The Forum

Paradigm Shift 4ZZZ 102.1 FM Friday 22 Feb 2019 at noon

ForumA meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged. From Latin, literally ‘what is out of doors’, originally denoting an enclosure surrounding a house; related to fores ‘(outside) door’
– Oxford Dictionary

The UQ forums were open to anyone who dared to speak, to dissect, mock or defend the government, war, conscription, the education system, capitalism, civil rights. The number of speakers grew to include a quite stellar cast of lecturers and students of various persuasions. The audience grew too, and over time this created an almost communal setting, a public space that belonged to the students and university staff.” – Annie Richards in Demonstrating defiance.

UQ Forum, a student space
On Monday lunchtime about 100 people turned up to hear a wide range of speakers defend the UQ Union Complex. Many passers-by listened in, so did security guards and officals from union and university administration. The rally was chaired by Jeff Rickertt, an historian and librarian at the University.

Munnenjarli and Biri Gubba man, Sam Watson, spoke about a songline that goes through the University over land never ceded by first nations people. Sam spoke of the failure of the University to record this in any way to show respect to first nations people.

Speakers challenged the role of the University and the billion dollar business it has become, its conservative and racist roots in empire turned into an uncritical degree producing factory serving industry and capital.

In contrast Queensland state parliament outlines its conception of what the role of the University is in “Functions of university in the University of Queensland Act:

The university’s functions are—
(a) to disseminate knowledge and promote scholarship; and
(b) to provide education at university standard; and
(c) to provide facilities for, and encourage, study and research; and
(d) to encourage the advancement and development of knowledge, and its application; and
(e) to provide courses of study or instruction (at the levels of achievement the senate considers appropriate) to meet the needs of the community; and
(f) to confer higher education awards” – University of Queensland Act

Jeff Rickertt introduced the forum
Jeff said that the forum is a student space, that should be owned and controlled by students. He said that the forum was once a university within the university. Rickertt criticised the assumption of the University administration that it can decide how the space is used. He criticised the Vice-Chancellor and his administration for colonising a space that has been in the hands of students and their union since 1960.

Sam Watson gives welcome to country
In his welcome to country, Sam Watson spoke of the connection the Aboriginal community has with the Forum at UQ, how there was a conference on racism held in the union buildings in the early 1970s and how his Uncle Ross Watson set up the first Murri radio at 4ZZZ studios under the refectory.

Di Zetlin talking on an educated mind
Di argued that the University should produce an educated mind that is critically engaged and analyses what we do on a day to day basis. In the forum 50 years ago Zetlin said that we were asking questions about the Vietnam War and how an authoritarian corrupt government claimed to be a strong government (sending young men to their deaths in a futile imperialist war).

The Tyger
Speakers posed alternatives. For example former Lecturer in English at UQ, Dan O’Neill, argued that the University administration had refused to discuss or justify its corporatist approach to tertiary education. He said that a University is a place of reasoned argument and reliance upon evidence that informs people how to act in the world. He quoted from John Henry Newman about the important of the Forum:

It will give birth to a living teaching, which in course of time will take the shape of a self-perpetuating tradition, or a genius loci, as it is sometimes called; which haunts the home where it has been born and which imbues forms, more or less, and one by one, every individual who is successively brought under its shadow.” – from ‘On the scope and nature of University Education’ by John Henry Newman 1852.
Dan O’Neill said that UQ (along with Monash Uni) had been foremost in challenging critically the mainstream view of society. He referred to a document ‘Up the right channels‘ that had been published as a result of discourse in the UQ Forum, a document that challenged the role of the University in society and analysed each department at the University.

O’Neill even invoked the famous poem by William Blake asking whether the forum and the buildings around it came out of real contradictions in the university. He quoted:

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

– William Blake, The Tyger

1967 arrest sheet

‘The day of the political street march is over’ – Qld premier Joh Bjelke-Peterson.

This statement by Petersen was a lie because people never stopped marching for political objectives on the streets of Queensland. They challenged his ban with defiant civil disobedience.

At the forum there was some reminiscing about past struggles. There was mention of the anti-vietnam war protests, the defiant civil liberties march of 1967, the anti-racist strike at UQ against the Springbok tour in July 1971; there was mention of the democratic right struggles from 1977 to 1979. Rosemary Severin spoke about the civil liberties coordinating committee (CLCC) organising defiant marches against the ban on street marches by the Bjelke-Petersen government.

The democratic rights struggle of 1977-79 was the longest sustained period of civil defiance in Australian history with many marches and over 3,000 arrests. The one exception to this is aboriginal resistance to colonisation that has lasted over 230 years.

During the state elections in 1977 there were a total of 219 arrests, 197 on the eve and 12 on election day. Assembly, marching and organising were banned by the government of the day culminating in over 3,000 arrests in a two year period from 4 Sept 1977 till July 1979.

Election Day 1977
In this photo members of the CLCC are being confronted by police and media after a march from the UQ forum area into King George Square where 197 people were arrested in the ‘valley of death‘. Queensland police are telling democratic rights activists to leave the central square in Brisbane on election day 12 November 1977, thus denying them one more democratic space, a forum for their ideas and calls for action against uranium mining and export, for women’s rights, for aboriginal land rights for a better world without capitalism.

Dan O’Neill (centre), to his left in the background is Harley West, to his right is Malcolm Bell, and to his left beside the film camera is the author, Ian Curr. Date 12 Nov 1977. Photo: Stephen Zaborowski.

SEQEB Dispute
At the forum Professor Carole Ferrier remembered how, in 1985, 3,000 SEQEB workers and their supporters prevented Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen from being presented with an honorary doctorate of laws by Qld Governor Ramsay. The forum area raised the importance of the SEQEB dispute with students and staff of the university.

Save the UQ Union Complex (SUQUC) put its defence of the forum and all that surrounds it in a leaflet widely circulated during Orientation week 2019:

UQ management’s disregard for democracy and its history seems calculated. Its plan would trample on the democratic legacy of the thousands of students, staff and others who made this precinct the most important site in Queensland for defending civil liberties and social rights during the autocratic and corrupt rule of Johannes Bjelke Petersen. Not content with awarding Bjelke Petersen an honorary doctorate of laws in 1985, the university management now seems hell bent on erasing the very place where democracy, independent culture and critical media were kept alive during his premiership. It’s Joh-style ‘progress’ all over again; the same vision of progress that justified the demolition of the Bellevue Hotel, Cloudland and Her Majesty’s Theatre on the grounds they were ‘old’ and ‘run down’.

This rally has been called to say NOT AGAIN. We are a group of current and former UQ students and staff and concerned citizens committed to preserving this site both as a democratic space for students and an important piece of Queensland heritage.

NTEU and UQ Councillor call out University Administration

The University of Queensland accepts controversial philanthropic funding from the Ramsay Centre and Dow Chemicals who made naplam for use against the Vietnamese people. Ramsay is a think tank headed by former Liberal PMs Howard and Abbott set up to introduce new Western civilisation majors, despite an emphatic rejection of the idea by union branches and universities of Sydney and ANU. The University of Wollongong has accepted the Ramsay proposals.

At a meeting on 6 February, Queensland members of the National Tertiary Education Union demanded that the university withdraw its expression of interest in establishing a partnership with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. The NTEU said a “packed” lecture theatre had overwhelmingly endorsed the resolution, with just one person voting against it.” – John Ross

Former PM Howard on board of Ramsay Centre

At the forum on Monday student councillor Priya De spoke out against Ramsay’s ‘buying space’ in the humanities for racist propaganda.

As if to spit in the eyes of those that organised the forum, the University Senate passed a resolution that evening to accept the Ramsay Centre on campus. The Ramsay Centre is a colonialist version of what a university stands for, drawing on a European history that underpins colonial exploitation and theft of land from first nations peoples.

The University in effect can be bought by the highest bidder as shown during the Dow Chemicals $39M purchase of a space at UQ to promote its business. The corporate University is a privatised space with intellectual freedom sold for the dollar.

In these circumstances the University of Queensland (and like tertiary institutions) should have its right to confer degrees taken from it.

A national database should be introduced to confer higher degrees on students by an independent public authority.

Down City Streets by Archie Roach
Black Boy by Coloured Stone
On the chain by Jumping Fences

Ian Curr
27 Feb 2019

Paradigm Shift on demand …

3 thoughts on “The Forum”

  1. As the University embarks on its biggest capital investment program yet, we are at a crossroads. To keep pace, and remain in the top 50 global teaching and research universities, we need to make significant investments over the next five years in spaces that work better for our students, staff and partners. As part of this investment we plan to build more student-focused teaching areas; new collaboration and innovation spaces; and more inclusive recreational environments and services.

    World class universities such as Columbia, Manchester and Singapore’s Nanyang, along with ANU, Melbourne and Monash in Australia, continue to invest heavily in similar facilities because they are committed to the very best for their students. At UQ we share this sentiment. We also know if we don’t make this investment now, we will start to lag behind our Australian and global counterparts in attracting and retaining the best and brightest students, staff and researchers.
    So, we need to be wise about where and how we invest in this ambitious program – prioritising what will most benefit our students and staff, and help deliver our strategic vision.

    Our consultations with students and staff called out the urgent need to prioritise investment in a new student complex and a contemporary performing arts space. In response we ran some preliminary workshops with the UQ Student Union, representing the student voice, and our staff to better understand their views and what is needed.

    As a direct outcome of these workshops, the University is considering two major infrastructure projects to submit to Senate, costing in excess of $300m – a new Student Hub and a new performance venue annexed to the UQ Art Museum.

    The proposed new Student Hub would replace the existing student complex, and provide a vibrant eastern gateway to the campus. It would include:
    • more than 1400 new informal learning seats for students to hang out, work together on ideas and projects, and partner with industry on joint opportunities
    • an employability service that showcases career opportunities and prepares students with the skills for tomorrow’s workforce
    • additional 1500 student learning spaces, to provide innovative and collaborative environments necessary for new approaches to teaching, which will prepare students better for an ever changing workplace
    • dedicated space for student support services in key areas such as health and wellbeing, accommodation and specialist workshops, and 1800sqm for the UQ Student Union and their clubs and societies, to create a more vibrant, supportive and inclusive environment
    • an entrepreneurship studio supporting students to turn ideas into reality
    • improved choice of food and retail outlets to enrich the student on-campus experience.
    The proposed new performance venue would be a shared facility to accommodate space for teaching, along with student performances and broader community events. While further conversations with staff and students are planned, we know the precinct will need to include facilities that allow for music concerts, theatre performances, films and lectures.

    These projects are in addition to the development of new student leisure and services space at Building 41, including a new home for the Red Room, and the upgrading of the nearby Natural Amphitheatre, which we announced last September.

    To make these essential investments possible, the new student complex would need to replace the existing student complex and Schonell Theatre.

    The existing complex was originally built in 1960 when our student population was less than 10,000. Even if it were upgraded, it could not accommodate the needs of the 53,000 Queensland, interstate and international students that choose to study at UQ each year.

    We have considered alternative options. These have included upgrading the current complex but, this would not sufficiently meet the needs of future generations of students. It would not deliver the connected and integrated experiences students expect today, and it would not provide the much-needed contemporary teaching and performance spaces.

    If Senate allows these projects to proceed, we will continue to partner with our students and staff to co-create two new facilities that meet the expectations of entrepreneurial and hyperconnected learners, and provide enhanced cultural experiences for students, staff and the wider community.

    We know many people feel strongly about the Schonell Theatre and the student complex, and we would like to better understand their views and how we can acknowledge these as we continue with our planning.

    We have a responsibility to the future generations of students to make the right investments today to deliver a world-leading learning environment for decades to come. I believe choosing to replace the current student complex with a new Student Hub and a new performance venue to be the right way forward.

    So, to the 11,000 new students joining us this week, our existing students and staff, I ask for your support of our University on this ambitious journey. In the coming weeks we’ll be engaging further on these proposed projects.


    Professor Peter Høj AC
    MSc, PhD DUniv FNAI, FTSE

    Office of the Vice-Chancellor
    The University of Queensland
    Brisbane Qld 4072 Australia

    T +61 7 3365 1300
    E W


    1. In 2009 Prime Minister Rudd sent Office of National Assessments (ONA) chief, Peter Varghese, on a sensitive mission.
      Varghese’s job was to repair damage done by racist attacks on Indian students in Melbourne.
      To make matter worse Victorian police sent around inflammatory emails about tasing Indian students.

      Rudd’s motive was that Indian and Chinese students are a cash cow to Australian Universities and Rudd did not wish to damage Australia’s International competitiveness in the Education industry.

      Retired High Commissioner to India and Bhutan, Peter Varghese, is now Chancellor of the University of Queensland. Ten years later Peter Varghese and his Vice Chancellor, Peter Hoj, are still protecting UQ’s international competitiveness by spending $300M on a new student complex to attract high fee paying students from India and China, by accepting $40M from Dow Chemicals former CEO and taking big bucks from the racist Ramsay Centre.

      Priya De (UQU student rep) gives her take on the VCs extraordinary steps to make more money for UQ.

      AONA – Australian O


  2. Dear students,

    UQ’s Vice-Chancellor, Peter Høj, has recently released a statement regarding the replacement for Schonell at UQ. It is my firm belief that students should continue to run the theatre on campus, as outlined below in my press release responding to the Vice-Chancellor’s statement. If you want to discuss Schonell or the UQU redevelopment, please feel free to email me at

    Students must continue to operate replacement Schonell Theatre

    The University of Queensland Union can only support the replacement of the Schonell Theatre on the condition that the new performing arts space is operated by UQ Union.

    In the original Student Complex redevelopment plan, Peter Høj and UQ were silent as to the future of Schonell.

    The attitude of Peter Høj and UQ only changed when student union representatives presented them with 8,000 signatures on a petition to ‘Save Schonell’ and what it represents at UQ.

    Since UQU constructed and began operating the Schonell in 1970, the theatre has been a bastion of creative arts, critical debate and political independence at UQ.

    Throughout the 70s and 80s, Schonell housed 4ZZZ, a radio station unafraid to expose the corruption that was rife within the Bjelke-Peterson government.

    In the present day, Schonell showcases UQ’s vast and diverse performing arts scene, presenting student-run plays that often speak frankly about UQ and its associates.

    The Union fears that UQ does not share our willingness to engage the student body in discussions around controversial topics, like the Taiwanese Film Festival that we facilitate.

    Even if UQ were willing to showcase critical and independent material, we fear that a donor or external interest who disagrees with a production could pressure UQ to shut it down.

    The Union believes that the independence, critical thought and genuine student voice which has flourished within Schonell’s four walls will cease to exist within a theatre operated by UQ administration.

    In light of this, the Union will only support a replacement of Schonell Theatre on the condition that it continues to be operated by UQU, the independent student union elected by students every year.


    Kind regards

    Georgia Millroy
    University of Queensland Union | UQU


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