Dean's Letter: on standing against racism

Professor Paul Kofman reflects on how we can all stay engaged, and continue to learn beyond our university studies.

Dear Students,

The past week has seen many people around the world take to the streets in protest of the death of George Floyd in the US. In Australia, Indigenous people have been drawing attention to Aboriginal deaths in custody – over 400 since 1991. Like others, I am saddened by these events and what they show us about persistent inequities in our society. We all need to do our part to make real change happen.

I hope you will make time to educate yourselves on topics beyond your University education and think about how racism operates in your own lives, and what you can do to support efforts of anti-racism. And most importantly, take the time to listen, read and understand what Black people, Indigenous Australians, and people of colour are saying at this time.

Last week we also found out more about what the pandemic has done to the economy. It’s official, Australia is in a recession. Government figures show the economy contracted 0.3% to the end of March, and the fall will be much greater by the end of June. Even though people actually spent more at the shops (remember panic-buying of toilet paper?), we’ve spent a lot less on things like transport, cafes and hotels.

What does that mean for jobs? Between 1.3 and 1.6 million people lost work in the first month of the pandemic. Many of these people are on the government’s JobKeeper program – a subsidy to businesses that keeps them paying wages.

In an article on The Conversation, Professor Jeff Borland from our Department of Economics looked at what will happen when the JobKeeper program ends, at this stage in September. Even under the best case scenario, 440,000 people would still be out of work, but as Jeff writes:

“Employment won’t recover fully in this best-case scenario because some parts of the economy will still be shut down (including international travel) and COVID-19 will continue to cause many consumers to spend less than usual.”

If JobKeeper is cut off, those people will be out of work and out of pocket. This means, Jeff says, that the program should be continued after September, and the government should look at winding it down gradually, rather than stopping it all at once.

These are exactly the sort of problems that economics experts can help us solve, and I’m very pleased that academics in our Faculty are using their research to contribute to public debate.

Best of luck on your exam revision this week and your exams next week. Our Academic team has been working extremely hard to provide you with a fair online exam process. Thank you in advance for undertaking your exams with integrity, honesty and effort, you should feel very proud of what you have achieved this semester.

I’ll re-boot my correspondence with you again in Semester 2. Until then, stay safe, stay well,