Poetry Professor Barry Spurr Resigns From Sydney University


Professor Barry Spurr has this morning resigned from the University of Sydney after the publication of a string of racist and misogynistic emails he wrote to University colleagues and friends.

It follows a long-running saga in which Professor Spurr vowed never to resign, tried to sue New Matilda in the Federal Court, and challenged his treatment by Sydney University in the Fair Work Commission.

In October, New Matilda published details of the emails, in which Professor Spurr railed against Aboriginal Australians, Asians, Muslims and women.

This morning, Sydney University announced that Professor Spurr had resigned from the institution.

In an email to all staff, Director of Human Resources John Dixon wrote: “Dear Colleagues, Staff are advised that the following statement has been released.

“The University of Sydney today announced that Professor Barry Spurr has submitted his resignation and the University has accepted it.

“At Professor Spurr’s request, the University will provide no further comment on this matter.”

Professor Spurr worked as a consultant on the Abbott Government’s review of the National School Curriculum, and argued that the Aboriginal contribution to Australian literature was very limited, although in his emails to colleagues and friends, he described it as ‘non-existent’.

He argued in the review for a move away from studying Aboriginal Australian literature, and declined to name any Asian literature of note, calling instead for a focus in Australian schools on the study of Judeo-Christian writing.

In his defence, Professor Spurr claimed that the emails were a “whimsical linguistic game” that he shared with a close friend for many years. But a lengthier transcript of the emails – published by New Matilda after Professor Spurr’s denial – revealed long, angry rants against many sections of Australian society, in particular Aboriginal people.

The comments also included numerous attacks on women, with one email exchange joking about the rape of a woman, and the need for her mouth to be sewn permanently shut with a penis inside it.

After the public release of the emails, Professor Spurr sued New Matilda in the Federal Court, initially demanding that the stories be removed from circulation, and that New Matilda name the source of the leak.

That matter was settled last week, with New Matilda securing an agreement which provided protection for the source’s identity.

Despite the scandal, Education Minister Christopher Pyne has indicated he is happy with the contents of the National School Curriculum review, and claimed it was ‘free of ideology’.

Minister Pyne says he has no plans to revisit the review.

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Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.