Home | News | Monash under fire for $127k farewell party
Professor Margaret Gardner arrives with the former premier Daniel Andrews at Victorian Parliament to be Inaugurated as the Governor of Victoria in August last year. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Geraghty

Monash under fire for $127k farewell party

Monash University has been scolded by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) for spending $127,134 on a send-off party for its outgoing vice-chancellor, revealed in documents shown to the union.

Professor Margaret Gardner has left Monash to become the Governor of Victoria, after nine years leading the university.

Her farewell at the National Gallery of Victoria in July was labelled "wasteful" by the union, and included a three-course meal, drinks, and performances by singers Kate Ceberano and Joe Camilleri.

Others have said Monash executives who attended the party amid a cost-of-living crisis are "out-of-touch", as increased financial pressures often greatly impact university students.

"Where was the lavish function for all the Monash casual academics who had more than $10m in wages stolen?" NTEU president Alison Barnes said.

"Staff are under crushing pressure, with two-thirds in insecure employment while uni executives spend outrageous amounts on congratulating themselves.

"The lack of accountability is appalling. The federal government must overhaul the broken governance model in response to the Universities Accord."

NTEU Monash branch president Ben Eltham questioned why the university couldn't use its own arts facilities.

"Is this a breach of the university's policies? And if not, why not?" Dr Eltham said.

"Monash Uni has its own performing arts centre at Clayton. Why wasn’t that used, instead of a no-expenses-spared blowout at the National Gallery of Victoria?

"Monash Uni Council is badly out of touch. While they throw extravagant parties for top execs, the university has slipped to 37th out of 42 Australian universities for student experience."

A Monash spokesperson said the spending was in line with university rules and protocols.

"The event was a celebration of achievement for Prof Gardner and an opportunity to acknowledge … current and former university staff, education, research and engagement partners,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.

During her time as former vice-chancellor, Monash University raised its academic standing to make it into the top 50 universities in the Times Higher Education world university rankings.

However, last year, the uni dropped 10 places to to 54th. In previous years, it had ranked below the top 100.

Opposition education spokeswoman Sarah Henderson told Sky News the send-off was a "very bad look".

"The majority of university funding does come from the taxpayer, and, of course, students make a very big contribution," she said.

"HECS debt has gone up an average of $2,700 a year, which is just extraordinary [for students]."

Ms Henderson called on Education Minister Jason Clare to investigate why the university was allowed to spend such a large sum on a "lavish" dinner.

"It's so pretentious, it's so inappropriate, and it comes at the worst possible time."

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