Postgrad Students Get Their First Chance To Vote in Upcoming ANUSA Election
Written by Fergus Wall
The ANU Student Association (ANUSA) is the only student union operating on campus today. Postgraduate students can now vote and run for office in the upcoming ANUSA election, including for newly-created roles exclusively for postgraduate students. This follows amendments to the ANUSA Constitution and the dissolution of the Postgraduate And Research Student Association (PARSA).
Can postgraduate students vote in the Week 8 Elections?
Yes. All students, including postgraduates, are automatically ANUSA members and can vote to elect the Student Representative Council (SRC), the student representatives who decide ANUSA policy. Voting remains non-compulsory.
The move to include over 11,000 students completing postgraduate studies by coursework or research increases ANUSA membership by roughly 80%. Incumbent ANUSA President Ben Yates described this change as “the most significant institutional transformation of the union in decades”.
This follows amendments to section 2 and 5 of the ANUSA Constitution, approved in a Special General Meeting on May 24th earlier this year.
How does ANUSA affect postgraduate students? Why do the ANUSA elections matter to postgraduate students?
Following PARSA’s closure, ANUSA is the only student union at ANU and has now expanded to encompass the interests and representation of postgraduate students.
PARSA, the Postgraduate And Research Student Association, was a student-run organisation founded in 1960. It aimed to provide support and advocacy for ANU’s postgraduate students.
PARSA was discontinued in 2022 due to a number of factors, including financial and constitutional difficulties. ANUSA has taken over many services previously offered by PARSA.
Currently, students pay a mandatory Student Services and Administration Fee (SSAF) which the University then allocates to organisations on campus, including ANU Sport, Woroni and Observer. ANUSA received the largest portion of this funding: the University allocated 33% of the total SSAF budget ($1,867,059) for the full 2023 year, of which the union has received $1,306,941.30 so far from December 1st 2022 to July 28th 2023.
ANUSA uses this funding to provide services to the student population, including to postgraduates. This includes free meals and groceries; free advice from the ANUSA legal team and Student Assistance Advisors; access to the Brian Kenyon Student Space (BKSS); and the SkillUp program to subsidise vocational qualifications for students. ANUSA coordinates major social events, like O Week and Bush Week, and regulates, trains and provides funding to over 110 clubs.
ANUSA also coordinates campaigns to advocate for issues affecting students, such as the recurring August 1st campaigns for action against sexual violence; and the Housing Action Collective for residential tenancy rights and housing affordability.
ANUSA also provides services previously administered by PARSA, such as the Student Extracurricular Enrichment Fund (SEEF), which allocates grant funding to student projects.
For students completing Higher Degrees by Research (HDR), ANUSA now also runs four weekly thesis writing workshops with complimentary meals. This program, called Shut Up And Write, is very popular and “has helped hundreds of students” since its inception in 2012.
ANUSA also includes seven Departments created to advocate for the experiences of specific communities and on specific issues, as well as provide material support for members of those communities. They are the Disabilities Student Association, BIPOC Department, Environment Collective, International Students’ Department, Queer* Department, Women’s* Department and Indigenous Department.
By electing members of the Student Representative Council (SRC), postgraduate students can shape the delivery of these services to their needs, and ensure ANUSA achieves for its postgraduate members its constitutionally-enshrined purposes, including “quality and equity in higher education” and “a recognised means of representation for Students”.
Who in ANUSA will represent postgraduate students? What positions can postgraduates fill?
Postgraduate students can now run for any elected position in ANUSA, except those specifically designated as undergraduate student representatives.
Many officers’ role descriptions now explicitly refer to their responsibilities to postgraduate students. For example, the Education Officer, as head of the Education Committee, has the power to create sub-committees “to specifically address issues of concern” to postgraduate students.
Parents and Carers Officer: ANUSA has carried over from PARSA the Parents and Carers Officer and associated Committee. This role is open only to those identified as a parent or carer, per 2.1.7 of the Election Regulations.
The amended Constitution also creates new roles to be filled exclusively by postgraduate students:
College Representatives: Section 5 of the ANUSA Constitution states there will be four College Representatives from each academic college on the SRC: two elected by undergraduate students, one elected by coursework postgraduate students and one elected by HDR students. Since these representatives are consulted on matters involving their specific college, candidates must be members of the academic college and are elected only by members of those colleges.
Academic Officers: Section 9(10) of the ANUSA Constitution creates three Academic Officer positions on the SRC (referred to as “Academic Representatives”). This includes one for undergraduates, one for coursework postgraduates and one for HDR students. The roles must be filled and elected by members of those cohorts.
Postgraduate Member on ANU Council: there will be one postgraduate sitting on the ANU Council, a role which predates the constitutional amendments. The 15-person Council governs the University, including by determining strategy, appointing Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors and approving the annual budget.
How can postgraduate students get involved in the election?
While nominations for positions have now closed, several postgraduate students have put themselves forward for positions across the SRC.
A number of postgraduate students have already been elected unopposed: Diana Tung as HDR Officer, Edan Habel as Postgraduate ANU Council Member and Abirami Manikandan as Postgraduate College of Health & Medicine Representative. All these candidates are on the Together for ANUSA party ticket.
Additionally, a lack of nominations means there will be no postgraduate college representative at 5 of the 7 academic colleges, with candidates only for the College of Health & Medicine and the College of Business & Economics.
All students, postgraduates included, can vote in the upcoming elections. Polls open at 9am on Monday September 25th (Monday Week 8) and close at 12pm on Thursday September 28th.
Students can vote in person in the Kambri Precinct, or online at www.voteanusa.com. This requires logging in with Student ID (to prevent fraudulent ballots), but remains fully anonymous.
Graphics by Annisa Zatalini
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