Students and staff disappointment at University of Wollongong's decision not to raise rainbow flag on campus

NOT HAPPY: Georgine Clarsen, Wendy Meyers, Martin Cubby and Josh Bell are disappointed the University of Wollongong is not raising the rainbow flag on campus. Picture: Robert Peet
NOT HAPPY: Georgine Clarsen, Wendy Meyers, Martin Cubby and Josh Bell are disappointed the University of Wollongong is not raising the rainbow flag on campus. Picture: Robert Peet

University of Wollongong Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings was not moved when former High Court judge Michael Kirby appealed to him in October to fly the rainbow flag on campus as a symbol of support for LGBTQIA+ staff and students.

Prof Wellings also hadn’t responded before November 2, when UOW staff and students delivered a letter and petition with over 600 signatures to the VC, calling for the ‘Rainbow Flag’ to be raised on campus flagpoles.

On Friday members of the university staff union, the NTEU, the UOW Allies Network (a volunteer group of staff members who provide support to LGBTQIA+ students) and concerned students again called on the VC to raise the flag on campus before the Marriage Law Survey results are released on Wednesday, November 15.

‘’I am deeply disheartened to know that UOW has not released any public statements to show they support LGBTQIA+ students and staff during this tough and anxious time,’’ UOW student and marriage equality activist Joshua Bell said.

‘’It is vital that staff and students know they're supported, and flying a Pride flag is one of the best ways to show that support for inclusivity and diversity.’’

Read moreFlying the rainbow flag a proud day for Wollongong councillor

Georgine Clarsen, the NTEU branch president at UOW, said she was particularly disappointed that Prof Wellings ‘’snubbed’’ invited guest Michael Kirby.

‘’It was at a public event where Mr Kirby made the heartfelt plea to Prof Wellings to raise the rainbow flag. He just snubbed him,’’ Associate Professor Clarsen said.

If it is something Wollongong Council can do, along with other universities around Australia, we can fly the flag too.

Georgine Clarsen

‘’It has been over a month since that day and we still don’t know what his stance is on this.’’

She said it was ironic that when Justice Kirby visited UOW back in 2015, the university had just been cited by the Human Rights Commission as a LGBTIA+-friendly institution.

‘’So now at this vital time, when staff and students need to see their university leading the way, we are disappointed that the Vice Chancellor has not shown his real commitment to these ideals,’’ Assoc Prof Clarsen said.

‘’People need to see the Vice Chancellor also understands how difficult this postal survey process has been for many in our community.

‘’If it is something Wollongong Council can do, along with other universities around Australia, we can fly the flag too.’’

The University of Wollongong declined to comment on the issue.