These freedoms apply in the context of Australian law and university codes of conduct, which enable a wide range of diverse opinions to be expressed. Australian law prohibits hate speech, discrimination and incitement to violence.
Australian universities foster vigorous debate and encourage the contest of ideas in a respectful, professional and courteous manner.
In a statement from the Universities Australia Plenary, leaders from 39 universities reiterated their long-standing commitment to the founding ideals of our university communities:
“Australian universities restate our enduring commitment to academic freedom and intellectual inquiry. We also restate our enduring commitment to freedom of expression on our campuses and among our staff and students.”
Universities Australia Chair Professor Margaret Gardner said:
“Every day on campuses across our country, students and academics debate ideas freely, with respect for evidence and academic expertise, and engage with a broad diversity of views.”
“This lively culture of debate is alive and well in our nation’s university communities.”
This latest reaffirmation builds on the 2008 Universities Australia statement on academic freedom and the need to ensure teaching and research remains free of external interference.
That statement said:
“Universities have a special role as institutions dedicated to free, open and critical expression across the full scope of human knowledge and endeavour. Central to this role is the freedom of staff and students to teach, research, debate and learn independent of external political circumstance and pressure.”
Australia’s 39 universities nurture the skills of our students to debate ideas, develop their critical thinking skills, and engage with both views they agree with and views they disagree with.
We educate the next generation to engage with ideas, challenge themselves and others, and to do so using evidence and courtesy.
Both invited speakers and those who wish to protest the views of those speakers exercise their freedom of expression at such events.
We will continue to promote this thriving culture of debate and speech.