I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of country and pay my respect to their elders past and present.
I’m proud as the newly elected federal member for Grayndler to have the Sydney College of the Arts in my electorate and I’m proud to stand with these students.
Sydney is a great global city and global cities value culture.
They value the enrichment that the arts give.
It’s appropriate that this demonstration of students and supporters of SCA take place outside the Archibald awards that are taking place inside the Art Gallery of NSW, because this magnificent institution has produced Archibald winners.
This magnificent institution makes a difference to Sydney. A global city such as Sydney needs enrichment, it needs the arts, it needs diversity. What it doesn’t need is the commercial imperative overriding the cultural need of this city.
And that is precisely what we are seeing here. The idea that Sydney College of the Arts is the same as an urban design faculty, the same as other institutions at UNSW and serves the same purpose, misses the whole point. The whole point.
SCA is also a focal point of the inner west community. The Callan Park master plan, which the State Government has refused to proceed with, sees the Sydney College of the Arts as being the catalyst for other arts and cultural activity at the Callan Park site.
Not only have the students of SCA not been given any certainty about their future, or what will happen to them from 2017, but the local community, the businesses of Darling St and Balmain Road that rely upon the students and the teachers for their living.
The residents of the inner west who are looking for Callan Park site to build the diversity and build the cultural activity around there, are concerned also about whether this is just an opportunity for a sell off of that land, or inappropriate use of that land.
The students I have met with have told me about the specific value of the site, such as the print area that is available there, that has been used for many, many years.
Art is something that you can’t always just put a dollar figure on. Just like human interrelationships and human activity can’t always be measured by the dollar. Human relationships are about much more than that, and that’s why the struggle of the students is about more than just them.
I pay tribute to them, because what they’re fighting for is the very nature of the way that we regard society; of the way we regard education, and; of the way that it’s more than something that just benefits the individual. It benefits all of us.
But what we’ve seen here from the university hierarchy, and I’ve written to Mr Spence on this issue, is again an institution such as Sydney Uni, that I’m a proud graduate of, being reduced to activity that is more and more commercial. That more and more, sees education as a transaction between an individual and an institution rather than something that benefits the whole of society.
So I say to the students here; congratulations. You look fantastic. And the local community stands with you in this struggle. This issue must be revisited and it must be revisited in the interests of students, in the interests of the community, but most importantly in the interests of this great global city and our reputation as a centre of arts and culture.
Well done. I stand with you and I will continue to stand with you on this issue
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.