| International, Media Releases, Research, University Operations

International research and education remain at threat from proposed foreign relations laws

Research and education partnerships between Australian universities and international institutions remain at risk following the publication of the parliamentary inquiry report into the proposed Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill 2020, the Innovative Research Universities (IRU) group has said.

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee report, published today (5 November), considers the major problems for universities but does not recommend removing universities from the scope of the legislation.

Instead, the committee’s majority report attempts to address some weaknesses of the bill, including:

  • exempting some minor administrative or purely logistical matters from the legislation.
  • adding a definition of ‘institutional autonomy’ into the Bill.

IRU welcomes those two proposed changes but they do not go far enough to rectify the significant problems with the bill.

The Labor minority report proposes limiting the scope of the bill to agreements of sufficient standing to affect foreign policy or be an avenue for foreign interference.

In its submission to the inquiry, IRU called for universities to be exempt from the legislation, given the huge administrative burden of registering thousands of international arrangements including routine activity like student exchange visits and corporate licensing agreements.

IRU says if universities remain within the scope of the legislation, a spectrum of risk should be applied to each arrangement to ensure DFAT does not disproportionally focus its resources on routine and low-risk activity at the expense of proper monitoring of higher risk activities.

IRU looks forward to working with DFAT and the Government to get this Bill right as it progresses through Parliament.

Commenting on the publication of the inquiry report, IRU Executive Director Conor King said:

“IRU is concerned that, without significant changes, this legislation will signal death by red tape for many international research and student education partnerships.

“We have made a case that universities should be exempt from the new laws. If they continue to be included, the scope of the regulation needs to be considerably tightened to ensure the Government focuses its resources on high-risk foreign agreements, not routine activity.”

| Funding, Media Releases, Research

IRU celebrates new funding for research into Australian society, history and culture

IRU members are celebrating after winning $3.4 million of new funding for research into Australian and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society, history and culture – 29% of all the money awarded through the program.

Education Minister Dan Tehan announced yesterday that 14 IRU member projects will be funded through the Government’s Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture, an $11.8 million program managed by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

The IRU projects awarded funding include research into culture around the Murray-Darling Basin (Griffith University); the history of East Timorese migration (Charles Darwin University); cultures of drought in regional Victoria (La Trobe University); expanding Australian tourism to include more Indigenous walking trails (Flinders University); enriching Australia’s understanding of the beach as a critical zone of Indigenous identity (James Cook University); and participation of diverse groups in Australia’s digital cultural heritage (Western Sydney University).

Seven of the winning IRU member projects concern and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society history and culture, highlighting the IRU members’ focus at these important questions.

See a full list of successful projects

Mr Tehan announced funding for a total of 49 projects across Australia, representing a total commitment of $11.8 million over three years.

IRU members’ application success rate for the projects was notably high, with 13% of IRU projects successful in their bid for funding.

Responding to the news, IRU Executive Director Conor King said:

“I congratulate all the IRU projects that successfully bid for funding through this program.

“The outcome shows that Australian Indigenous society, history and culture is a particular strength of the members. The new projects now underway through this funding will make it even more so.”

IRU member SRI Projects

CDU                     Remembering East Timorese migration: History, memory and identity.

Flinders               A history of domestic violence in Australia, 1850-2020.

Flinders               ‘Slow’ digitisation, community heritage and the objects of Martindale Hall.

Flinders               A History of Community Health in Australia.

Flinders               Revitalising Country: The Lurujarri and Tjilbruke Walking Trails.

Griffith                Art at a crossroads: Aboriginal responses to contact in northern Australia.

Griffith                Fugitive Traces: Reconstructing Yulluna experiences of the frontier.

Griffith                Understanding the water cultures of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Griffith                Reimagining Norfolk Island’s Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area.

JCU                      Rangingur: a Yolngu digital art of renewal.

La Trobe             Parched: cultures of drought in regional Victoria.

La Trobe             Fire, Flood and Food: People and Landscape Change in Northern Victoria.

La Trobe             Indigenous Australia: A History of Documents 1770-2000.

WSU                    Seeing yourself in Australian digital cultural heritage.