Government intervention strips $4M from humanities researchers

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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.

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Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.