The NTEU Policy Manual contains the Union's policy position on a broad range of topics. If you want to know what the Union thinks about an issue you will find it on this page. Each policy is determined by the Union's National Council, a body of over 100 members with representatives from every Branch, which meets once a year.

You can download a full set of the Policy Manual but beware it is a very large file, and we recommend that you browse our policies on this page.

About NTEU

About NTEU

Role and Objects


NTEU was formed in 1993 from an amalgamation of five separate unions that represented general and academic staff in higher education, TAFE and adult education in Australia.

As an ‘industry union’ NTEU represents all employees in academic and general/ professional classifications. No other organisation in Australia is able to speak with a unified voice in support of tertiary education and allied institutions and the unique and vital public interests they serve.

The broad purpose and role of the Union is to advocate for, and represent the rights, interests and welfare of members in the industrial, legal, political and social spheres.

The objects of NTEU are specified in NTEU rules and can be summarised as to:

  • Improve and protect the living standards of its members as well as their conditions of employment, working environment and professional interests;
  • Promote the work of tertiary education institutions in Australia and preserve their independence and integrity;
  • Foster the process of intellectual debate within the Australian community;
  • Defend and promote the rights of members to teach, research and disseminate knowledge and information without fear of reprisal;
  • Promote the concept of equal opportunity in employment and eliminate all forms of discrimination in tertiary education and in all spheres of the Union’s activity; and
  • Create and maintain an informed public opinion concerning tertiary education institutions and their staff

NTEU seeks to fulfil its role and advance its primary objects through industrial and political activity on behalf of members.  In this sense, there is no separation between the Union’s lobbying and policy work, our work on professional issues and our work on salaries and conditions of employment. Political activity, including socially responsible citizens’ actions as defined in NTEU rules, and acting in solidarity with other unions and organisations to advance social justice and environmental sustainability is part of this role.

The effectiveness of this role derives from the industrial strength and level of organisation of our membership.  It is affected by the legal framework in which we operate, by the funding and other policies of governments, and by the industrial approach taken by employers in our industry.

NTEU’s membership has many common interests with the membership of other unions in Australia and internationally.  NTEU therefore seeks the maximum level of co-operation with other unions, with the ACTU and with international organisations in pursuing common objectives, such as Education International.


The Union is organised across three levels: the National Office, State and Territory-based Divisions and workplace-based Branches in each of the nation’s 38 universities, as well as Branches covering members in ACE (Vic), TAFE (Vic), Research Institutes, Navitas, RACGP and College of Law.  


Our permanently staffed workplace-based local Branches in universities are a feature unique to NTEU in the Australian trade union movement.  
NTEU is a highly democratic member-driven union with elected Branch Committees, Division Councils, and a National Council comprising representatives elected by members on a two-year cycle. Council meets annually in October.  At each Branch, the highest decision-making body is a general meeting of members. A Branch Committee comprising elected representatives of members governs the affairs of each Branch in between general meetings of members. Each Branch also elects National Councillors, who also have the role of Division Councillors. This mechanism ensures that each Branch is represented on the relevant State or Territory-based Division Council. 

National Council 
National Council consists of members directly elected from Branches (in proportion to the number of members at each Branch), three full time National Officers, the eight State and Territory-based Division Secretaries plus three Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander National Councillors and members of the Executive. National Council has a total membership of about 130 delegates. 
National Council is the supreme decision-making body of the NTEU and has the critical task of setting the Union’s budget for the forthcoming year. 

National Executive 
The National Executive is composed of the three full time National Officers, eight Division Secretaries, the Chair of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Policy Committee and ten ordinary members elected from the floor of the National Council (elected for a two-year term). 
National Executive meets six times per year and is responsible for running the Union between meetings of National Council. 
A ballot is held at National Council every two years to elect ten ordinary members of the National Executive. From these, National Council elects a Vice-President (Academic) and Vice-President (General Staff). 

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Growth and Recruitment

NTEU believes that its ability to effectively meet its goals and objectives is affected significantly by the level of its membership across the country, and in each Branch of the organisation.  Strong membership levels provide a base of support in each workplace that can be organised in pursuit of the Union’s objectives.   

Recruitment of new members and retention of existing members is therefore an essential part of organising, and a key consideration in all the work of the Union.  As a consequence, recruitment and retention is a role expected of all Elected Officers, Delegates members and staff.   

Recent union surveys of new members indicate that a large proportion of these members joined the Union on recommendation from a colleague.  This underlines the importance of workplace union representatives or Delegates in maintaining union density.  It also means that positive stories in the workplace about union campaigns or assistance to individuals contributes to the recruitment and retention effort.  

NTEU believes that members need to be supported in their workplace through a combination of campaigning, promotion, and individual member assistance.  These efforts need to be balanced to ensure that members see and feel the union is there for them when they need it. 

Membership growth requires that retention of members must also be a key priority and focus.  Around 50% of new members leave the Union within 3-4 years.  Those that stay members beyond this time are more likely to stay members for a significant period.  While many membership departures are a result of normal churn associated with changes of employment, creating a relationship with each member is important to reduce attrition, and to encourage departing members to re-join the Union when they are re-employed in the sector. 

As a consequence, recruitment efforts expected of Elected Officers, Delegates, Members and Staff include: 

  • Direct face to face contact with potential members;
  • Using the delivery of a new member’s kit to introduce new members to the Union: give members a sense of belonging to a collective; seek to reduce member turnover; and, to identify interested members for possible future Delegate roles;
  • The conducting of workplace meetings and training/information sessions for specific work groups, work types, and staff with common experiences and needs;
  • Contacting members who have resigned without explanation to assess their reasons for resigning, and seeking to retain them as members;
  • The delivery of pay rise leaflets (including membership forms) to potential members;
  • The maintenance and regular updating of non-member databases for mapping, campaigning and recruitment purposes on an annual basis as a minimum;
  • The regular distribution of union communications including emails, printed newsletters, and maintenance of the Branch websites;
  • Identifying, recruiting, training and supporting Delegates in all workplaces; and
  • Providing guidance to local union leaders and Delegates about their role in these activities.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Support for Treaties

NTEU endorses the unanimous resolution from the 2018 NTEU Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander National Forum where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates moved to continue the NTEU campaign to see treaties negotiated between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Crown. 

NTEU understands the 2018 ACTU Congress resolution (Voice, Treaty and Truth Telling) was an attempt by the ACTU Indigenous Caucus to bring together the range of perspectives expressed at consultations around the nation. 

NTEU accepts the ACTU resolution supports a process to progress treaties, truth telling and a broader community ‘campaign to ensure a strong, self-determining, First Nations voice’. 
The Statement from the Heart advisory voice to Parliament does not have majority support from grass-roots Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and cannot be supported by the NTEU Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Caucus and Policy Committee. 

NTEU affirms in unequivocal terms, resolute conviction and overwhelming support for the continuation of the NTEU national campaign to see treaties negotiated with all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and ensure appropriate resources are allocated to successfully achieve treaties, truth telling and robust representation. 
NTEU believes the progression toward treaties must be advanced and to progress this, the NTEU National Office organise and conduct a national/international conference on treaties and the development of potential models/frameworks that will progress treaties in Australia.

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Public Policy

Public Policy

Academic Freedom Policy


Intellectual and academic freedom are essential and defining characteristics of autonomous and publicly accountable modern universities. 
In the university context, intellectual freedom refers to the right of all staff and students to freely hold political and intellectual views and values and express them publicly, without fear of reprisal or retribution or restriction by university policies and procedures. 

Specifically, intellectual freedom includes the right, without fear of harassment, intimidation or unfair treatment, to: 

  • Express opinions about the operation of the university and higher education policy more generally;
  • Pursue critical open enquiry and to discuss freely, teach, assess, develop curricula, publish and, research within the limits of their professional qualifications, competence and professional standards;
  • Develop, interpret and administer policy and procedures within the limits of their professional qualifications, competence and professional standards; 

  • Participate in public debates and express opinions about issues and ideas related to their discipline area or area of professional expertise;
  • Participate in professional and representative bodies and to engage in community service; and
  • Express unpopular or controversial views. 

  • Discuss, teach, assess, develop curricula, and engage in community service; 

  • Research and publish;
  • Publish and speak in public debate constrained by a responsibility to reflect scholarly standards; 

  • Express opinions about the institutions in which they work or are enrolled;
  • Participate in representative bodies such as the NTEU; and
  • Participate in decision-making structures and processes within the institution. 

Intellectual freedom rights do not include any right to vilify, harass intimidate or otherwise act unlawfully nor are they intended to protect any person engaging in these forms of behaviour from the operation of relevant laws. 

That said, NTEU does not support the use of managerial tools such as requirements to follow reasonable and lawful directions as a manner of circumventing or inhibiting academic freedom. 

NTEU preferred terminology in describing the rights and responsibilities of members of the university community to freely engage in teaching and research without fear of reprisal is academic freedom. The term academic freedom also applies to the rights and responsibilities of universities with respect to promoting and maintaining their commitment to free inquiry, institutional independence and the autonomy of their academic governance. 

Academic freedom is not limited to academic staff. It represents a multifaceted set of principles, rights and obligations that apply to all members of a university community engaged in academic pursuits including teaching, research and community service.  Academic freedom has international currency and consists of a series of rights and privileges which have been framed over a number of decades and articulated in a range of formal statements, including:

  • The 1940 American Association of University Professors’ Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure;
  • The 1997 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel;
  • The 1998 International Association of Universities Statement on Academic Freedom, University Autonomy and Social Responsibility; and
  • The 2005 Academic Freedom Statement of the first Global Colloquium of University Presidents.

The International Labour Organisation’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow Up (June 18, 1998), Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No 87) and Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No 98) are also relevant as academic freedom includes the freedom to participate in representative bodies such as the NTEU.

The Higher Education Support Act 2003 was amended in 2021 to include a definition of academic freedom, based on the definition proposed by Robert French AC in his Report of the Independent Review of Freedom of Speech in Australian Higher Education Providers.  The Act also requires universities to have a policy on academic freedom and freedom of speech, which can be based upon the Model Code proposed by French.

Importance of Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is an essential and defining characteristic of the modern university.  The creation, advancement and dissemination of knowledge can only occur within an environment that defends the rigorous free exchange of information and ideas and the freedom to hold, receive and disseminate ideas without restriction or fear of reprisal. 
Academic freedom entails the rights of members of a university community, without administrative constraints or fear of retribution, to freely:  

  • Discuss, teach, assess, develop curricula, and engage in community service; 

  • Research and publish;
  • Publish and speak in public debate constrained by a responsibility to reflect scholarly standards; 

  • Express opinions about the institutions in which they work or are enrolled;
  • Participate in representative bodies such as the NTEU; and
  • Participate in decision-making structures and processes within the institution. 

At the institutional level, commitment to academic freedom requires the university to: 

  • Assert institutional autonomy, and in particular the right to determine for itself, on academic grounds, its research and teaching practices and priorities;
  • Protect and support staff participation in university governance and representative bodies such as the NTEU;
  • Protect academic integrity above the private or corporate interests of third parties. In receiving support from corporations or other private interests, higher education institutions must not compromise their autonomy and independence, or that of their staff; and
  • Support its staff and students in advancing knowledge, ideas, theories and technology, and in serving society at large.
Academic freedom does not include the right to engage in unlawful discrimination, vilification or harassment. NTEU believes in academic rigour and the observation of scholarly standards. 

Academic freedom does not provide protection for actions undertaken in a staff member’s personal life or personal capacity. However, NTEU does not believe that universities should unreasonably regulate or control staff members’ personal lives. 

Like other important academic functions like promotion and publication, NTEU believes that the arbiter of academic freedom should be the staff member’s peers, and not administrators or managers. 

Challenges to Intellectual and Academic Freedom 

NTEU notes the cumulative threats to academic freedom and free intellectual inquiry from both within and outside Australian universities. These include: 

  • Stricter performance management; 

  • The casualisation of the workforce in higher education, which puts workers in a more vulnerable position and more likely to self-censor or not fully engage their right to academic freedom;
  • Institutional plans to strategically concentrate research strengths; 

  • Institutional directions to staff to publish (or not publish) in specific journals;
  • A public policy climate adverse to public transparency particularly in relation to freedom of information, freedom of political speech on campuses, protection for whistle-blowers;
  • A public policy climate increasingly willing to make exceptions to academic freedom on grounds of national security interests; and
  • The propensity of universities to prioritise profitability, reputation and financial viability above core academic values, and to characterise as misconduct the exercise of academic freedom that may put those priorities at risk, including, in particular, the use of behavioural regulation such as codes of conduct, to pursue this agenda.

Governments also intervene in the exercise of academic freedom by:

  • Making funding contingent on achievement of the government policy objectives; 

  • Ministerial interference in the allocation of research grants through bodies like Australian Research Council;
  • Legislative changes that remove staff and students from structures of institutional governance. 

There are additional pressures on academic freedom and academic integrity as result of universities’ increasing reliance on income from sources other than government funding. 
Funding arrangements between universities and external organisations, including commercial partners, can restrict the ability of university staff to speak freely and critically about controversial issues. These funding arrangements can also constrain criticism of university management or that of external partners in the fear it might harm future funding.

Universities must adopt a principled approach in these circumstances, and must always follow the policies and procedures established to ensure academic rigour and quality. All such policies and procedures must be endorsed by both the workers and the Union. Academic governing bodies, and staff more generally, must be meaningfully consulted about commercial partnerships from as early as possible, to ensure quality and accountability. 

Principles for Universities 

NTEU believes universities must foster an atmosphere of academic freedom by establishing and enacting policies that: 

  • Are based on the principles of public accountability and probity;
  • Support and resource staff involvement in the broad spectrum of teaching, research and community service and explicitly acknowledge their right to exercise this autonomy without fear or favour;
  • Do not limit or constrain members of the university involvement in public debate and community service;
  • Respect the right of staff and students to comment publicly about matters concerning or affecting their institutions;
  • Provide or promote institutional and/or legislative whistle-blower protections;
  • Encourage collegiality and industrial democracy through consultation, shared responsibility and participatory decision-making;
  • Do not compromise the autonomy and independence of staff and students by agreeing to attempts by government or private interests to unreasonably influence or limit the nature of teaching and/or research undertaken by staff or students;
  • Ensure that the lawful, genuine and judicious expression of an employee’s intellectual freedom is a complete defence to any allegation of misconduct; and
  • Are developed with and endorsed by both the workers and the union of the university

This policy should be read in conjunction with 'Campaigning for Academic Freedom'

Research and Academic Freedom

Research and development activities are at the heart of our social, cultural and economic development, and provide the necessary base for progress and innovation in all forms of knowledge. It also underpins the important role of critical and expert commentary both in scholarly and public debate. The capacity of public institutions to undertake research is founded upon the preservation of academic freedom, including the rights of staff to determine the direction of research, to participate in decision-making structures and processes within the institution and the role of institutions in protecting academic integrity above the private or corporate interests of third parties. 

The adoption of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) in 2015 and the implementation of Watt Review’s recommendations in relation to the distribution of research block grant funding will place far greater emphasis on collaboration between universities and business sector as well as the commercialisation of research activity. 
For research staff these policies can mean the erosion of research as a “public good”, loss of individual control over research direction and results (including intellectual property rights) and increased competition with colleagues. 

NTEU will continue to monitor the value, integrity and accountability of government programs that attempt to shape and modify the relationship between public funding and industry focused research. 

Academic Freedom Campaigning


This Policy should be read with 'Academic Freedom Policy'

NTEU will take action to pursue the Union's policy objectives related to Academic Freedom.

At the institutional level

NTEU will:

  • Advocate for governance policies and practices that promote intellectual and academic freedom at all levels of higher education institutions; 

  • Campaign for the codification of legally enforceable employment rights in relevant industrial agreements as the best form of protection of intellectual and academic freedom; 

  • Pursue and defend intellectual and academic freedom as key provisions in all enterprise agreements negotiated with universities;
  • Promote and work to preserve the central role of academic boards/senates in academic governance and to protect the academic governance role from the encroachment of increasing executive power and decision-making.
In addition, NTEU commits to promoting academic freedom on our university campuses by: 

  • Advocate for the protection and promotion of institutional autonomy and academic freedom for Australian universities and their staff through legislative measures and legislative enforcement, including a practical commitment to the principles outlined in the UNESCO statement on the rights and responsibilities of higher education teaching personnel;
  • Through its membership of Education International and Scholars at Risk, advocate for broad international acceptance and adoption of the principles of academic and intellectual freedom and institutional independence and autonomy in all universities worldwide;
  • Lobby and campaign against further changes to the composition of university governing bodies that would reduce the representation and participation of staff, students, parliamentary representatives and alumni, and, where these have been reduced, for the restoration of previous levels of representation and participation; and
  • Provide support, training and advice on academic and intellectual freedom principles and issues to NTEU members, in particular those members who are engaged with university academic and corporate governance through membership of university governing councils/senates and academic boards.
  • Monitoring and documenting breaches of ‘freedom of intellectual inquiry’ policies, intellectual and/or academic freedom provisions in enterprise agreements, and/or institutional statements of academic freedom that sit outside enterprise agreements;
  • Monitoring and documenting restrictions upon staff or students’ exercise of academic freedom, whether through explicit policy, implicit pressure or implied threat;
  • Monitoring and analysing the implementation of the new wave of anti-terrorism legislation, foreign interference laws and expansion of ASIO powers or through the implementation of Defence Trade Controls legislation; and
  • Supporting and protecting members who may disclose, in the public interest, information regarding serious wrongdoing within, by, or related to, an institution.
Noting the NTEU’s strong position on Academic and Intellectual Freedom, the relative weakness of the Higher Education Support Act provisions as they relate to intellectual freedom and the significant threats to academic and intellectual freedom arising from managerial overuse of behaviour regulation such as codes of conduct. 

National Council directs that: 

  1. The Union pursues legally enforceable clauses in enterprise agreements to provide for the promotion and protection of academic freedom; and 

  2. Campaigning on academic and intellectual freedom be established as a high priority at all levels of the Union; and 

  3. The National Executive consider an Academic and Intellectual Freedom Award to be presented annually at National Council.

On a broader policy level NTEU will:

  • Contest research performance measures and benchmarking requirements that distorts the kind of research that is undertaken and how it is disseminated;
  • Emphasise and protect the importance of ensuring the prominence of peer review; and
  • Advocate against policies that unnecessarily constrain academic freedom through for example, policies that form part of Australia’s counter terrorism regime.

On the international stage NTEU will continue to play an active role within Education International, Scholars at Risk, and other networks.

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Organising and Major Campaigns

Organising and Major Campaigns

Disputes and Litigation


Strategic Litigation

NTEU notes:

The work of the Union in pursuit of its objects can be broadly classified into four broad categories:
  • Governance and compliance activity;
  • Pursuit of Social Justice;
  • Member Representation; and
  • Building union power and influence.
NTEU believes:

Although each type of work contributes to the strength of the Union, the pursuit of activities that build union power and influence have the maximum long term beneficial effects for the Union and its members. Building union power and influence also strengthens the Union’s ongoing work in defending and promoting quality tertiary education and the integrity and independence of our tertiary education institutions. 

The pursuit of strategic litigation is an important mechanism for demonstration of union power, influence and relevance in the workplace. 

NTEU will:

While pursuing NTEU’s social justice objectives as determined by Union policy, meeting our governance and compliance obligations, and our obligations to represent individual members in difficulty, prioritise work that will build union power and influence in the workplace, the sector and the community, including dedicating resources to the pursuit of strategic litigation opportunities as a central element of co-ordinated plans to build union power. 

Legal Assistance

NTEU has limited funds to spend on all its activities, including legal support for members.

NTEU believes:

  • Members should not generally be referred to lawyers on industrial matters (ie any dispute with their employer) as clients. Where legal advice is needed on an industrial matter, NTEU will be the client, not the individual member (except in relation to referral for standard Workers Compensation matters). 
  • If a member seeks legal advice without a referral from NTEU, NTEU’s involvement in the case should cease.
  • If a barrister is needed, counsel should be directly briefed rather than solicitors engaged wherever possible.
  • Where Defence Fund sources are to fund a legal case, the matter must fulfil the requirements for expenditure from that fund.

NTEU will:

Ensure appropriate procedures are maintained to reflect proper allocation of funding to disputes where legal support is required, including:
  • Systems for authorisation and approval of expenses in accordance with Union policy; 
  • Consultation processes between the National Office and relevant Divisions and Branches prior to expenditure being incurred;
  • Systems for smooth communication between NTEU and engaged lawyers; and
  • Processes for ensuring costs are kept to a minimum. 

Defence Fund


Aims of the Industrial Defence Fund

The aims of the Industrial Defence Fund shall be:

  • The provision of assistance to members who lose pay and face financial hardship as a consequence of involvement in NTEU endorsed industrial action or because of stand down or prosecution by employers. 

  • The provision of legal assistance in relation to disputes and/or grievances which have broad implications for Award standards, for enterprise agreement standards, and/or for professional standards (including academic freedom), or which would otherwise have precedential significance. 

  • The provision of assistance to Branches, Divisions or groups of members involved in NTEU-endorsed campaigns against non-union agreements and/or in favour of job security and the right to collective bargaining. 

Funding Structure of Industrial Defence Fund 

The National Office will ensure that: 

  • Expenditure statements of the Fund are provided to each meeting of the National Executive
  • An annual income and expenditure statement of the Fund is provided annually to the National Council.

Authorisation and Control of Payments from the Fund 

  • All payments from the Fund shall be made in accordance with the following guidelines and procedures: 
  • Any proposed payment to individual members, Branches and/or Divisions must be authorised in advance by a decision of the National Executive or General Secretary. 

  • Branches and/or Divisions shall give the General Secretary at least 3 days’ notice of proposed campaigns or industrial action which may attract hardship relief/sustentation payment from the Industrial Defence Fund, and must consult with the General Secretary prior to advising members of possible entitlements from the Fund. The National Executive or General Secretary will not approve any payments to Branches or Divisions who do not give such notice or did not consult with the General Secretary.
  • Any Branch, Division or member making request for payment of hardship pay must provide the National Executive or General Secretary with:
    • a complete list of members for whom payment is requested together with a short account of the nature of the strike, stand down or other relevant circumstances leading to financial hardship for each of the members concerned and; 

    • satisfactory evidence that each of the persons for whom payment is requested was taking industrial action, was stood down or otherwise facing financial hardship.
  • In no circumstances shall the National Executive or General Secretary authorise payment from the Fund for hardship pay unless the material required by the placita  above have been provided. 

  • The National Executive or General Secretary shall exercise their discretion and set a minimum hardship payment for each dispute or campaign in relation to those members who are likely to suffer financial hardship. The National Executive or General Secretary may further exercise their discretion to make additional payments to members who face acute financial hardship. For administrative convenience such payments may be structured over a period of time.
  • No payment for industrial action of two working days or less duration will be made provided that the General Secretary or National Executive:
    • may exercise their discretion to make payment in respect of five or more non-consecutive working days as part of a planned campaign; and
    • will authorise payment for members who are low paid, including those employed on a casual basis, in respect of industrial action of less than two consecutive days and 5 non-consecutive working days where the member will suffer a loss of 20% or more of their weekly pay as a result of taking the action.
  • The only payments which may be made from the Fund are payments which are consistent with the aims of the Fund as set out above, or payments which are necessary for the effective maintenance and administration of the Fund. Payments may only be made if they have been authorised in accordance with the procedures set out above.

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International Policy

NTEU affirms Education International’s policy on the critical role that education plays in combating poverty, in promoting peace, social justice, human rights, democracy, cultural diversity and environmental awareness.  
NTEU believes that education is the key to uniting nations and overcoming divisions between people, societies and cultures.  The Union believes that it is important to recognise the crucial role of education in contributing to building a culture of peace. We condemn those instances in which education is undermined in order to attack democracy, equality and human rights. 

A culture of peace and non-violence goes to the substance of fundamental human rights: social justice, democracy, literacy, respect and dignity for all, international solidarity, emancipation, respect for workers’ rights and core labour standards, children rights, gender equality, cultural identity and diversity, the rights of first nation peoples and minorities, and the preservation of the natural environment. A society that, at its core, values and promotes teaching and education, has a direct and positive impact on these fundamental human rights and social justice issues. 

NTEU notes that higher education (and universities in particular) have long been an international public good based on the free movement and exchange of ideas, research, staff and students.  Universities are increasingly exposed to trade, market and commercial pressures, and globalisation has encouraged national governments to privatise public universities and colleges, and to remove barriers to foreign investment and trade in education services. 

NTEU notes that the privatisation and commercialisation of further and higher education continues to expand in Australia and globally with consequent exacerbation of class, race, cultural, and gender inequalities, which run contrary to the purported purpose of expanding access to decent education as a major contributor to increased universal equality, prosperity and peace.  
Internationally the privatisation and commercialisation of education has become a major issue for Education International as companies expand from the further and higher education sector to seeking profit through control of school education by establishing private schools and monopolising provision of education resources. In addition, private companies are successfully tendering for the provision of assessment and accountability systems from governments and public agencies. 

For Australian universities internationalisation has meant the rapid expansion of offshore campuses and facilities, and a growing (and unhealthy) dependence on overseas student fee income.  The rapid commercial growth of Australian international education has industrial and policy implications for NTEU members, as well as having potentially adverse consequences for the development of strong, domestic higher education systems in the poorer countries of the Asia-Pacific region.  

Council also notes that NTEU’s commitment to the defence of academic, trade union and human rights requires an international perspective given the widespread abuse of these rights in many universities and countries around the world.  

Council recognises that NTEU opposition to free trade in education and research services is based not only on the interests of Australian universities and their staff, but also on the interests of universities and university staff in poorer and developing countries.  

Council directs the National Executive and Officers to further expand and develop NTEU’s international work, with a specific brief to: 

  • Monitor Australian universities’ offshore activities, including the policy and industrial implications for NTEU members and for host countries;
  • Monitor and respond to abuses of academic freedom, trade union and human rights in universities in the major regions of the world, and maintain affiliations with relevant international organisations including the, Scholars at Risk and Amnesty International;
  • Develop international networks of higher education unions, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region and through Education International;
  • Contribute to the global and Australian trade union response to free trade and globalisation; and
  • Campaign to exclude education and research services from transnational and bilateral trade agreements; and to develop alternative non-market forms of transnational higher education provision.

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Social Justice

Social Justice


Australia has always been a culturally diverse and multinational continent.   

In the countless millennia prior to European colonisation, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people and their cultures spanned from what is now known as the South East Cape in Tasmania to the Cape York Peninsular in Far North Queensland and from Cape Bryon in New South Wales to Steep Point in Western Australia; incorporating all lands comprising mainland Australia. 

At many points since colonisation, Australia had invited many cultures to our shores and strived to ensure those cultural groups and peoples were welcomed and embraced as new Australian citizens. 
Concurrent to this, the scourge of racism, intolerance, xenophobia and hatred has raised its head impacting the positive agenda of multiculturalism and acceptance.  In more recent times this intolerance has found a renewed strength, backed by policies of differing Governments that are founded in fear and ignorance. 

Racism and intolerance in all their forms - intentional, tacit, casual, are deplorable and unacceptable in Australian society.  
NTEU is committed to campaign and educate to ensure intolerance based upon an outdated notion of race are subjugated.  

Therefore NTEU endorses the following policy statement
NTEU notes: 

  • Racism is the exercise of power by an individual or an institution. 

  • Racism is committed against another, involving the derogation of another person or community’s inherent humanity.
  • Racism is grounded in the belief that human communities are constituted with distinctive and specific characteristics.
  • The exercise of power can be an act of violence or neglect. 

  • The exercise of power is dependent upon the aggressor’s perceived membership of a racial majority and upon an assumed cultural right or privilege.
  • That racism is bound to Australia’s colonial past. The physical, legal and constitutional dispossession and violence committed against Australia’s First Peoples is a fundamental characteristic of Australian racism.
  • Racism includes state acts that have legitimated and set communities against one another, particularly white communities against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, migrants, refugees and resident non-citizens. 

NTEU believes:

  • That racism is bound to Australia’s colonial past. The physical, legal and constitutional dispossession and violence committed against Australia’s First Peoples is a fundamental characteristic of Australian racism.
  • Racism includes state acts that have legitimated and set communities against one another, particularly white communities against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, migrants, refugees and resident non-citizens. 
  • That racism today has evolved with society and that expressions of hate against individuals, groups and communities can be expressed in many varied forms.  Structural racism, harassment, vilification, threats of violence (including symbolic violence), as well as racism expressed through tacit or casual acts continue to infiltrated all sections of society, particularly the online environments. 
  • Australian trade unions have a complicated presence in Australia’s racist history. Historically, the trade union movement has been inseparable from historic legislative and constitutional acts of discrimination and exclusion, while in recent times, the trade union movement has partnered with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and migrant communities and has been one of the most powerful social forces for international solidarity. 
  • That racism is a blight on society and that without concerted ongoing action, racism and intolerance will continue to impact upon those who are or feel as though they are marginalised from wider society. 
    That a multicultural society is to be celebrated and that those who seek to use racism and intolerance to undermine the fabric of our shared community must be held to account. 

NTEU will:

  • Maintain for perpetuity, a no-tolerance stance on racism and intolerance. 
  • Partner with like-minded groups and organisations to form public alliances against racism and will actively encourage Universities to participate fully in this mission.
  • Develop and implement an ongoing campaign to educate, empower and remove the stain of intolerance from Australian society.
  • Advocate and take action to support the NTEU members and their right to oppose and fight racism in the workplace. 

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