ANUSA Departments, Explained.
By Adelle Millhouse and Jason Pover
The ANUSA Departments are the most important point of advocacy and support for traditionally marginalised communities in ANUSA. As well as providing a community and autonomous space to their members, they meet with the University executive to promote their causes. They are funded by ANUSA, their respective Officers have voting rights at Student Representative Council, and their activities are supported by ANUSA’s Executive. However, they’re not really governed by the broader ANUSA regulatory infrastructure, and are primarily responsible to their members.
Autonomy and the Collective
Membership of Departments is autonomous, meaning that membership is limited to students from the community the Department represents. The Environment Collective however, given that it doesn’t represent a group of people, is open to everyone.
The reason for this anomaly is historical. In 1997, a number of ANUSA committees that dealt with political issue were rolled into Departments, and Environment and Education were the only ones large enough to survive the process that were not related to a particular disadvantaged group. Education has since been brought into the ANUSA Exec under the Education Officer as the Education Committee.
Departments are led by their collectives, which are similar to committees. However they are distinct in that the collective rather than elected officers are supreme in making all decisions for the department. Indeed, the department officers – when voting in SRC – are traditionally bound by the decisions of their collective.
The Women’s Department represents women and non-binary people on campus. It helps advocate for recognition of women’s issues on campus, or more generally advocacy for those oppressed because of their gender. This work can be large-scale and noticeable, such as protests outside Chancellery or the publication of Bossy. It can also be one-on-one, referring individuals to essential services. Women’s Department members have exclusive use of the Rapunzel Room. This year’s Women’s Officer, Laura Perkov, attended NUS Education Convention and has lobbied senior University Executives on issues such as sexual violence.
The Queer* Department provides services for all members of ANUSA and PARSA who identify as queer*. This includes, but is not limited to, those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or biromantic, transgender, intersex, asexual or aromantic, pansexual or panromantic, polysexual or polyromantic, or non-binary. Last semester, the collective ran a campaign “Queer* Enough?” for people who don’t feel queer enough to be part of the community, ie. people who are straight passing, or not performative ‘enough’; the Department is now running a campaign on LGBT health. During the tenure of the current Queer* Officer, Matthew Mottola, the department has been running different campaigns each term. After allegations emerged of homophobic harassment at Ursula Hall, the Officer also worked with NUS LGBT to publish a campaign with national scope in response. In addition to the Department’s advocacy and political campaigning, it also runs social events, including the Pride Party and Queer* Ball. There is a dedicated space for the use of Department members, Queer* House.
The ANU Disabilities Student Association was created to advance the cause of students who identify as having a disability. This is a broad category, and includes not only people with physical disability, but also those with mental illness, autoimmune disorders, and chronic pain. It aims to raise the profile of disability, and advocate for structural change at the ANU. Its advocacy takes many forms, including documentary screenings and the annual Ramp It Up gala, in addition to providing ongoing support for their members. They also operates the autonomous Spoons Space, currently located outside Access & Inclusion in the Copland Courtyard.
The Ethnocultural Department is the newest Department, established as a department last year, after forming as a collective in 2015. It’s open to all students identifying as people of colour, with a common experience of facing systemic racism. It advocates for diversity, both linguistic and ethnocultural, through the organisation and attendance of rallies, and frequently throws events on campus. Its latest campaign, “Proud of my Skin”, culminated in the publication of a zine, sharing stories from students with personal experiences of colourism. The Department also recently facilitated a successful new production, the Ethnocultural Revue.
The Indigenous Department provides services for all undergraduate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students at the university. In addition to advocating for students, it also promotes the cause of Indigenous issues in the broader community. The Department is also responsible for the running of NAIDOC Week, in addition to a number of other recreational and cultural events throughout the year. Their Department uses the Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre, under Melville Hall. The Indigenous Department, as well as Ethnocultural and the ANUSA Exec, was involved in the response to the Ramsay Centre proposal.
The International Students’ Department is comprised of all ANU’s International Students. It aims to increase engagement and integration between international students and the broader ANU community, and assist students in familiarising themselves with the Australian way of life, through initiatives like an ‘International Students’ Living Guide’.
The Environment Collective is a way for students to advocate on environmental issues. They run campaigns on these grounds, such as encouraging the use of reusable coffee cups. The ‘Fossil Free ANU’ campaign, calling on ANU to divest from fossil fuels, was initially organized by the Collective, but has since separated, and is now run independently. The collective also advocates for broader social justice issues, as they believe that a sustainable future means a place where all beings can live in peace, dignity, and freedom.
Department Officers function as the heads of each department, and are usually supported by deputies. Although Officers are elected, you wouldn’t have seen them on the ballot in last month’s ANUSA Election. Most departments choose their officer from within their own ranks, and thus the position is unopposed in the general election. This ensures that votes are autonomous and that officers have been involved in their department. If a consensus isn’t gained from their membership, the candidates will be placed on the general ballot. Only members of the Department may vote for their Officer, but this is self-identified, and is very difficult to enforce.
Some Departments mandate that only members who have attended three or more meetings within a year are eligible to stand for Department Officer. In the case of the Disabilities Department, only two meetings must be attended in an academic year. The International Students’ Department is an exception – it runs elections for multiple positions, in a race that is often contested and where debate happens outside of meetings. These elections are only open to International Students, and are conducted later in Semester 2.
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