What HASS wants: a seat at the policy table

Among all the lobbies whose agendas come with a cost, peak humanities groups want something more valuable from the new government – respect

The Australian Academy of the Humanities states, “the government’s ambitious agenda will need the humanities at the table, bringing the cultural, creative and ethical expertise Australia needs more than ever (via Twitter yesterday).

To which the Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, “lends its voice … we are looking forward to real change in coming months and years for our sector.” (also Twitter, yesterday).

DASSH specifies three areas where it wants change.

* the previous government’s Research Commercialisation Action Plan (“a comprehensive set of reforms to boost collaboration between universities and industry and drive commercial returns”), which rather leave HASS out.

*  the Jobs Ready Graduate Package (presumably the bit that jacked up student charges to $14 000 a year for HASS and bized, while reducing nursing, teaching, maths and psych to $3500

* new arrangements at the Australian Research Council, which include no humanities members on the recently created CEO advisory committee and no repeat of December’s ministerial veto of funding for six ARC recommended HASS research projects

While the first two involve exclusion from funding overall the deans apparent primary concern is with what DASSH has described as the then government’s “continued disregard for important areas of Australia’s intellectual culture and life,” (CMM January 24).

The deans want it to end. Thus DASSH chair Catharine Colebourne (Uni Newcastle) issued a statement to “leaders and members” of the new parliament, yesterday, “without arts, humanities and social sciences research we would not be using languages to build peace and diplomacy in our region, or have our current social institutions forging democracy. We would have little shared conceptual knowledge of our nation’s ancient histories and Indigenous cultures.”

Given the calculated contempt ministers in the previous government displayed to the humanities, supportive statements by in-coming minister Tanya Plibersek would help assuage anxiety – at no budget cost.