30 July 2021
Melbourne university students protest the establishment of the Menzies Institute on their campus
Students are fighting back against a conservative think tank, the Robert Menzies Institute, set to open at the University of Melbourne in September. GSA, UMSU Education and NUS have endorsed the campaign to prevent the opening of the Menzies Institute in the historic Old Quad. The campaign calls on university students, workers and community supporters to join the protest on 18 August in opposition to the Robert Menzies Institute.
“We are building a mass campaign of students and staff against the Menzies Institute, just like the ones that defeated the obscene Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation,” said Monica Sestito, a campaign organiser and Education (Research) Officer at GSA. “And just like in those campaigns, we are demanding that students and staff determine what we learn, teach, and research – not external organisations with their own commercial and political agenda.”
The Robert Menzies Institute is the project of an explicitly partisan and extremely conservative think tank funded by the Liberal Party and big business: the Menzies Research Centre. This think tank rails against the rights of workers and oppressed people. Their influence is evident on the board of the Menzies Institute, which includes Georgina Downer and Peta Credlin. The Institute is thus a blatant example of private interest groups purchasing influence in the public sphere. It also demonstrates how unelected and unaccountable university administrations prioritise profits over the people universities are meant to serve.
“At a time when University management is firing hundreds of staff and cutting dozens of subjects, and the Federal Government is cutting funding to tertiary education by almost 10%, the proposed Menzies Institute insults both students and staff,” said Hannah Krasovec, UMSU Education Public Affairs Officer. “The Federal Liberal Government can pour $7 million into a right-wing political institute on our campus, but refuse to increase funding for our education. This money should be spent on our education and staff, not on setting up conservative think tanks on campus.”
“What’s more, University management has totally excluded students and staff from the decision-making process. This shows us where their priorities lie,” said Brendan Laws, Education (Coursework) Officer at the GSA and a campaign organiser.
The 18 August rally is just the beginning of a campaign that aims to embolden further fights for the university that we deserve. Show your solidarity with the campaign by signing the open letter and leaving a personal statement in opposition to the Menzies Institute. To get involved in the campaign and stay in touch with events, please follow them on Facebook.
Wednesday 18 August, 1pm, South Lawn at the University of Melbourne:
Monica Sestito (GSA Education Research Officer)
0435 357 508
Hannah Krasovec (UMSU Education Public Affairs Officer)
Jack Buksh (UMSU President)
Zoe Ranganathan (NUS President)
0411 606 808