As the pressure increases on the education sector in Australia to increase its level of support for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum, the University of Sydney is one of 15 Australian higher education institutions that have failed to take a position on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
25 of Australia’s 41 universities have expressed their support for the acknowledgment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution, while the remaining 15 universities have chosen not to take a position on the matter. The University of Newcastle is going to make its stance clear the following month.
The University of New South Wales, the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University, the University of Queensland, and the University of Monash are all in favor, however the University of Adelaide and the University of Western Australia have refrained from voting, despite top individuals secretly backing yes.
Mark Scott, the vice-chancellor of the institution of Sydney, and Belinda Hutchinson, the chancellor of the institution, stated that there had been “several lengthy discussions” among the executive about how the university should “best engage” in public dialogue. Both of these statements were made by the university.
“There have been different perspectives,” they remarked the previous week.
According to what Scott and Hutchinson stated, “there were concerns that a statement by the university indicating a position would… or seek to impose an institutional perspective on the individuals who form our community.”
“The highest priority is for everyone to be engaged in the democratic processes and informed on the key issues that are underpinning the referendum,”
The position taken by the leadership of the University of Sydney puts them at contrast with Indigenous faculty members who are in favor of the voice. One such Indigenous faculty member is the lawyer and member of the Voice Referendum Engagement Group Teela Reid.
The Indigenous Strategy and Services Portfolio of the institution, in addition to the Law School, has given a “resounding yes” to the voice.
The oldest institution in Australia has, in the past, taken a position of neutrality on contentious issues, such as the 1967 referendum on a constitutional reform in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the 2017 plebiscite on marriage equality, both of which required the institution to take a stance on the issue.
Reid stated that the leadership team “could have been much braver,” especially considering the fact that they both declared they would be voting yes in their personal capacities.
She stated that “what it represents is the way that ‘free speech’ gets weaponized in an Indigenous context,” and that “it’s not about giving a space for dissent” in reference to the statement.
“I believe that the ambiguity is appealing to a vocal minority. In and of itself, it constitutes a political statement.
Universities Australia, the top organisation for tertiary education, has similarly refrained from declaring an endorsement for the voice, which provoked outrage at its convention earlier this year.
At the conference, Professor Megan Davis, who is also the pro-vice chancellor for Indigenous Affairs at UNSW, stated that it was the “role of universities” to promote the voice campaign.
It has been said that “silence is political.”
The Minister of Education, Jason Clare, stated that colleges are “autonomous institutions that make their own decisions on matters like the voice” and that he welcomed any organization that supported a yes vote.
As he told Guardian Australia, “I welcome the support of any organization or individual that wants to recognize Indigenous Australians, listen to them, and ultimately get better results for them and the nation.” “I welcome the support of any organization or individual that wants to listen to them and ultimately get better results for them and the nation.”
Charles Sturt University (CSU), which was one of the most recent universities to support the referendum as a “historic opportunity” to recognize First Nations people, was one of the universities that joined in the last week.
It was stated there that “we know that we do best on First Nations matters when we genuinely listen to the voices of First Nations.” “We believe that the same is true for the nation.”
In the state of Victoria, eight out of ten universities have expressed their support, but in the state of Western Australia, just three out of five universities are in favor.
The universities in New South Wales are divided down the middle, however in Queensland only two out of seven of the state’s higher education institutions support the voice. Only the University of South Australia, which is located in South Australia, has a university that backs a yes vote.