Culture //

Everyone remembers their first time…

Eloise Griffiths went to the Labor Club/Liberal Club debate.

It’s a monumental step for many people and, I think it’s safe to say, an overwhelming and confusing one at that. I was a bit nervous, the room was dim and stuffy, I pretended to know what was going on, and then all of a sudden it was over.

I am of course referring to my first encounter with student politics – my first exposure to a degree of enthusiasm and passion that I have never before witnessed.

I was invited by my adoring housemate to join her and a ‘few mates’ for a drink at a bar. Having just emerged from the shower and resembling a freshly boiled lobster, I reluctantly obliged, acknowledging that it may be more productive to spend the evening with people my own age rather than weeping over the Downton Abbey Christmas Special in between mouthfuls of my third bowl of cereal. I surfaced from the comfort of my nest and arrived at the bar to discover her ‘few’ friends were in fact a small army of matching t-shirt-clad student politicians and my recruitment to their cause was seemingly inevitable. I had walked smack bang into the middle of a Labor Club/Liberal Club debate. Cheers, housemate.

I was completely out of place. I’d never had any form of political involvement before and my query, “So what’s a trade union?” let everyone know it. Upon being questioned on my political stance and being unable to respond with a legitimate answer, I stammered: “I…I’m from Canberra though”, as if my regular sightings of politicians going for power walks or seeing Parliament House in all its symmetrical glory lent me some form of credibility. I retreated to the corner and waited for the free alcohol I was promised. It soon arrived and inhaled two standards by the time the debate was due to commence. I was ready.

I tried to focus my increasingly blurry vision on the speaker and attempted to understand what was happening. Terminology and policies were vehemently debated and creative insults were shrieked from the mouths of a pack of escaped banshees. The opposing crowd looked fresh out of a frat house, sloshing beer in plastic cups and belting inaudible abuse, stuffed into their finest suits for a polished façade. I nervously laughed along, sipping my cheap tap cider and using the liquid courage to meekly agree with the “hear, hears”, all the while Snapchatting myself with cat ears and whiskers.

Things escalated quickly, the crowd was getting rowdy and much to my relief it was coming to an end, coinciding well with my lightweight tendency to stop functioning after 5+ drinks.

Despite still not knowing what a trade union is and forever associating student politics with excessive expletives and cheap alcohol, I have now taken the tentative baby steps into a politically involved student life. 10/10 need several months to recover though.

Illustration by Laura Precup.