Edith Cowan University has revoked a honorary doctorate that was given earlier this year to former Western Australian Member of Parliament Barry House, following protests by students and activists over his past anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric.

“The University communicated with its staff and students through a global message. The communication outlined the collective decision of the ECU Council, the governing body of the university,” ECU spokesperson told Star Observer.

In an email to students and staff on July 20, Professor Steve Chapman, Vice-Chancellor, ECU, said that the University Council had met last to review the issue and had decided to revoke the award. 

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“As you are aware, there was public criticism following the award with community groups, staff members and students expressing serious concerns about comments made by Mr House in parliamentary debates dealing with LGBTIQ+ law reform. These comments were clearly incompatible with the values of the University,” the email stated.

Former MP’s ‘Nasty’ Response

The Council also looked at House’s response to the criticism. According to the Busselton Pride Alliance which had led the protests against the award to House, the former MP had attacked the organisation in a local news paper by calling them “nasty, vindictive and intolerant”. House claimed that he was being “targeted and vilified with wild accusations”. 

Reiterating that those views were incompatible with its values, the Vice Chancellor added: “We pride ourselves on being an inclusive community which actively supports equality and diversity. This decision reflects Council’s determination to ensure all staff and students, including members of the LGBTIQ+ community, feel valued and respected.”

BPA spokesperson Clare Paine welcomed the University’s  decision. “While ECU has made the right decision, it is disappointing that it had come to this,” Paine said in a statement. 

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“We wrote to Mr House in May asking if his views had changed over the years and if he now recognised the harm caused by homophobia and would apologise for his contribution to that harm,” Paine revealed. 

BPA said that House did not respond in a way “that recognised this and did not clarify if his views had changed over the years.” Paine further urged ECU to review its honorary awards system and to involve the University’s LGBTQI+ students and staff network in such decisions. 

A History Of Homophobia

House was a Liberal Party member of the Legislative Council of Western Australia between 1987 and 2017. In 2019, the Australian government awarded him the Order of Australia.

ECU said that it had awarded the honorary doctorate to House in February 2021 for his “30-year contribution to public life as a Member of Parliament and his service to the community of the South West.”

BPA listed House’s anti-LGBTQI history, that included, his “vote to jail all homosexual males for up to 14 years, conflating homosexuality with incest fear-mongering about school programs for LGBTQI+ youth, opposing Equal Opportunity laws for LGBTQI people in employment and housing, opposing the equitable treatment of same-sex couples for IVF and adoption, claiming that homosexuality ‘isn’t normal and never will be’, claiming that homosexual law reform was ‘a threat to heterosexual families’,  claiming that children are damaged if raised in same-sex relationships and saying, ‘just because a lesbian straps on a dildo it will never make her a father’.”

House had denied that he was “homophobic” and claimed in a letter to a local newspaper that his “comments during a Parliamentary debate more than 30 years ago belong to a different era”.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

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