The Safe Schools academic will return to the university. Max Chalmers reports.
The University of La Trobe has backed down after controversially suspending an academic who described the Australian flag as “racist” in a private Facebook post.
Roz Ward, a cofounder of the Safe Schools program, will return to her position at the university, which has dropped the allegations underlying her suspension for “serious misconduct.”
As New Matilda revealed on Wednesday, Ward was suspended with pay after reacting to the LGBTI flag being hoisted over the Victorian Parliament by posting: “Now we just need to get rid of the racist Australian flag on top of state parliament and get a red one up there and my work is done.”
The post was then leaked to journalists, with the university taking the decision to suspend and investigate Ward. Ward had been criticised in News Corp outlets for her Marxist beliefs, which were used to call into question the entire Safe Schools program.
But the decision to suspend Ward over the Facebook post caused a separate backlash, with the NTEU, which represents university staff, threatening to take La Trobe to Court if it failed to reinstate Ward by Monday. A petition calling for her to be reinstated rapidly received close to 10,000 signatures.
Awkwardly for La Trobe, Guardian Australia reported today that the university’s own website had previously published an opinion piece describing the Australian flag as racist.
New Matilda understands Ward has now been reinstated to her regular full-time position, and that the allegations against her have been dropped, but that no apology has yet been offered, as the Union had demanded.
The University had initiated ‘serious misconduct’ proceedings, which Ward was afforded ten days to respond to as of Wednesday. It appears that rather than completing that inquiry, the university has simply dropped the allegations.
Josh Bornstein, an employment lawyer at Maurice Blackburn who had been assisting with Ward’s case, announced the result on Twitter.
— Josh Bornstein (@JoshBBornstein) June 3, 2016
The NTEU welcomed it.
“We’re pleased to see that the university has come to its senses, done the right thing, and decided to stand up to the bullying of the Murdoch press,” said Colin Long, Victorian Division Secretary. “And we’re very pleased that Roz can get back to her important work.”
La Trobe University has been contacted for comment.