From the 'demos' of the 1970s to the digital campaigns of the 2000s, the ANU has a long and feisty history of activism and protest.

1960s

Timeline

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    30 March 1960 Protest against apartheid.

    60 Canberra graduates and undergraduates gather at the South African High Commisson to present a petition of 500 signatures, calling for an end to apartheid.

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    2 July 1964 Tax Relief for students.

    ANU students gather outside Parliament House to campaign for tax-relief for students.

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    24 July 1965 'Teach-in' protest against the Vietnam War.

    A group of 800 people, mostly students, attend the first 'teach-in' in Australia at the Childers Street Hall, ANU, to protest the Vietnam War. ANU historian Professor C.P. Fitzgerald gives a speech.

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    22 March 1966 Protest against the high cost of food.

    Arts student Mr D'Arcy presents a petition of over 500 signatures of the Union Board of Management complaining about the cost of food at the Union Refractory which which had risen by as much as 20% from the previous year.

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    20 October 1966 Anti-Vietnam War protest at Rex Hotel.

    Protestors gather at the Rex Hotel when US President Lyndon B. Johnson is staying. Megan Stoyle, a second-year Arts student becomes famous when a photograph of her wearing a 'Make Love Not War' t-shirt attracts headlines around the world.

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    12 July 1968 Aboriginal land ownership.

    Fifty ANU students join a 1,000 strong protest in Melbourne against the Federal Government's rejection of the principles of Aboriginal land ownership.

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    8 September 1968 'Teach-in' on the role of universities.

    Three-hundred ANU staff and students attend a 10-hour teach-in on the role of universities.

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    13 August 1969 Protest against Bougainville copper mine.

    Students gather outside Parliament House to protest the resumption of land for the Bougainville copper mine in spite of indigenous opposition to the project.

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    8 September 1969 Anti-conscription protests.

    Students stage a week of protest against conscription, including organising speakers at the ANU, a rally in Garema Place and a march to Parliament House.

1970s

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    23 April 1970 Boycott of Bicentenary celebrations.

    The ANU Students' Association passes a motion objecting to 'any implicit support given to the Captain Cook Bicentenary Celebrations ... because of the discrimination and lack of civil rights accorded to many groups of Aborigines who have been forgotten in this celebration of 200 years of white rule...'

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    6 May 1970 Anti-Vietnam Protest.

    ANU Students' Association asks for lectures to be cancelled so students can participate in a national moratorium against Australia's involvement in the Vietnam war.

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    23 March 1971 'Toot against Apartheid' protest.

    Students conduct a vigil outside the South African High Commission and erect a sign reading 'Toot Against Aparthied' to which motorists respond by blasting their horns as they pass. The vigil is maintained 24 hours a day by roster of 200 students for many months.

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    26 March 1971 Anti-apartheid protests.

    Three students from Bruce Hall are charged with damaging property at two houses owned by South African High Commission officals.

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    May 1971 'Day of Rage' demonstrations.

    Around 1000 demonstrators take part in an anti-Vietnam war protest. Thirty-five students, mostly from the ANU, appear later in the Canberra court charged with malicious damage and assaulting police.

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    1972 Aboriginal Tent Embassy is established with support from the ANU Students' Association.

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    1973 ANU Radio begins broadcasting.

    Broadcast through the ANU Halls and Union, ANU Radio quickly becomes an important mouthpiece for student activists.

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    18 April 1974 Students occupy the Chancelry building.

    100 students occupy the Mills Room to protest about overcrowded classrooms, assessment requirements and the lack of student say in course content. They also demand the creations of a Women's Studies course. 30 students spend the night in the building.

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    August 1974 Students again occupy the Chancelry.

    After the Board of the School of General Studies rejects student demands, protestors occupy the Chancelry and the university telephone exchange, prompting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Noel Dunbar to call in police who then arrest 27 students.

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    6 September 1974 The Board agree to a compromise.

    After another student occupation of the Chancelry building, the Board allow a student voice in the running of departments and agree to the establishment of a Women's Studies Course.

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    1976 The first Women's Studies course is offered at ANU.

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    1976 Protest against Students' Association support for abortion reform.

    Arts student Peter Berzins seeks exemption from paying his Students' Association fee because of the association's support for abortion reform.

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    26 March 1976 Student protest Governor-General's campus visit

    The Governor-General John Kerr and Lady Kerr are jostled by a noisy crowd while attending a private function at Bruce Hall.

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    1977 Student group 'Homosexuals at ANU' is established.

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    1978 Voluntary Student Unionism campaign.

    Members of the ANU Liberal Society steal Orientation Handbooks and insert voluntary student unionism material in them.

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    1979 Feminist group 'Wimmin on Campus' is established.

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    25 October 1979 Voluntary Student Unionism bill.

    The ANU Students' Association condemn the introduction of a bill to Parliament that outlaws the payment of student union fees to the Australian Union of Students.

1980s

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    19 April 1980 Students demand more campus accommodation.

    Around 70 students occupy 27 Brian Lewis Crescent, a house that had previously been used to store furniture. Over half of the protestors take a partial rent strike.

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    18 November 1980 ANU takes legal action against students engaged in a 7-month rent strike.

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    1983 International symposium on nuclear disarmament.

    Founder of the Nuclear Disarmament Party, Michael Denborough, organises a symposium at the ANU on 'The Consequences of Nuclear War for Australia and its Region'.

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    1988 Student protest higher education reforms.

    With the introduction of the 'Dawkins Revolution' suite of higher education reforms, students hang an effigy of Minister for Education John Dawkins from the bridge leading into Union Court.

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    20 February 1989 Campaign against HECS begins.

    The National Union of Students launches a campaign against the introduction of HECS - a $1800 annual 'contribution' fee.

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    22 March 1989 National day of action against the introduction of HECS.

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    23 May 1989 The Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre opens at the ANU.

1990s

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    27 August 1990 Gulf war protests.

    Over 100 students and activists attend a teach-in organised by ANU academic Rick Kuhn seeking to end the Gulf War condemning further intervention.

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    11 December 1991 Protest in support of the John Curtin School of Medical Research.

    Supported by students, academics Dr H.C. Coombs and Sir Mark Oliphant protest against changes to the funding of the John Curtin School of Medical Research.

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    8 October 1992 Demand for student housing.

    Students establish a 'tent city' outside the Chifley Library to protest against a plan to sell off some of its housing stock.

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    27 August 1993 Demonstrators disrupt visit by Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett.

    Activists throw eggs and roll a 200-litre industrial drum at the car carrying Jeff Kennett after he arrives on campus for Young Liberals' function, forcing him to seek refuge in Vivaldi's Restaurant.

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    5 August 1994 The 'No Fees Campaign' commences.

    Responding to the threat of charging up-front fees for a legal course, law students organise a demonstration of 400 students. This marks the beginning of the No Fees Campaign which, with the help of unions and workers, inspires students across the country.

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    15-23 September 1994 Students occupy the Chancelry Building.

    Over 8 nights and 9 days, more than 150 students occupy the Chancelry as the No Fees Campaign escalates, before being removed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) who use chainsaws to cut the wooden back doors of the building.

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    23 March 1995 Anti-deregulation protest in Civic.

    Hundreds of ANU and UC students protest the government’s plans for fee deregulation with the support of the National Tertiary Education Union.

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    14 July 1995 Protest over French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

    Students and protesters march from Garema Place, where they are addressed by ANU student activists Marina Carman and Hamish McPherson, to the National Convention Centre over the proposed French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

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    3 August 1995 The 'Stop the Drop' music gig in support of nuclear disarmament is held at the ANU Bar.

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    17-30 May 1996 Protest against proposed cuts to university funding.

    The Students’ Association organises a protest against the Federal Government’s proposed cuts to university funding. Each day students spend eight hours outside Parliament House reading out the Coalition’s election policy on higher education.

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    30 May 1996 Rally against cuts to education.

    600 ANU students and 50 UC students set up pickets and rally against education cuts. Students then march through Civic, joined by members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU). The Students’ Association, led by right-wing president William Mackerras, organise a counter-rally and apologise to the then Prime Minister John Howard over the ANU staff and student protest against him.

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    27 June 1996 Prime Minister John Howard heckled during a public lecture at the ANU

    Students protest cuts to higher education by disrupting a public lecture by Prime Minister John Howard at the Coombs Lecture Theatre.

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    15 November 1996 Protesters disrupt visit by Aboriginal Affairs Minister.

    Representatives from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and student activists picket a function addressed by Aboriginal Affairs minister John Herron, invited onto campus by the ANU Liberal Club.

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    27 August 1997 Four arrested in protest march to the Chancelry building.

    More than 1000 students protest against staff cuts, marching to the Chancelry to put demands on Vice-Chancellor Deane Terrell. Scuffles break out when members of the International Socialist Organisation try to enter the building in the face of an overwhelming police presence. Four students are arrested. Meanwhile, Resistance activists decide to occupy the A.D. Hope building where the classics department - under threat from the cuts - is housed.

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    19 March 1998 Pro-choice awareness campaign.

    After ANU student newspaper Woroni publishes a Right to Life-inspired article featuring graphic photos of aborted foetuses, ANU Women’s Officer, Kate Harriden, and the ANU Women’s Department organise a public “rip-out” of the pages as part of a pro-choice awareness campaign. Only a week later ACT Pro-Choice is formed.

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    24 June 1999 Staff demand fair deal in enterprise bargaining agreement.

    With the support of student activists, more than 900 staff vote overwhelmingly to demand an enterprise bargaining agreement that guarantees no net job losses, maintenance of superannuation contributions, and a pay rise in line with other large universities. This is the largest union-organised meeting at ANU for at least a decade.

2000s

Timeline

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    5 April 2001 Student occupy the ANUTECH building.

    Sixty students occupy the ANUTECH building, ANUTECH having been established to increase corporate sponsorship of the university. Students demand the closure of ANUTECH and the transfer of ANUTECH education courses to the ANU without the up-front fees.

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    February 2002 ANU Refugee Action Collection forms.

    Jo Hunt and other student activists help establish the ANU Refugee Action Collective, now known as the ANU Refugee Action Committee.

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    6 May 2004 Students plan to disrupt a speech by Prime Minister John Howard

    Students plan to protest a speech by John Howard at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) over education cuts. Given the ruckus, John Howard ends up avoiding the scene and gives his address from Parliament House.

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    31 March 2005 Protest against voluntary student unionism.

    More than 100 students gather for a speak-out organised by ANUSA’s Education Department against the Federal Government’s moves to introduce voluntary student unionism.

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    March 2006 Pro-choice activists confront Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott

    Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott is faced down by pro-choice activists and protesters during an O’Week open forum. Invited by ANUSA, Abbott discusses issues such as voluntary student unionism and the abortion drug RU486.

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    March 2007 Law student protest the decision to award Lew Kuan Kew an Honorary Doctorate in Law.

    Law Students for Social Justice (LSSJ) protest outside University House to show their opposition to the University’s decision to award former Singaporean Prime Minister, Lew Kuan Yew, an Honorary Doctorate in Law.

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    November 2010 Stakeout to defend the removal of Pride Week posters.

    After over 500 Pride Week posters are ripped down, students from the Queer Department stage a stakeout to defend the posters, dressing up in camouflage and watching over them until 4am. They re-decorate the poster bollards on campus, painting them rainbow.

2010s

Timeline

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    13-14 May 2012 Rally to save the School of Music

    Following a planned restructure of the School of Music that would see all staff positions spilled and the equivalent of 13 full-time positions cut, students and staff rally to save the School of Music. From midday, music students begin a 24-hour protest jam. The protest jam to save the School of Music culminates in Union Court, with nearly 5,000 people then marching to the Chancelry led by a rendition of ‘When the Saints Come Marching In’.

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    15 January 2013 Fossil fuel divestment campaign begins.

    Student Tom Swann submits a Freedom of Information request into the ANU’s holdings in coal seam gas company Metgasco after being alerted by Northern Rivers Activists. A campaign demanding the ANU divests from Metgasco is launched, and Fossil Free ANU is born.

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    15 August 2013 Reaction to proposed cuts to tutorials in the College of Arts and Social Sciences.

    In response to proposed cuts to tutorials in the College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS), over 250 students march to the Dean of Art’s office in the Beryl Rawson building, with 150 students occupying the office for several hours. Students pour into her office through the fire escape, chanting, “bullshit, come off it, our education is not for profit!”

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    21 May 2014 Protest over Federal Government's proposal to deregulate university fees.

    Students from all colleges converge in Union Court to protest the Liberal Government’s decision to deregulate university fees. The rally marches from Union Court towards the Chancelry, demanding the resignation of ANU Vice-Chancellor Ian Young and barricading him in his office over his support of fee deregulation.

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    18 June 2014 Students protest against Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's lecture.

    Students from the Education Action Group form a makeshift choir outside the Coombs Lecture Theatre to protest against Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's lecture. The peaceful protest drew attention to the Government's treatment of university students, asylum seekers and workers.

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    2 October 2014 The ANU partially divests from the fossil fuel sector.

    The ANU partially divests from fossil fuels; divesting stocks in Iluka Resources, Independence Group, Newcrest Mining, Sandfire Resources, Oil Search, Santos, and Sirius Resources.

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    15 March 2016 Divestment campaign continues.

    More than 450 staff members at the ANU sign an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Brian Schmidt, calling on the University Council to divest from fossil fuels.

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    29 March 2016 Rally in defence of Asia Pacific studies held in Union Court.

    After cuts to the School of Culture, History and Language that would see up to 40 academics axed were proposed, a rally is held in defence of Asia Pacific Studies in Union Court.

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    3 May 2016 The ANU Women of Colour Collective is established.

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    2017 Response to a national survey into sexual assault and harassment on Australian university campuses.

    Following the release of a Human Rights Commission nation-wide survey of sexual assault and harassment on university campuses, a 'Sit In and Speak Out' is coordinated by ANU Students’ Association, Postgraduate and Research Students’ Association, the Women's department and the Queer Department.

Acknowledgements

This timeline draws on research by: Daniel Oakman, Emma Cupitt, Vanamali Hermans, Mia Stone, ANU Heritage and Joanne Leong. The public artwork which inspired this timeline, A History of Student Activism at the Australian National University by Joanne Leong, is on display in the common area of the Marie Reay Teaching Centre.


What were the big issues when you went to ANU?

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Moderation Policy

27 August, 2021

Casey says:

“Parents on Campus Students with kids organised a childcare centre by squatting in an old hostel kitchen at Childers St, 1972. ”

27 August, 2021

Chris says:

“I remember vividly being part of a 1970's demonstration that started outside the old Union building, that confronted the S African embassy.”

10 August, 2021

Chris Warren says:

“From memory - there were several spontaneous demonstrations on campus against John Kerr including one outside University House. ”

2 August, 2021

John Reid says:

“Student poster (Woroni 72) challenges laws prohibiting contraceptive ads. Q's in PH. Police raids. Nat press. In 6 months all laws revoked.”

1 August, 2021

Amy H says:

“There were anti-GST protests in 2000, pro-choice protests leading up to decriminalizing abortion in 2002 & many ATSI land rights protests. ”