Petition to save the UQ Union Complex

Please sign the petition here .

More info on  Save the UQ Union Complex facebook page.

Full text of the leaflet is below:

Anyone who lived in Brisbane in the 1960s, 70s and 80s will remember the destruction of the Bellevue, Cloudland and Trades Hall. They will remember King George Square before it was turned into a concrete wasteland dominated by giant television screens. In those decades we lived in a city gripped by violence where even the smallest displays of dissent invited a beating, while all around us precious buildings were felled by the wrecking ball. Many of you will recall how police arrested and bashed scores of people in 1967 and again in 1977 when they asserted their democratic right to protest in the streets. Some of you will know about the Nazi firebombing of the People’s Bookshop in Fortitude Valley, the Vice Squad raid on Rocking Horse Records for stocking ‘obscene’ material, and the daily terrorism waged by police against the city’s Aboriginal community.

UQ Forum Area

There was always one haven, though. Chances are, many of you who lived through those times will remember participating in a rally or two in the Forum Area at the University of Queensland, watching a band in the Refec, attending an independent film at the Schonell or braving an experimental play in the Cement Box. In an era when the dominant Brisvegas culture treated heritage sites and democratic rights with equal contempt, tens of thousands of us looked to the UQ Union Complex as a sanctuary where alternative culture, independent media and critical politics could flourish free of harassment and censorship.

During the darkest years of the Bjelke Petersen government, the Union precinct was one of few places in Queensland keeping alive the flames of democracy. It fostered one of the most vibrant anti- Vietnam War movements in the country, it served as the Queensland base of the anti-apartheid struggle, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander activists organised from there to Smash the Acts, it was a centre for the Right to March campaigns and a home for the women’s and gay liberation movements. 4ZZZ was launched there. No other site on an Australian university campus has a history more entwined with the broader political and cultural narrative of its host State.

Now we discover the University wants to tear down the entire edifice. The Schonell, the award-winning original student union building, the forum area, the relaxation block, the refectory, the old student union arcade building. All are mooted for demolition.

According to the St Lucia Campus Master Plan the entire site will be ‘reimagined’ as a student hub providing services and fast food outlets. Despite the Plan’s barrage of contemporary master-planning buzzwords, the contempt for history and the appeals to a self-serving and consumerist version of ‘progress’ and ‘improvement’ could have been lifted straight from a National Party policy book circa 1980.

In addition to the loss of heritage, the plan will have severe consequences for the Student Union. The Union will end up with less space to call its own and without the revenue stream it currently enjoys from its own food outlets. More dependent than ever upon the university’s largesse, its already limited autonomy will decline even further.

To allow this demolition to happen in these circumstances is to accept the claim that history doesn’t matter and that students are merely customers, uninterested in a university experience beyond fast food and fast degrees. We repudiate this view of students, the university and society. We refuse to be defined by UQ’s market ideology. A generation of UQ students referred to the Union Complex as the ‘university within the university’. They were right. It was our commons, our Pnyx, our democratic space where students and the wider community gathered to discuss ideas, share authentic cultural experiences and organise for democratic rights. It can be again. We can’t let it fall victim to another bout of Brisvegas cultural vandalism.

Don’t let UQ destroy our heritage!
Defend student union autonomy!
Protect out democratic spaces!

Anti-Vietnam War Moratorium march from UQ 1970

Sign and promote the e-petition for a moratorium on demolition work
Visit our Facebook page to share your stories and photos of the UQ Union Complex and find out about meetings and events.
Save the UQ Union Complex

Banner Photo: Forum at UQ during the 1970 Vietnam Moratorium after 2 Melbourne Uni Students were gaoled for avoiding conscription.  Note the University sign at the back notifying of the Schonell and Refec Extension.

Dick Shearman speaks at Vietnam War Moratorium forum at University of Qld UQ 1970

One thought on “Petition to save the UQ Union Complex

  1. Friends,

    Our petition is up on the Queensland Parliament website – see here . I have posted details to our facebook page . And the details of both the petition and the facebook page have been added to our leaflet, which I have attached.

    So, three things for all of us to do.

    1. Sign and promote the petition.

    2. Share the facebook page and encourage people to post their stories and pics to it.

    3. Share the leaflet either electronically or by printing and distributing it the old-fashioned way. I will arrange to print copies for the 4ZZZ event and for handing out outside the graduations.


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