NUS, ANUSA Lead Protest Against Education Cuts

Content warning: this story contains mentions of violence and references to genocide.

A protest was held today at the Pop-Up hosted by as part of a National Day of Action organised by the NUS (National Union of Students). Approximately 150 students came to see speakers from ANUSA departments, as well as ANU Labor Left, the Greens, Unions ACT and the NTEU.

The protest was chaired by Kim Stern, NUS LGBTI/Queer* Officer and a member of Socialist Alternative (SAlt). Stern, a former Monash student, held up SRC 2 last night, as they are not an ANU student, and took some 50 minutes to leave. Stern brought up the issue of government policy on asylum seekers, saying that “the government has money to fund death camps in the Pacific but none to fund for education”. They later claimed that there are “arms manufacturers buying courses to train up engineering students to create white phosphorous to burn the flesh of Middle Eastern children”.

The purpose of the protest was to oppose what the event called “$2 billion in cuts to higher education, the biggest cut to university funding in Australian history”. The decision of the federal government to withdraw funding for non-vocational diplomas has resulted in the termination of the ANU Diploma of Languages.

Braedyn Edwards, 2018 ANUSA Indigenous Officer, was the first speaker. Stern invited him to deliver the acknowledgement of country. He went onto describe education as a “public good … that the State invests in us and the State reaps the rewards of”.

Lachlan McGregor, ANU student and member of ANU Labor Left spoke to the benefits of unionism, saying, “The need for the NUS cannot be overlooked. We need to recognise that we are a lot stronger when we unite. There is power in student union.”

Alexander White, Secretary of Unions ACT, told the crowd of the need to “stop the war on young people and young workers”. He went onto claim that “70% of young workers don’t even receive the basic minimum wage”. This could be a reference to the youth wage paid under 21.

Rachael Bahl, Secretary of ACT Division of the National Tertiary Education Union, argued, “if your lecturers are overworked, they have no time for you.” She also claimed that students may have to “repay your degree before you finish your degree”.

Finally Josh Wyndham-Kidd, ACT Greens spokesperson on higher education and an ANU tutor, spruiked Greens policy. “We can increase base funding for students tomorrow, 10% per student,” he said. A group of ANU Labor Right figures moved to the back of the crowd during this speech. Observer was later informed this was because they did not support the protest being used to promote Greens policy.

Chants included an enthusiastic rendition of the classic “Stand Up, Fight Back”, while a less successful attempt at “money for health and education, not for war and occupation”.

The protest comes the day after ANUSA voted to reaccredit to the NUS, subject to KPIs, after a 5 and and a half hour SRC meeting.

Photography Skanda Panditharatne

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