ANUSA Investigates Governance Overhaul

After almost two years, ANUSA has received the recommendations of its governance review. The review contains recommendations on many components of the organisation, including structure and composition. At SRC 1 last week, a motion was passed to create a Governance Review Working Group to draft changes to the Constitution that have “the most support” following internal consultation.

In her report, General Secretary Taylor Heslington clarified that if the recommendations were not agreed upon by a majority during an internal consultation process, they would not be implemented. She also stated that the process was likely to take until July. This is due to the need for consultation within ANUSA, in addition to the time needed to draft the changes themselves. All changes would also have to be ratified by the ANU Council

The review was drafted by a private consulting firm. Environmental Officer Grace Hill opposed the review on the grounds that it was a “corporate approach”, with the suggested restructuring representing a “reweighting of the SRC away from activist positions”. SAlt member and Gen Rep Nicholas Carlton called for required changes to be passed individually by SRC instead of providing the working group with “a rubber stamp of approval”.

ANUSA President Lachy Day stated at SRC 1 that, although some aspects of the review showed a misunderstanding of “how a union works, and how ANUSA works as a whole”, the current governing structure of ANUSA did not work. Day also said that the SRC was functioning “in spite” of its current problems and that this is a contributing factor to the high turnover of ANUSA Representatives each year. 

At the time of publication, the governance report is not publicly available. Both Observer and Woroni obtained leaked copies. Heslington stated during SRC 1 that if people “want the report,” she is “happy to put it out”. Here’s a summary of the biggest changes it suggests.

Recommendations Regarding Legality

A number of Constitutional changes were recommended to bring ANUSA into line with the Associations Incorporations Act (1991). 

One change would include a clause in the Constitution to ensure that ANUSA officers “act lawfully”.  Gen Rep Nicholas Carlton opposed this change, stating it would preclude ANUSA reps from civil disobedience against “unjust laws”.

Another change was recommended to classify the ANUSA Executive as the ‘Committee’, which would minimise the legal risk of decision making to other members of the SRC. Currently, although the majority of ANUSA’s decisions are made by the Executive, all members of the SRC are jointly liable for the outcomes of these decisions.

Overhaul of the Disputes Committee

The Disputes Committee essentially functions as ANUSA’s High Court. They’re the final appellate body for any problem within ANUSA, including constitutional breaches. They have the power to impose fines and even revoke ANUSA membership. 

The governance review recommended a clause which would state that the “rules of natural justice” are to be applied in the adjudication of disputes. The review also recommended a total overhaul of the Disputes Committee as it currently stands. This includes the provision of “a modern framework and rules” for managing disputes, and the inclusion of “an independent representative of the University” with clearly defined “powers, responsibilities and processes”. Currently, the Disputes Committee is composed of up to five undergraduate students. Recent rulings, however, have been ruled on by just one or two people. These students are elected by a supermajority of ⅔ of the SRC. Rulings of the committee are made by supermajority and cannot be appealed. 

Recommended Changes to Clubs Council

Multiple changes to the composition of the SRC were recommended, with most involving the Clubs Council. One called for representatives of student clubs to be elected to the SRC, and to clarify that the Clubs Council is “subject to ANUSA’s Constitution, rules and policies”. Last year, Clubs Council passed a motion to investigate a possible exit from ANUSA to become an independent entity.

Another recommendation was to have Clubs Council operate similarly to the College Representative Council. This would abolish the Clubs Council Executive, and instead create a Clubs Representative Council with representation on the SRC Executive. Currently, the Clubs Council Chair presents reports to SRC, but does not have a vote.

Clubs Council Chair Jacob Howland stated in his SRC 1 report that discussions with Heslington about the governance review had been “productive”, and that he had provided a 2,500 word feedback document to her for review.

Changes to the Size of the SRC

A number of changes were recommended to reduce the size of the SRC. One recommendation was to have a “modest” reduction, from 39 to 28. The SRC would then have 1 representative per academic college, 10 General Representatives, 4 Clubs Representatives, the ANUSA Executive and the Officers of each of 7 Departments. Other options included cuts to 21 or 17 members, with varying compositions.

The review also provided scope for the addition of Executive members, including a potential ‘Welfare Officer’ role.

Other Recommendations

One recommendation would introduce a Constitutional requirement for the Executive to communicate regularly with members, and for a record to be kept of Executive decisions. The review stated this would help with transparency and future constitutional interpretation. In addition, it called for more consistency in the language of the Constitution, the removal of redundant provisions as well as a review of the Constitution every 5 years.

 

ANUSA did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication

An earlier version of this article misstated that the document had not been sent to ANUSA representatives.

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