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‘Disappointment and disbelief’ after Morrison government vetoes research into student climate activism’

‘Disappointment and disbelief’ after Morrison government vetoes research into student climate activism’

boy holds sign

We developed a proposal for funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) between 2019 and 2021. The purpose of the project was to examine the mass student climate movement and its relationship with democracy.

We learned this Christmas Eve, a few weeks ago. TwitterThe ARC had recommended that our research proposal be funded, but Stuart Robert, acting Education Minister, vetoed it.

Robert also Five other were vetoed humanities projects. He did so The grounds they “do not demonstrate value for taxpayers’ money nor contribute to the national interest”.

This Political intervention is a problemMany reasons. Chief among them, it breaches key principles of academic autonomy and – in our case, also silences research working with young people on a crucial policy issue.

boy holds sign
This decision will stop young people from researching climate change issues.
Darren England/AAP

‘Freedom in research and training’

Nearly 1,000 universities have signed the agreement in 94 countries since 1988. The Magna Charta Universitatum, ten of which are from Australia. The charter affirms the most fundamental values of university traditions.

In practice, it means a university “must serve society as a whole” and that “to meet the needs of the world around it, its research and teaching must be intellectually independent of all political authority and economic power”.

Central to the charter is that “freedom in research and training is the fundamental principle of university life”.

The ARCThe National Competitive Grants Program is administered by the Australian Research Council. It provides approximately $800 million annually to Australian researchers.

The Process of ARC grantsIt involves multiple rounds of rigorous review by internationally renowned scholars. The ARC then makes recommendations to the education minister on which proposals should be funded and what budget should be used. The final funding decisions are made by the minister.

The Morrison government ClaimsIt wants to protect academic freedoms. It was commissioned A 2019 reviewFreedom of expression and intellectual inquiry in higher educational.

However, Robert’s veto of the ARC’s decision to fund six projects is a clear breach of the core principle of academic freedom.

What’s more, it’s not the first time Morrison government education ministers have ridden roughshod over the funding processes of the ARC and university research.

Simon Birmingham was founded in 2018-19 vetoed11 research grants were recommended by the ARC. In 2020, Dan Tehan vetoed five.




Read more:
ARC grants: Australia must stop interfering in basic research if it wants to tackle the major issues.


man touches head
Robert’s veto is a clear breach of academic freedom.
Lucas Coch/AAP

A significant new phenomenon

The project we proposed for ARC funding was titled “New possibilities: student climate action and democratic renewal”. It involved working with young people to study a significant new phenomenon.

Millions of students have worked tirelessly as advocates, leaders, and organizers for climate action since 2018. They have taken part in school strikes for climate change and other actions. Legal actions. We estimate that around 500,000 students from Australia have participated online in the school strike movement. Streets.

This project was created to document these actions and establish:

  • why young people participate

  • What activities do they pursue?

  • What we can learn about the movement to address climate changes and strengthen our democracy




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Seriously ugly: here’s how Australia will look if the world heats by 3°C this century


Our project would have provided vital new information on a global phenomenon. It had the potential for addressing declining trust in government and dissatisfaction in democracy. It also provided new insights on engaging young people in climate change learning and responding.

It also offered jobs for early-career scientists already struggling with cripplingly precarious employmentThe university sector.

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Our proposal was based on extensive academic research and previous scholarship by the research group. It was connected to a global research network exploring young people’s climate politics and broader possibilities for democracy.

The process of developing the proposal required hundreds of hours spent researching, writing, editing, and consulting with professional staff from five universities.

To be worthy of funding, the ARC must have concluded that the project has passed the criteria. National interest testThat and more It was worth the money.

Importantly, we do not have a formal right to appeal the decision.

students walk and yello at protest
The project was designed to provide more information about the student climate movement.
James Ross/AAP

‘Disappointment and disbelief’

The minister’s intervention is a serious blow to Australia’s reputation for research excellence and its commitment to academic freedom.

The Morrison government has also sent a negative message to Australia’s young people – essentially saying research into their views on climate change is irrelevant.

We asked students who we work with to respond to the government’s veto, and they stand with us in disappointment and disbelief. Audrey, aged 10, participated in climate action.

“I personally think that the vetoing was to stop the research from public view to make the government look better, as they aren’t doing enough on climate change. Another main reason why the vetoing is so bad and unfair is that the government is sending the message that young people’s views aren’t important to both young people and the community.”

It is urgent that we make changes to ensure academic freedom, autonomy, and independence of the process are not subjected to political interference in the future.

Addressing urgent and complex problems such as climate change involves research across the full spectrum of society – and that includes Australia’s young people.




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Ministerial interference is a threat to academic freedom and Australia’s literary heritage




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