Student – Worker control at University of Queensland

14 Dec 1988,
On this day the right wing University of Qld Student Unions attempted to evict 4ZZZ from its studios under the Refectory.

At 4.17am executive members of the UQ Student Council and four security guards served immediate eviction notice on graveyard announcers Mark Solway and Stefan Armbruster.

4ZZZ had been taken off air.

The president of the UQ Student Union, Victoria Brazil, supported by the Queensland Government were attempting to foreclose on radio 4ZZZ from its premises at the University.  Over 1,000 listeners and supporters turned up to defend the station.

Annastacia Palaszczuk speaking in support of 4ZZZ, UQ Union Complex, 1989. Photo by Michael Aird, Image courtesy State Library of Queensland

Within hours 4ZZZ announcers were making emergency broadcasts direct from Mt Cootha and later in the day the Student Union was occupied by protesting students and supporters effectively taking control of their own union and radio station.

The University stepped in and asserted ownership of the UQ Union Complex thus backing the union executive’s attempt at eviction. Students continued to occupy the station ensuring that it continued to broadcast.

Despite this, the 4ZZZ collective curiously elected to leave campus and set up the station in Toowong thus ending Zed’s affiliation with the Student Union and the University where it started in December 1975.  The station nearly folded and if it weren’t for the assistance of the Communist Party of Australia through a ‘gift’ of its building at 291 St Pauls Terrace Fortitude Valley, it surely would have. Forty-one years later 4ZZZ survives as an independent broadcaster with the slogan ‘Educate, Organise, Agitate’. Here is the report prepared by 4ZZZ at the time.

In the podcast starting at 3′ 10″ and ending at 6′ 32″ is one of the emergency broadcasts used to rally support. It was broadcast from the transmitter hut on Mount Coot-tha.

December 2018
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. Like Monash University in Melbourne UQ Union was host to  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.

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 in 1988. Historian Jeff Rickertt has this to say about the proposal.

Ian interviews Jeff Rickertt

A steering committee has been formed to wage a public campaign to enliven the space again and look to alternative culture and ideas that will bring people together. Please sign the e-petition below and keep an eye on Save the UQ Union Complex facebook page.

Click this link to open the E-Petition: 

This E-Petition closes on 1/3/2019.

Thanks to Peter Gray (Radical Times) and Jeff Rickertt (Save the UQ Union Complex) for the historical material included in this article.

Ian Curr
14 Dec 2018


Qld parliament E-Petition: