Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

Humanities answer Tehan

The latest financial impost on Australian universities by the federal government, the fees changes announced on 18.6.20, make an unprecedented attack on the crucial sector of disciplines in law and the humanities.

It is a matter not only of money but mentality, showing disrespect or worse, coming from evident lack of understanding of the ways of the human mind they are setting out to harm

The following short statement from the humanities and social sciences associations, as an open letter to the Education Minister Dan Tehan (picture), as might be expected is reasoned and exact.

Please take time to read.

It affirms the concern of many that  knowledge and skills from the humanities are now needed more than ever. It is a time to consult history to determine what has been happening in the world, literature to be able to articulate it, fields like psychology because of obviously widespread anxiety and confusion in the community, languages for essential communication, geopolitics for dealing with the Chinese, and so on; more essentially, to make possible enlightenment, freedom, the development of society through original constructive thought.




Att. Hon. Dan Tehan
Minister for Education

Dear Minister,

We are writing this open letter in response to the recent announcement by the Federal Government that student fees for university courses in society and culture, humanities, and communications will be drastically increased. You have justified this decision on the grounds of funnelling students into ‘job-relevant’ degrees. This is directly against the best advice and evidence that the skills provided by HASS study are increasingly important, in fact, essential to our future economy and society. Studying Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences equips students with highly valuable skills in critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication, advanced analysis and interpretation, and the ability to construct reasoned arguments and to question assumptions. These skills are important now more than ever as the world faces an uncertain future. The Arts and Humanities are the foundation of building a fair and prosperous society.

These changes you have announced will not help prepare the next generation for the future of work but will risk making the study of our history, society, culture and place in the world out of reach for all but the most wealthy students, at a time when this knowledge is more important than ever. Training in the Arts and Humanities must be accessible for all students, where equity, diversity and a plurality of voices are vital.

As academics who research, teach, and were trained in society and culture, humanities, and communications, we have seen first-hand the value of studying these fields to our students, and in turn to Australian and wider society. We note how many of our leaders across all sectors have HASS educations, including yourself and many of your parliamentary colleagues.
We condemn these fee increases and all that they represent. They are unfair and the greater burden you are placing on the next generation will only exacerbate widespread job insecurity for them. It will also add to the deep precarity felt by many of our world-leading HASS academics, and likely lead to a significant knowledge dearth at a time when Australia is in most need of these research leaders.
We welcome positive opportunities for university students in Australia, but not at the expense of those degrees that have been arbitrarily and incorrectly deemed irrelevant for employment. We call on you to provide equitable access to higher education for all young people, no matter what they want to study, not least of all because the demand for HASS skills from employers has dramatically risen in the past decade. To not do so would be an unconscionable attack on Australia’s future.


Dr Catherine Hoad, Chair, International Association for the Study of Popular Music, Australia-Aotearoa/New Zealand Branch (IASPM-ANZ).

Associate Professor Dan Woodman, President, Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS), and President, The Australian Sociological Association (TASA).

Associate Professor Tama Leaver, Vice President, Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR).

Professor Vicki Karaminas, President, Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand (PopCAANZ).

Associate Professor Elizabeth Stephens, President, Cultural Studies Association of Australasia (CSAA).

Associate Professor Sora Park, President, Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA).

Distinguished Professor Jen Webb, Australasian Association of Writing Programs.

Dr Alex Wake, President, Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia.

Dr Bettina Frankham, President, Australian Screen Production Education & Research Association (ASPERA).

Professor Will Christie, Director, Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres.

Dr Jonathan Hutchinson, Treasurer, Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA), and Secretary, International Association of Public Media Research.

Dr Tess Ryan, President, Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association (ACRAWSA).

Professor Joy Damousi, President, Australian Historical Association.

Associate Professor David Nolan, Vice-President, Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA)

Dr Adelle Sefton-Rowston, President, Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association (AULLA)

Professor Marion Maddox, President, Australian Association for the Study of Religions (AASR)

Associate Professor Lisa Wynn, President, Australian Anthropological Society (AAS)

Associate Professor Lea Beness, President, Australasian Women in Ancient World Studies (AWAWS)

Peter Acton, President, Humanities 21

Dr Timothy Peters, President, Law, Literature & the Humanities Association of Australasia (LLHAA)

Dr Julia Prendergast, Chair of the Executive Committee, Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP)

Dr Brendan Keogh, President, Digital Games Research Association, Australian chapter (DiGRA Australia)

Associate Professor Giselle Bastin, President, Australian University Heads of English (AUHE)

Associate Professor Chris Jones, President, and Associate Professor Clare Monagle, Vice-President, Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval & Early Modern Studies (ANZAMEMS)

Professor Noah Riseman, President, International Australian Studies Association (InASA)

Professor Stuart Macintyre, President, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (ASSLH))

If you are a HASS Association who would like to add your name to the above letter, please email [email protected].