First professor of Australian poetry faces disgrace in row over race

Australia’s inaugural professor of poetry has been suspended after sending a bizarre series of emails in which he used racist, sexist and offensive terms.

Barry Spurr, the Oxford-educated Professor of Australian Poetry at Sydney University, called Nelson Mandela a “darky”, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott an “Abo-lover” and referred to Aborigines as “human rubbish tips”. He also described women as “whores”, described Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a “witch doctor” and claimed that the “modern Brit” was the “scum of the earth”.

Lamenting that Australian society was now less white than in the 1950s, he wrote, “One day the Western world will wake up, when the Mussies [Muslims] and the chinky-poos [Chinese] have taken over.” In another email he wrote, incredibly, “No Abos, Chinky-poos, Mussies, graffiti, piercings, jeans, tattoos, BCP [Book of Common Prayer] in all Anglican chruches [sic]; Latin Mass in all Roman ones. Not a women to be seen in a sanctuary [church sanctuary] anywhere. And no obese fatsoes. All the kiddies slim and bright-eyed. Now utterly gone with the wind.”

Professor Spurr, an acknowledged expert on T.S. Eliot and a consultant to the Australian government’s English curriculum review, has been suspended indefinitely and banned from the Sydney University campus. Professor Spurr claims that the emails were a chain in a “whimsical” contest with a colleague in which they tried to see who could be the more extreme, and students have held campus demonstrations both against him and (subsequently) in support of him. Professor Spurr has also claimed that accessing his private emails was illegal, and an investigation is now trying to determine whether his email account was hacked, and by implication whether the emails were genuine.

Extensive reportage will be found at

and many other sites, while a brief bio can be accessed at

Although he protests that his views are not represented by these emails, the Professor has form, having apparently on a number of occasions denounced the Australian premier as an “Abo-lover”. His conservative cultural views are well known. In 1995 I reviewed for The Tablet a book of his on liturgical language, The Word in the Desert: Anglican and Roman Catholic Reactions to Liturgical Reform which is still in print. While the book pretends to present a balanced view of the topic in fact it is more of an academic rant. Spurr’s reported remarks about the Anglican and RC liturgy, quoted above, are certainly well in line with the views expressed in the book, which makes one wonder whether the rest of his remarks in fact do represent his views.

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