Northern Territory Senator Jacinta Price says students at Charles Darwin University told her they “no longer feel welcome” and are “being ostracised” because the university decided to support the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
On Thursday Englishheadline Australia’s Matt Cunningham revealed that the university had counselled Associate Professor Bea Staley over an email she sent to speech pathology students telling them they “might want to reflect deeply on whether a career in allied health in Australia is really for you” if they don’t support the Voice.
Speaking to Englishheadline Australia, Senator Price said the professor’s actions were “effectively bullying”.
The prominent No campaigner then revealed that students at the university had previously raised concerns with her about the pressure to support the Voice at the institution.
“I’ve been contacted, my office has been contacted, by students of Charles Darwin University prior to obviously this email, who have been concerned that they no longer feel welcome at their own school,” Senator Price told Sharri Markson on Thursday night.
“They no longer feel like they have the freedom to discuss – certainly this issue – and that they are being ostracized because the school, the University, took the position to support the Voice.”
Professor Staley sent the email to the university’s pathology students on Sunday along with a statement from Speech Pathology Australia indicating its support for the Voice.
“As you know, CDU has also taken the stance of a Yes vote,” she wrote.
“The speech pathology courses at CDU have been created with notions of equity and social justice at their core, we will be voting Yes.
“If you feel you are unable to vote Yes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights, you might want to reflect deeply on whether a career in allied health in Australia is really for you.”
The professor described the October 14 referendum as “Australia’s Brexit moment”.
“If we as Australians seek to move towards reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we must vote Yes,” she said in her email.
“A Yes vote will not make up for the atrocities of colonisation, but it is certainly a step in the right direction for a more humane and just Australian society.
Senator Price said the email represented a “leadership failure” from the university.
“I would call on the vice-chancellor Scott Bowman, to correct this to ensure that this sort of pressure isn’t applied to students by their lecturers,” the senator said.
“I mean, universities are supposed to be spaces where debate is encouraged, where universities don’t take a position, a political position, on an issue.
“But evidently, the university has not allowed for this sort of environment to occur at it, and I don’t think that is right.”
CDU vice-chancellor Professor Scott Bowman has rejected professor Staley’s claim that No voters should reconsider their career choice and said the staff member would be counselled.
“We respect everyone’s right to hold their own views regarding the referendum,” he said.
“CDU has actively provided a platform for discussion and the exchange of well-informed ideas and points of view.
“We know that people who vote no will still make excellent healthcare workers.”