Government intervention strips $4M from humanities researchers

AAH News Media release, Policy & Research

The Australian Academy of the Humanities today expressed its shock and anger at the news that former Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, personally intervened to strip the nation’s humanities researchers of over $4M in funding that had been approved through a world-renowned peer review process of funding.

During the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee estimates hearing yesterday, under questioning by Senator Kim Carr, it was confirmed that the former Education Minister intervened by rejecting 11 humanities Australian Research Council grant applications.

“The Australian research funding system is highly respected around the world for its rigour and integrity” said Academy President Professor Joy Damousi FASSA FAHA. “Political interference of this kind undermines confidence and trust in that system.”

“The rigour of that system and the competition for funding means that only exceptional applications make it through the process” said Professor Damousi. “A panel of experts have judged these projects to be outstanding, yet that decision has apparently been rejected out of hand by the former Minister.”

“This interference damages Australia’s reputation on the world stage. Withdrawing funding by stealth threatens the survival of a strong humanities teaching and research sector, something no democratic society can do without.”

“The secrecy under which the Ministerial intervention has occurred should be of grave concern to the entire research community, not just to humanities scholars”, said Professor Damousi. “This interference is entirely at odds with a nation that prides itself on free and open critical enquiry.”

The Academy calls on the Morrison Government to restore the funding to the humanities sector and support the high quality research it has arbitrarily rejected. Political interference in the research grants process constitutes a fundamental attack on the integrity of our research funding system.

Media enquiries

President, Professor Joy Damousi president@humanities.org.au


Media interviews with Academy President

University fury over minister’s secret veto on research grants The Australian (paywall may apply) (27 October 2018)
ABC RN Late Night Live (5 November 2018)

Sector responses

Responses from the sector, presented alphabetically and not exhaustive:

Academy of Science EMCR Forum
Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia
Art Association of Australia and New Zealand
Asian Studies Association of Australia
Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes
Australasian Association for Continental Philosophy
Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies
Australasian Association of Digital Humanities
Australasian Association of Philosophy
Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres
Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities
Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy
Australian Academy of Science
Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering
Australian Council of Learned Academies
Australian Historical Association
Australian University Heads of English
Group of Eight
Innovative Research Universities
National Tertiary Education Union
Science and Technology Australia
Universities Australia