The President of the Australasian Association for Byzantine Studies has written to the Minister for Education on behalf of the Association concerning the Consultation on Job-ready Graduates Package. The text of the letter follows.
Dear Minister for Education Tehan, Education Ministers, and Australian Legislators,
On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Australasian Association for Byzantine Studies (AABS) and the Australian National Byzantine Committee, and as elected President of AABS, I ask you to consider the potential negative impact of your proposed legislation upon the teaching and learning of Byzantine Studies in Australia.
Our field of scholarship- Byzantine Studies- includes writing, teaching and research at the tertiary level spanning the ancient, medieval and modern Greek languages; the ancient, medieval and early modern history of the Mediterranean, western Asia, Europe and North Africa; and the religions, literatures, art, architecture and archaeology of those areas from Late Antiquity into the Modern era. Our students come from all parts of the country, and all walks of life. Some are studying their ancestral languages and cultures with us, while others are learning about an empire, culture and/or language which fundamentally shapes contemporary Australia, and the broader world. Byzantine Studies relates to our Greek, Cypriot, Turkish, Armenian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, Italian, Albanian, Macedonian and many more communities, and to both popular and scholarly knowledge of their heritage. It relates to the history of every different form of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and to the political and religious issues shaping current politics.
When any of these subjects which make up Byzantine Studies are offered at the Tertiary level- and they are rarely offered before then in Australia- they find an eager audience among students from first to third year, at the Honours level, in post-graduate study, in continuing education, and to those who will go on to be educators in our classrooms for the next generation of Australians. As a national organization, we also publish a long-running series of low-cost paperback translations into English of Byzantine texts for the use of our students, and students around the world, the Byzantina Australiensia series (distributed worldwide by Brill). We hold Byzantine conferences, seminars and other events at universities in cooperation with ecclesiastical and other community organizations in the ACT and all six states. We also represent Australia at penteteric International Byzantine Congresses, and in the yearly work of the global International Association of Byzantine Studies (AIEB).
On behalf of the Australasian Association for Byzantine Studies, we support the work you are doing during this Pandemic, and we are sympathetic to the need to support Australian universities, students, and jobs into the future. We know that you are seeking to make Australian universities stronger for domestic students, to serve more students at every level of study, and to retain world-class status for Australian universities. That must include the continued provision of teaching and research support in the area of Byzantine Studies for all students, both foreign and domestic. All students studying in Australia should be able, as in the past, to learn something about the history of ancient, medieval and modern Europe, Asia and Africa; Greek and other community languages of Australia; and, most importantly, the religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It should never be underestimated how important tertiary education is in contributing to knowledge of the religions, histories, and languages which shape our nation every day, all across Australia. Our next generations deserve to be able to study these subjects here in Australia, as past generations have done. Our university students- this year, and this decade- will not just teach our next generations, they will shape future decisions about peace and war, voting and national priorities, education and national values. We owe it to them to continue to make these teaching and research areas in Byzantine Studies available to them.
Dr Amelia R. Brown
On behalf of the Australasian Association for Byzantine Studies.