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Academic freedom crucial at Australian Universities

Statement to The Australian newspaper

Please find below my statement to The Australian newspaper following a decision by the Council and Executive of the University of Melbourne to support an Indigenous Voice to Parliament at the upcoming constitutional referendum.

The Council and Executive comprise the most influential group of people working at the University of Melbourne.

I trust that the university will honour its promise to facilitate an informed public debate and not influence academics and students which would seriously compromise academic freedom and freedom of speech.

Academic freedom is a fundamental foundational principle of a university.  It protects the rights of academics and students to engage in free, robust speech which is vital to critical thinking and the development of new ideas.

The role of all educational institutions in our democracy is to teach Australians how to think, not what to think. Learning environments should present a balance of all arguments.

Academics who don’t believe in free speech have no place at Australian universities.

I remind the university’s Executive and Council that it is one of 41 Australian universities which agreed to policies aligned with the academic freedom Model Code developed by the Hon Robert French AC, a key recommendation of the Coalition’s 2019 Review of Freedom of Speech in Australian Higher Education Providers.

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