bad thing – to get people out of buildings and immediately adjacent buildings
“I think all buildings [being evacuated] was perhaps a little overkill, but how do you define overkill in a threat situation?”
Classes at UOW are yet begin for 2017. The new academic year starts on February 27.
However, Monday was the first of five Discovery Days at UOW, where school students are given the chance to experience university firsthand.
Despite there being “quite a few young people on campus”, Ms Crouch said the evacuations were “very orderly [and] there was no sense of panic whatsoever”.
The incident was resolved about 11.30am, when Building 19 operations were allowed to resume.