Australian academic promises freedom for Auckland Uni

University of Western Australia vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater

Contrary to Robert Muldoon’s famous quip, it seems that New Zealand is once again turning to Australians to raise its IQ. For the second time, an Aussie academic has been poached by a Kiwi university. This time, it’s New Zealand’s largest and most prestigious university, the University of Auckland.

University of Western Australia vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater is the second Group of Eight VC in a week to announce their departure. Professor Freshwater will leave in March next year to become vice-chancellor of the University of Auckland…

CEO of the [Go8 universities], Vicki Thomson…said Professor Freshwater’s new job “was Australia’s loss and New Zealand’s gain”.

“As the Go8 advocates on behalf of Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, it benefits from the fact that its chair, Professor Freshwater, is held in high regard by the Morrison government and that she has made such a strong international impact on behalf of Australia’s higher education sector.

“Notably, in the US in April, Professor Freshwater was the only Australian higher education representative invited to a small very high-level dinner meeting hosted by Australia’s ambassador and attended by President Trump’s chief of staff and his senior advisers plus representatives of Australia’s business community including Lachlan Murdoch,” Ms Thomson said.


As Whaleoilers will remember, another Australian is currently VC of New Zealand’s Massey University. Under her leadership, Massey has joined the censorship plague sweeping universities around the world.

So, how does Professor Freshwater stack up on the issue of free speech?

UWA was last year at the centre of a typical leftist deplatforming scandal. Paediatrician Quentin van Meter, who challenges the pseudo-scientific claims of transgender ideology, had been booked at an Australian Family association event at a university venue. Naturally, leftist students stamped their little feet and screamed blue murder.

Professor Freshwater’s first response was to ignore them and allow the event to go ahead. In the end, though, the AFA failed to provide correct documentation, as well as sufficient security for what would almost certainly be violence from left-wing students. The event was ultimately cancelled.

Nonetheless, Professor Freshwater is adamant that universities must protect free speech.

What happened here is similar to what has happened on university campuses around the world. It is indicative of a tension between the dogma of the censor and incitement. Neither of those things is welcome on campus…Majority and minority views and societal norms change over time. We should remember that – and that they will again evolve. Our polity would not evolve at all if the majority was always able to silence opposing voices.

Our nation’s commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires us to protect unpopular views, even if these offend or shock certain individuals or groups.]

Professor Freshwater is particularly critical of those who wish to violently enforce a heckler’s veto.

some groups see it as acceptable to be offensive in a way that attempts to silence their opponents, in order to get a message across about how offensive those opponents are…I do not believe that censorship of opinion is the right way to solve issues. Where do you draw the line in an organisation such as a university with diverse views – and who in the university should be the arbiter of which views are acceptable and which views are not? What happens if an individual still disagrees?

[…] Frankly, universities are not places to endorse freedom of ignorance.]


If Professor Freshwater puts these kinds of words into practice, it will be a welcome change in New Zealand’s academia. Australia’s loss may well turn out to indeed be New Zealand’s gain.