Last year I was fired by James Cook University after saying that Great Barrier Reef science institutions were untrustworthy due to their systemic lack of quality assurance processes. This was after a distinguished career of over 30 years working on the Great Barrier Reef and at the university.
With remarkable public support in this GoFundMe campaign, we raised legal funds to challenge the university and the Judge ruled that JCU had acted unlawfully on 28 counts and ruled that JCU should pay compensation of $1.2 million.
But now JCU has filed papers in court to appeal.
There are many important points of principle that we must fight for:
- An academic should be able to make challenging statements about controversial subjects such as the Great Barrier Reef or climate change.
- A university should never stifle debate.
- The university should not silence a local scientist whose work shows that the farmers of North Queensland Australia are not destroying the Great Barrier Reef. JCU has let down its local region.
- Universities must start to reflect a greater diversity of views.
On hearing that JCU was appealing, Cheryl and I seriously considered just walking away. After all, why should I ask donors for $1.5M to fight a pointless battle that the State or Federal education ministers could settle with a phone call to JCU. $1.5M is a crazy amount that could be used for much better things.
JCU will use its infinite financial resources – effectively government money – to appeal. They have hired three or four senior barristers, one of which we are told charges over $20K per day and between them must be over $40K per day.
Last week JCU also stayed the judgement and capped my access to the compensation for legal fees.
So I must very regretfully ask again for help. We need the best legal assistance to ensure a win. My fabulous legal team led by Stuart Wood AM QC has greatly discounted their costs so far. But appeals are horribly expensive and we need to be prepared to ultimately go to the High Court.
Your donation, great or small, will not just help me fund this essential battle, it will also send a powerful message to governments about what the public expect of our universities. It might well take a couple of months to reach the target.
It is a crazy world that we have to spend this much for legal costs, but this is a fight that we have to win because of the principles it represents.
I have little doubt that we will win.