Freedom of Speech – why understanding society is vital to free communication

Despite not being explicitly captured in a Bill of Rights, freedom of speech is generally regarded as a core Australian value. Debates on this value have been felt across the social sphere, with examples seen through the creation of anti-vilification laws, raids on media headquarters and journalists’ homes, and the proposed freedom of religion bill. Arguments have also spilled into higher education with Australian universities being cited as failing to protect the freedom of expression of their student populations ‘no platforming’ movements and ‘trigger warnings’ presented as evidence of a crisis. Universities, and the very idea of ‘the University’, have become battlegrounds over the boundaries and definition of freedom of speech. While political narratives may present universities as hotbeds of ‘political correctness gone mad’, academics within the humanities and social sciences have unique and vital expertise needed by citizens to understand freedom of speech in Australian society.

Chaired by Professor Alphia Possamai-Inesedy, a panel of speakers including Associate Professor Lucy Nicholas, Dr Peter Bansel, Mr Joshua Pitt of Palgrave Mcmillan and Professor Adam Possamai will explore the inherent tensions of free speech through topics such as free speech & the university, religion, race and sexuality.


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