Australian Academy of the Humanities Media Release

Welcoming strategic investment for humanities research

AAH News Media release

The Australian Academy of the Humanities today welcomed the establishment of a new Australian Research Council (ARC) Special Research Initiative (SRI) for research into Australian culture, history, and society announced yesterday by the Minister for Education, the Hon. Dan Tehan MP.

The focus of the scheme will be for research into “the way in which we live today and how the past has contributed to Australian society and culture, including how our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture is understood and has impacted modern Australian society”.

The $12M investment in Australia’s world-class research in the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) will help address the growing trend of disinvestment in HASS research, which the Academy’s research on the sector has highlighted.

“Researchers who work on studies of Australia, at the local, regional or national level, and in the past or the present, make a vital contribution to understanding human experience on our continent”, said Academy President Professor Joy Damousi FASSA FAHA. “At a time of great turmoil and uncertainty, humanities researchers provide historical and cultural context to the events and issues that are touching people’s lives today”.

“It is a welcome signal that the government values the leading role played by humanities researchers in helping to address these vital questions about who we are as a nation, and what we might aspire to be.”

ARC Special Research Initiatives are rare in the humanities. Preliminary data analysis undertaken by the Academy indicates that less than 2% of SRI funding has been awarded to humanities projects in the 2001-19 period. The National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network (2012) was a welcome initiative, but otherwise there has been no strategic funding since 2005.

“The under-investment in research on Australian culture, history, and society identified by the Minister must also be seen in the broader research system context. The pressure of international university rankings acts to privilege research that appears in highly ranked international journals, which can disadvantage those who work on issues of deep and direct relevance to Australia,” said Professor Damousi.

The Academy appreciates the questions from the research sector with regards to the process and funding source for this $12M investment, specifically that it will not take away from existing HASS funding for work focussed either on Australian studies or the rich and vital work about the world in which we live. The Academy’s understanding is that, as is generally the case with SRIs, funding will be drawn from within the ARC budget, and will not be sourced from existing HASS allocations.

“This looks to be a distinct opportunity for research into Australian culture, history, and society and a funding boost for HASS”, said Professor Damousi.

The Academy’s 8 Point Plan to Humanise the Future called on the Government to both address the $4.2M which was stripped from the sector via Ministerial veto, and to consider the design and effectiveness of publicly-funded schemes for HASS research.

“We note that the Minister has approved funding for previously vetoed projects in December 2019, and warmly welcome this injection of funds as a first step towards addressing some of the critical needs of the sector”, said Professor Damousi.

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