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Foreign interference

Foreign interference occurs when activities are carried out by, or on behalf of a foreign actor, which are coercive, clandestine, deceptive or corrupting and are contrary to Australia’s sovereignty, values and national interests. 

This is not the same as foreign influence which sees governments and other agencies using open and transparent avenues to contribute to, and possibly influence, issues of importance.

Why is this an issue for Universities?

In 2019, the Government formed the University Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT)  and UFIT published the Guidelines to Counter Foreign Interference in the Australian University Sector which aim to ‘encourage universities to adopt measures to mitigate foreign interference risks’ while recognising that  ‘the majority of university international interactions are positive and benefit Australia’.

These guidelines have been developed for, and in partnership with, the Australian University sector to help manage and engage with risk to deepen resilience against foreign interference in the university sector. They are designed to build on risk management policies and security practices already implemented by Australian universities, as well as assist decision makers to assess the risks from foreign interference.

What is UWA doing?

These are issues which the University takes very seriously, and following an internal review and consultation, the Executive has established a Foreign Interference Advisory Committee (FIAC) to take responsibility for and coordinate the University’s ongoing actions to manage and mitigate foreign interference risks. FIAC includes the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education, Pro Vice-Chancellor Global Engagement, the Chief Digital and Information Officer, and the Director Governance and Legal Counsel.

What are my obligations as a staff member?

UWA and its employees have obligations under various Acts, government guidelines and programs. UWA’s Foreign Interference Policy outlines these. All academic staff, and all professional/general staff at Level 7 of higher are required to make an annual declaration indicating that they understand the obligations which pertain to them and disclosing certain kinds of international engagement which carry a heightened risk.

What are my obligations as a student?

If you are a research student, your supervisor will manage any sanctions and/or defence trade controls issues related to your research and will provide you with any training needed. You can also send any queries to foreigninterference@uwa.edu.au

The rights of staff and students

Staff and students do have obligations, but they also have rights.  In particular, UWA supports the right of our staff and students to work and study in a safe space, free of foreign interference by a foreign government. 

That interference may lead to a staff member or student feeling bullied and harassed, and this behaviour may be directed to them via another person.

The types of behaviours that may occur, and which UWA does not tolerate include the following:

  • intimidation of staff and students by individual students or staff
  • inappropriate actions by foreign student associations operating at UWA
  • inappropriate identification of, or sharing of, student or staff details (‘doxxing’)
  • reporting, or threatening to report on, fellow staff or students to foreign government bodies

Find out more about the rights and responsibilities of our UWA staff and students here.

Reporting Foreign Interference Concerns

If you have a concern about what your obligations are please contact foreigninterference@uwa.edu.au

If you are concerned that another member of the University community may be acting under foreign interference, or you are being harassed and pressured, you can discuss your concerns with the Integrity and Standards Unit (the ISU).

Find out more about report/complaint options and contacting the ISU at: https://www.uwa.edu.au/About-us/integrity-and-standards/reports-and-complaints

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