ANUSA has cancelled its First Year Camp, citing “unforeseen circumstances” and a lack of “suitable… support mechanisms”. The camp was initially scheduled to take place over the weekend, beginning today, Friday 1 March. It was cancelled yesterday afternoon.
The camp was to be held at the Kianinny Bush Cottages in Tathra, on the NSW South Coast. For the first time, ANUSA was planning to hold just one camp, rather than having multiple camps split by academic College. There was also a significant reduction in the cost of tickets, from $80 per camper to $50.
In a statement on its Facebook page, ANUSA claimed that the date of the camp was “no longer suitable for the support mechanisms necessary for the camp to go ahead”. In a statement to Observer, ANUSA Executives revealed that the decision to cancel the camp was made yesterday, just one day before the camp was supposed to begin.
Observer spoke to Jake Hester, who was a mentor at a 2018 First Year Camp and would have been a mentor this year. Hester said that all mentors were sent an email yesterday morning, informing them that the camp would being going ahead, albeit with fewer campers than anticipated. He was told that approximately 40 first years had purchased tickets. Later that day, Education Officer Tankia Sibal sent another email, informing mentors that the camp was cancelled. Sibal said that it would be “unsafe” to run the camp as originally planned, and that student safety was the priority.
According to Hester, mentors were not told why running the camp would be unsafe, or given any further explanation for the cancellation. He stated that ANUSA had provided first aid and mental health first aid training for the mentors, and that they had been required to obtain a Working with Vulnerable People registration.
Hester criticised the organisation of the camp in general. He said that there had been only one opportunity for mentors to meet in person to discuss the camp prior to the event itself. Many mentors were unable to make this meeting, and thus would not be meeting their colleagues until the day of the camp. An itinerary was not available until last Monday, and the Mentors were not sent a Memorandum of Understanding until yesterday morning.
Despite informing mentors of lower than expected attendance, ANUSA told Observer that ticket sales were “comparable” to previous years, and that sales targets had been met. Low ticket sales have been a problem for first year camps in the past, with ANUSA’s 2019 Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) bid noting that 2018 sales were “not as high” as they had been previously, and that the move to a single camp for all disciplines would “[reduce] the risk of low ticket sales”.
First Year Camps were first run in 2012, and they have run every year since then. Initially under the portfolio of ANUSA’s Vice President, they were later transferred to the Education Officer. In 2018, an independent First Year Camp coordinator was hired to oversee the camps. According to ANUSA’s 2019 SSAF bid, this was not repeated, in order to keep the ‘salaries and wages’ budget down. This year’s camp was to be run jointly by both the Education Officer and the Vice President.
ANUSA had bid for a total of $30 000 from the SSAF pool for the running of the camp, with an additional $10 000 of funding coming from “non-SSAF contributions” – presumably ticket sales. The Association planned to take 60 first-years on the camp. When the University determined the final SSAF allocations, ANUSA slashed that $40 000 budget to just $10 000 overall. ANUSA told Observer that it is “still finalising” what non-refundable costs it will incur as a result of the last-minute cancellation.
ANUSA stated that all tickets will be refunded, and that it is planning to host an “alternative event” for first years. It plans to review First Year Camps, but said that “ultimately [it] will be up to the next years’ executive and SRC to decide”.
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