Student presidents representing at least three quarters of a million students enrolled at 18 different universities across Australia have joined together to sign an open letter demanding Bettina Arndt AM be stripped of her Australia Day honours.
The letter was prepared by the National Union of Students Women’s Officer, Humaira Nasrin, and addressed to former Liberal Party president and Chairman of the Council of the Order of Australia, Shane Stone.
It has been co-signed by the four NUS office bearers including the President, Molly Willmott, as well as Presidents from 18 individual universities across Australia including the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Melbourne, Australian National University, University of Adelaide, University of South Australia and University of Western Australia.
The letter is scathing of the Council of the Order of Australia’s decision to award Ms Arndt an AM and include, among her officially listed acievements, her 2018 ‘fake rape crisis’ university campus tour.
The students have also slammed Ms Arndt for promoting ‘victim-blaming’ attitudes on campus while purporting to be a psychologist.
“We write to you on behalf of the National Union of Students and numerous University Student Unions across Australia, requesting the cancellation of Ms Bettina Arndt’s title as a Member of the Order of Australia in the General Division,” writes Ms Nasrin.
“Ms Arndt was awarded the Order of Australia for her contribution to ‘gender equity’ but the views she has promoted in recent years, do not advance that goal.
“We believe that the actions and comments made by Ms Bettina Arndt have dishonoured the values that are upheld by the Order and bring the Order into disrepute.”
The letter catalogues Ms Arndt’s long history of public scandal over several decades including her recent comments on social media arguing that a Queensland man may have been “driven” to incinerate his family – including his wife and three children.
“The notion that Rowan Baxter was ‘driven too far’ as an excuse for domestic violence that resulted in the murder of Ms Hannah Clarke and her three children is heinous,” writes Ms Nasrin.Bettina-Arndt-Student-Letter
“If Ms Arndt continues to hold the award of the Order of Australia, it suggests that the Order not only approves her messaging but endorses it.
“We also note that this is not the first time that Ms Arndt has acted disrespectfully towards victims of gender-based violence.”
The letter specifically references Ms Arndt’s now infamous interview with twice-convicted paedophile Nicolaas Bester, who Ms Arndt defended saying “school girls should not exploit their seductive powers to ruin the lives of men”.
“Mr Bester groomed and repeatedly raped a 15-year-old schoolgirl, Grace Tame, while he was her 58-year-old maths teacher. He then bragged online about the multiple rapes that he had committed, describing them as “awesome” and claimed that other men “envy” him.
“Later, Ms Arndt made comments regarding Mr Bester stating that, “He is not a pederast. He is not preying on kids”. She also claimed that, “Male teachers are really vulnerable. And girls can be very seductive.”
The students also list articles Ms Arndt wrote in 2005, in which she described convicted paedophile and former Scout Master, Robert Potter, as a “good bloke”, and a 1997 article in which Ms Arndt defended a Canberra doctor who had molested multiple patients, including a 12-year-old child.
“We are conscious that victim-blaming attitudes, and attitudes which minimise or excuse sexual and domestic violence, create significant barriers to those seeking help and assistance,” wrote Ms Nasrin.
“Such attitudes also normalise violence and this, in turn, can exacerbate the risk to the community.
“We know that our Government and judicial systems still have a long way to go in addressing these issues. However, the standard we walk by is the standard we accept. Rewarding someone who contributes to a toxic victim-blaming culture is disgraceful.”
Ms Arndt’s controversial ‘fake rape campus tour’ also comes under fire. Since 2018, students at La Trobe, USYD, UWA and UNSW and have protested Ms Arndt’s presence on campus. Presidents from all four universities have signed the letter. The La Trobe Vice Chancellor, John Dewar, has also indicated his support for stripping Ms Arndt of the honour, on social media.
“As student leaders, we are highly concerned that this ‘tour’ has been listed as an ‘achievement’ [in official material published by the Council of the Order of Australia]. During this tour Ms Arndt has minimised sexual assault referring to it as ‘regret sex’, while advising students that ‘no doesn’t always mean no’ in relation to sexual consent.”
“These views are out of step with acceptable values and place students at increased risk.”
The letter also accuses Ms Arndt of conducting the tour while being “wrongfully and illegally described… as a ‘psychologist’ including on flyers for this tour”.
“This is in breach of the National Law, which makes it a crime for an unregistered individual to use a protected title – including the title ‘psychologist’”.
“As students, we are taught to value and respect academic integrity and the use of qualifications and titles. It is unacceptable that, despite having never been registered as one, Ms Arndt has illegally adopted and exploited the title of ‘psychologist’ for more than thirty years, and that this falsehood has been promulgated in the media, at medical conferences, on the back of her 2009 book, and during Senate estimates.
“It is also unacceptable that Ms Arndt has unlawfully assumed this title during her campus speaking tour while discussing subjects as sensitive as sexual assault. It is equally disturbing that this speaking tour has then been listed as an ‘achievement’ in official materials published to the public at the time of her being awarded the Order of Australia.”
The students request Mr Stone cancel her honours “on the grounds of her comments and actions….”
“We support the motion passed by the Australian Federal Parliament requesting the termination of her appointment and understand that the Office of the Governor-General has referred the matter to the Council of the Order of Australia for advice.”
The universities represented in the list are: Australian National University; University of Adelaide; University of New South Wales; University of Sydney; University of Technology, Sydney; University of Wollongong; Griffith University; Flinders University; University of South Australia; Deakin University; La Trobe University; RMIT University; University of Melbourne; Swinburne University of Technology; Victoria University; Curtin University; Edith Cowan University; and University of Western Australia.
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