Education Officers, Head to Head: Fees, the War on Welfare, and Storming the Chancellery.
ANUSA is the student body’s top voice to ANU and the Government on fees, housing and welfare. The race for ANUSA’s top campaigning and advocacy job is between Makayla-May Brinckley, from Shake up, and Lift’s Harry Needham. Here’s the Education Officers, head to head.
What does the Education Officer do?
Every now and then, the Government decides it doesn’t like students. The Education Officer’s job is to remind them that students vote. Protests, campaigns and rallies go alongside negotiations and community-building for ANUSA’s chief political advocate.
The Education Officer is usually why baby boomer public servants see students in the Canberra Times, and where students who want to protest can go for resources and support. In 2014, when deregulation loomed, ANUSA’s Education Officer sat before Federal Senators to discuss how students would be hurt.
Shake Up’s Makayla-May Brinckley is the current Indigenous Officer of ANUSA. Brinckley helped organise the 2017 Network of Women Students Australia (NOWSA) conference, and is involved with SEED, an Indigenous group advocating for action on climate change. Brinckley was an ANU delegate and presenter at the World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education.
Harry Needham, the Lift candidate, is currently the education officer of the CAP Students’ Society, and President of the Regional, Rural and Remote Students’ Society. Needham is also a General Representative for ANUSA, and has been an active member of the ANUSA Education Committee. He has sat on the Unilodge Residents’ Committee since 2016, and was part of the Secretariat of the NUS National Conference in 2016.
Making activism for everyone
Students often find activism “inaccessible, intimidating or just plain confusing”, Needham says, and both candidates have policies on how to increase inclusion in education campaigns.
Brinckley’s proposed solution is to create “multiple advocacy efforts” for each campaign, with some less confronting efforts like “art installations” complementing more aggressive action like “storming the chancellery”. Brinckley stresses the need for events that cater to low-SES students who work long hours and students with disability who may not be able to access some events.
Needham has also acknowledged that student participation in activism is low. Lift believes this is because often activism for students is difficult to access, and has promised to ensure all activism events follow ANUSA’s Accessible Events Guidelines. Needham has also proposed the addition of an activism-dedicated “Education Week” to the ANUSA calendar.
Both candidates have said they’ll work on translating promotional materials into multiple languages.
The student housing crisis
Rental housing availability and prices have decreased in recent years, a change which especially impacts low-SES students, and candidates have clashed on how best to address the issue.
Brinckley has proposed a scheme to make accommodation more affordable: that ANU purchase housing around Canberra, and “rent it to students at a subsidised price”. Shake Up also says ANU should increase the amount of emergency housing on campus and increase student awareness of this service.
Needham called Shake Up’s housing affordability policy “a short term and fundamentally vulnerable response” to the issue. He points out that ANU had a similar scheme in the 70s, which collapsed after ANU rapidly raised rents to meet budget shortfalls. Needham argues this policy relies “on the generosity of the university” and that instead students should address the problem directly with an “active campaign of protest”. Needham says he commits to “lobbying the ACT and federal governments” about housing affordability with “a series of visual stunts and actions” including “art installations in the Pop-Up Village”.
Needham has promised a large campaign to “humanise and destigmatise” welfare recipients if elected. Citing the issues of drug testing, budget cuts and ‘work for the dole’, Needham proposes a photo campaign, a series of protests and a petition to the House of Representatives to campaign “against the Government’s war on welfare”.
Indigenous education at ANU
Shake up has taken a strong stance on supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students on campus. Brinckley believes the academic Colleges at ANU are “ignoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s knowledges”. In response to an apparent failure of academic Colleges they will be advocating for a change in education on campus by working with the Indigenous Department. Shake up is pledging to advocating for Indigenous content and methodology in courses, and for a compulsory Indigenous course for each degree. Brinckley has admitted that the compulsory indigenous course may be difficult to do for some degrees, such as Engineering.
Needham says he fully supports this policy.
Regional, rural and remote students
Needham singled out the issue of regional, rural and remote student support in his campaign. The candidate promises to lobby the government for a “Tertiary Access Allowance”, unlinked to eligibility for other welfare support, for students from these backgrounds. Lift also supports the expansion of the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarship to all disciplines (they currently focus on STEM).
Voting in the ANUSA election opens online on Monday 21st.