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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

SCU public advocacy course under attack

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SCU law lecturer Aidan Ricketts – Photo Eve Jeffery
SCU law lecturer Aidan Ricketts – Photo Eve Jeffery

Chris Dobney

Southern Cross University lecturer Aidan Ricketts has hit back at attacks from the big end of town on courses such as the one he teaches on activism and constitutional rights.

On Wednesday The Australian published an article titled ‘Degrees in activism put brake on growth’, in which Murdoch staffers Sarah-Jane Tasker and Paul Garvey questioned the heads of some of Australia’s largest fossil fuel companies about the courses.

They included representatives from Shell, Rio Tinto and even Whitehaven Coal, which has been the subject of an ICAC investigation and whose Maules Creek coal mine is one of the most controversial in the country.

Unsurprisingly, the businessmen were unimpressed by the existence of the courses, with Shell chairman Andrew Smith describing the graduates as ‘university students with degrees in activism’.

‘Challenging decisions will face more effective campaigns of public outrage, some of it based on confected outrage whipped up by university graduates armed with degrees in activism,’ Mr Smith told the newspaper. ‘But we cannot allow these dynamics to halt Australian progress.’

It’s not the first time Mr Ricketts has come under attack for running the public interest advocacy course. A gas lobby group launched a similar broadside against him back in 2012. But he believes the reaction by big business only highlights the value of the course.

‘It is certainly passing the screen test if Shell thinks there’s an outbreak of democracy in Australia,’ he told Echonetdaily

‘Large multinationals like Shell benefit greatly by employing university graduates as professional lobbyists that stalk the halls of all the parliaments in Australia and they have millions of dollars to donate to both major political parties,’ he added.

‘It seems extraordinary that they should have all that disproportionate power and then object to ordinary citizens being able to access information about the constitution, the legal system and how they can achieve greater transparency in government and corporate decision-making.’

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  1. We expect a university to at least offer such courses. In fact, we may need them to do more. The university has a responsibility to raise such challenges and self critiques for society.

    For example: From Barry Lopez
    ” a few years after Tech implemented the program in the Honors College, is requiring every student in that college to graduate with a course sequence in ethics and the same in biology. The idea is that every student must be exposed to studying the ethical consequences of their social behavior and the biological consequences of whatever they choose to do for gainful employment. I’m also working to establish an annual series of lectures in social justice there, to bring shows to the museum, and to conduct workshops.”

  2. A university course about asserting community rights and holding governments and business accountable. Dangerous …. next thing you know they’ll be teaching young people to think.

  3. I wondered when they would get round to attacking you Aiden. After all, you are far too fond of hitting nails on their heads.
    You know you will have reached the “big time” when Chrissy opines about you. After all, the “freedom is in our DNA” party only tolerates those that espouse their viewpoint.

    Keep up the good work……

  4. The people opposing this are those who want to ride roughshod over our communities in pursuit of their own self serving agendas.
    We need more informed, able community involvement, this is a good thing that enhances true democracy in our community.


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