What Makes Us Human in a World in Crisis?


The humanities, arts and social sciences make a vital contribution to Australian life. The Council for Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) is a voice for the sector. To support our members, CHASS has moved to a ‘pay what you can’ model for the coming year.

The present COVID-19 crisis is an unprecedented public health emergency. Yet it has highlighted the rich web of human connections that underpins everything from global trade to our everyday life.

It has also thrown into stark relief the divisions and inequalities that run through our society.

Our social and cultural life has changed as well, shifting into the virtual realm, and highlighting how the arts bring hope and joy, keeping us informed and entertained, during good times and bad.

This crisis is changing how we live. We cannot go back to living the way we did before, whether we want to or not.

The medical sciences are leading us towards the eventual end of the pandemic. Yet, now and in the months ahead, we will also have to make big decisions about how we live together: about issues at the heart of what makes our lives valuable and the type of world we want to have.

Thinking through these questions is the task and promise of the arts, humanities, and social sciences. If we are to do it well, the HASS sector must be supported. So far in this crisis, it has been neglected or worse.

Our universities, and the broader culture and knowledge sectors allied with HASS, have transformed our cities, and indeed all of Australia. If we don’t support HASS now, we will transform society again… for the worse.

CHASS exists to articulate and promote the value of the HASS sector and its critical role in building the world of the future. We have done this since we were established in 2004 and will continue to do so as we ask, “how will we recover from this crisis?”.

We do this by bringing the humanities, arts and social sciences disciplines together, and allowing them to speak with one voice.

More than ever, that collective voice is needed now, but some of our members have never been in a more precarious position.

To support these members, for the coming year, CHASS is changing its membership fees to a ‘pay what you can’ model, recognising for some in the sector this will be very little, perhaps even nothing.

Whether or not your association is in a position to contribute to us, we want to affirm your voice and we want you as a CHASS member.

Membership is open to organisations with an interest in the future of HASS in Australia, including universities and research centres, peak bodies for the sector – such as museums, libraries, major performing arts companies, craft makers and designers, musicians and music managers –professional associations in HASS disciplines and for HASS teachers, and national collecting institutions.

If you are a current member, I will write to you outlining these changes and our plans for the year. If your organisation would like to join CHASS, please contact us at membership@chass.org.au .

Dan Woodman
President, Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.