With the 2021 Students’ Representative Council election in full swing, Honi editors Deaundre Espejo and Alice Trenoweth-Creswell sit down with SRC presidential candidate Matthew Carter to discuss his credentials, politics, and plans for the union.
Alice Trenoweth-Creswell (ATC): Okay, so what is your name, degree, year, campaign colour and brand you’re running on?
Matthew Carter (MC): I’m Matt Carter. I’m in my fourth year of a Bachelor of Music (Performance). My campaign colour is dark blue and pink. And I’m running under the brand ‘Unite.’
Deaundre Espejo (DE): And how are you feeling about your campaign so far?
MC: I’m feeling quite positive, actually. I’ve received a lot of messages of support. And I’m actually overwhelmed by how receptive everyone in my community and in the broader USyd community has been to my message, and what I want to bring to the SRC, which is a student-focused council. And that’s been really uplifting so far. And I’m very grateful for the students that have offered me their time this year, and their support thus far.
DE: What are your motivations for running for SRC president?
MC: Well, I’m running for SRC President because the Council has so much potential that I think is being slightly lost. In my first two years at university, I didn’t know the SRC was a thing, really. I had some personal struggles that made University quite challenging. And I really needed some support around special considerations and support around academic appeals. And I didn’t quite know who to turn to that could have made that time easier. And the SRC services around casework, the activism through the collectives on behalf of students to management, and it’s just the support that that organisation — our union — provides to students that I missed out on in my first two years, and I don’t want students to miss that. I want everyone to know, and everyone to be able to utilise the essential services of the SRC. My first engagement was actually in the second semester, second year when a friend of a friend messaged me to vote for a friend in a campaign. And I was like, what is this organisation? This sounds cool, because up until then, all I had known was the Conservatorium Students Association. So I went and looked up the SRC. And from that point, I’ve actually used the casework services. I’ve used the legal services. And it’s been quite invaluable to developing my personal, academic and mental wellbeing. And I want to extend that wellbeing and that sort of participation in a strong and vibrant unionism to students through my presidency. It’s just students deserve a president that will defend our union, and they deserve a president that will prioritise student welfare, and they deserve a president that will fight for our interests, with management, with staff with everything around the university life, and I am that president.
DE: What career do you see yourself going into after university?
MC: Well, I’m studying a music degree. And I anticipate going into the music industry in one form or another. I’m working very hard to try and become a performer. I’ve worked a bit with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs. And I’ve gained really valuable experience and have loved my time performing as a musician. And that’s something I’m very passionate about. But I’m also passionate about students. I’ve spent four years now trying to protect student interests, trying to forward a quality of academic and mental and physical life for students. And I’m just passionate about continuing that in an organisation that I think is missing the mark on helping students. And that’s why I’m kind of diverging ever so slightly, but I’m still anticipating fulfilling a performance career and if not performance, then perhaps orchestral management, or there’s many options considering how competitive and limited that industry is.
DE: You’re a student at the Conservatorium. You mentioned that as being a big reason for why you want to run for President. Given that you’re not around Camperdown campus, and potentially have little prior connections at Camperdown, can the majority of students who are not on your campus trust you to represent their concerns effectively?
MC: They definitely can. I mean, for the last two years, we’ve all been online. And we’ve all had the same experience regardless of what campus; regardless of what country that we’re in. And it’s that combined experience online that has made our University, honestly, a more together place. We have more of a sense of belonging in that we’re all suffering through the challenges of lockdown; we’re all suffering through online. Every student is having troubles with special considerations regardless of campus, every student has troubles with appeals. It’s a universal student experience that I have experienced over four years, both in-person in my first two years, and online with everybody else.
I’d also like to add that I have actually been relatively involved in main campus. I was attending MUSE events in high school, and I’ve got plenty of friends in main campus. I’ve been to science balls, I’ve done stuff with Business One I’ve written for Honi Soit. I’ve tried to immerse myself in USyd because I see that as a culture in itself. USyd is an institution but it is also a student experience. And I’ve tried to live that to my fullest and I want to bring that to students as we come back from lockdown, so that we can all have that university experience that I sought out and really enjoyed having.
ATC: In less than two minutes, what makes you qualified to become SRC President?
I’m qualified to become SRC President because I have experience in student advocacy. I’ve defended against course cuts quite successfully at The Conservatorium. I have defended against unsafe practices with people’s breathing through mouldy juice boxes. I have fought against course cuts since first year when they merged courses at the Con into singular programs. And I wrote essays to the Dean, I walked into her office as a first year. I have the presumption, the power, and the personal drive, to challenge those in power, to speak truth to them, and to make them understand what students need. I’ve also had a bit of experience with activism at the Conservatorium, trying to engage students and bring them into the fold, and encourage students to come with me to protests, and to trying to extend USyd’s collective activism to more than just the main campus students and to really engage with the broader student body on the fronts of particularly the climate catastrophe, and particularly LGBT rights. And it’s something that I’m very passionate about. I just want students to have the best experience and I’ve worked really hard these last four years to make that happen.
DE: Do you think that these kind of achievements within one campus translates to leadership of the entire university, as well as on a state and federal level?
MC: I think, in regard to the university, definitely, we will have to start somewhere. And I’ve started with a student association that serves an entire campus and has really complex needs, and really complex financial needs. And I’ve managed those finances. Well, I’ve increased our funding, I’ve allowed us to expand our projects so students have free access to things. And it’s just that idea of student-focused leadership, and a student-focused student union and student-focused student representative council that I want to bring to the SRC. And I think this experience in managing quite a large campus worth of students is easily transferable to the SRC, and is an experience that I think puts me in a very good position to lead an entire student union. In regard to the state and federal question, I have no ambitions to have any leadership in state or federal politics at present. So I don’t particularly see my experiences touching there. But I do have experience in lobbying the university in advocating for student needs in writing letters to members of parliament, and calling members of Parliament, calling senators to try and get a motion of disallowance to this governance standards three for the National Charities and Non-for-Profits Commission. And I guess that’s where my experience comes in with state and federal parliament in lobbying, and working tirelessly to try and fight for students’ rights and what students need, and to defend our union.
DE: In your policy statement, you mentioned your specific experience as an SRC Councillor and Intercampus Officer. What have you specifically achieved in these roles that would equip you to lead the SRC?
MC: As a councillor some of my proudest achievements are calling for a review of the centralisation of the university student services, which was a large campaign in 2017. That saw all of the students support offices centralised in the Jane Foss Russell Building. And they took support away from the faculties, they took support away from satellite campuses, and students lost that specific, degrees-specific, course-specific advice and support. And that’s why we have our current issues with students support and with special considerations, because we’ve lost that customise appeal. So that’s one of my proudest achievements in Council, in calling for that review, because I think that is still having an impact on students, and having a very negative impact. And we need to understand its impact on students across all campuses and across all faculties. I think as an Intercampus Officer, my greatest achievement, or probably the one that means the most to me, is helping students at the Conservatorium of Music who are struggling, particularly musicians, we’ve all lost our performance work, not all of us, some are lucky enough. And we’ve lost teaching work because of online teaching. And we’ve lost all of the extra work that we can often have. And many have fallen through the cracks of support because of the government’s poor policymaking. So I moved a motion to allow Foodhub to be expanded the Conservatorium of Music in council and then I just loaded up my car and drove Foodhub over to The Con and have been distributing them initially on campus, but since then, I’ve been delivering them through my post office up the road so that students who need a little bit of a leg up can get something from their SRC. And so that the SRC has a tangible impact on more students across more of USyd.
ATC: You’ve mentioned that you’ve organised a campaign against course cuts to jazz and organised a Conservatorium protest contingent for students. But still, you arguably haven’t engaged as much in the SRC’s activist efforts, do you think this would be a detriment to leadership?
MC: I don’t think it would be a detriment to my leadership at all, I would see it as an expansion of my current experience and an expansion, and I have a willingness to learn. And the SRC has extraordinary activists that have done extraordinary things for students and for the wider population, across all of the SRC’s history. And I am so keen to continue to learn from them. It’s been great hearing the motions in council, voting them up and going to a couple of events to support them. And so far, I’ve seen my role as expanding the SRC’s services to The Conservatorium as an Intercampus officer, and trying to get more students across the university engaged, which is what the SRC is struggling so much with right now. And this would just be the culmination of those efforts where I get to interact with the entire university, from a position of reasonable authority where I can directly influence the SRC’s vision and direction, and really put students at the front of everything that we try to achieve.
DE: Are there any particular current SRC campaigns that you would look forward to? potentially being involved in if you get elected president?
MC: I would really look forward to continuing the fight against the cuts to SLAM. I find it absolutely detestable that the university is posting such a large profit, even their deficit has decreased in real terms from 22.2 million to 2.2 million. They’re crying poor, and they’re cutting jobs. They’re cutting our quality of education, increasing our class sizes, and it’s just, I can’t comprehend why the university, actually I can comprehend it, they’re trying to save money and make more money at the expense of staff and students. But I would be very keen to get much more involved in that program, as President of the SRC of that effort, so that I can help students and take bring my experience from defending against course cuts at The Conservatorium to the entire university.
ATC: The SRC President involves a significant amount of bureaucratic work. They sit on various University committees, proofread Honi every week and deal with the day-to-day running of the SRC and everyone it employs. You haven’t had a paid office bearer role. Do you think you have the policy experience and the institutional knowledge for the more administrative side of the role?
MC: I think I definitely do. Having been treasurer of the CSA for two years now. I’ve experienced the university’s bureaucracy, I’ve experienced SSAF’s bureaucracy as well, and trying to work against it in favour of students to try and bring real projects that help students wellbeing, to students across the university. Many of the CSA’s initiatives are actually being attended by students from the Darlington campus. And it’s that sort of idea of a unified USyd that this lockdown, and that the CSA and myself have been trying to bring heavily to our student body. And I think it’s this experience in managing financial books and all that jazz, and looking out for students to management trying to get more and more funding and trying to put students at the front of everything I do, that will make me a reasonably good administrator of the SRC. Probably, I can’t say for certain because I haven’t done it yet, very few people have. But um, I have high hopes for my presidency in an administrative way. I’m also quite good at working with people. So there’s those skills as well, as a musician, we have to be able to get along with almost anybody.
ATC: Being SRC president is a huge commitment. And several past presidents have said it’s equivalent to a full-time job. So will you commit to deferring university if you win?
MC: I will, I will defer University and any other particular activities that I’m doing at my time so that I can prioritise students. Students deserve a president that will give them 100% of their time, because the role demands 100% of a president’s time. And it’s through giving all of that that I can actually achieve what I’ve wanted, and it’s by being full time employed, that I will actually be able to not work and actually attend everything I want to. Go to all the protests, go to all of the various movements that the SRC champions and I’m very excited to be able to have that opportunity without having to support myself by working to the same extent, externally from the SRC.
ATC: So in your candidate statement, you say that your presidency will be a left-wing one, how would you define left-wing?
MC: I define left wing as progressive as anti… Sorry, I define left-wing as progressive as seeking climate justice as seeking justice for marginalised communities such as the LGBTQIA+ community, such as the Indigenous community, such as those with disabilities. And that is what I see to be truly left-wing, to put the voices of those who are marginalised at the top of what we listen to, and to create a society that works for everybody, not just the wealthy, not just those who have rich parents, and not just those that are fortunate enough to get a high quality education, we need to make sure that everybody has the best standard of living and the best standards of learning. And I want to bring some of that to USyd as president.
ATC: On that, your campaign has been endorsed by several liberal aligned tickets. Does this compromise your left-wing platform and your promises to fight against the government in particular, the Job Ready graduates package that you cited?
MC: Not at all, my policies are entirely my own. I have written them as myself. And that can be seen through my actions over the last four years, they reflect everything I’ve worked towards, and everything that I’ve tried to envision for this university. They are not factionally considered. They are just my voice and the voice I want to present to students, and the voice I want to bring on behalf of students the presidency. And I’ll just also add that, factionally, I haven’t signed any deals with anyone, no one across the hundreds of students that are supporting me and campaigning for me have any promises or any particular signed deals, and they are supporting me, because they believe in my policies. They believe in my candidacy, and they believe that I’m the presidential candidate that can actually bring meaningful real change for students. And that is the mandate I’m running on to become president of the SRC.
DE: What about your policies do you think attracts these, the endorsement of these Liberal-aligned tickets compared to your opponent Lauren Lancaster?
MC: I think my policies attract the endorsement of students in general, by being student-focused policies. For example, I want to set up a placement report card for students that go on placements, whether it be education or medicine, we’ve seen recently, through Honi Soit, and through USyd rants, that students are just not getting the care they deserve, and the current system is failing them. We need a clear, transparent, and well-organised system where students don’t have to go through a third party to place a complaint where they can go straight to the university has a duty of care to these students. And it’s that sort of student-focused and student-centric policy that is appealing to honestly, most people on campus. And I think that is why I will probably be elected president.
DE: In your policy statement, you say that you oppose cuts to education, casualisation of staff, increased course fees. You just mentioned, you’re passionate about issues like environmental justice. At the same time, you know, you emphasise that you want to take a pragmatic approach to working with university management. Is it accurate to say that you are a reformist candidate?
MC: I am a reformist candidate, but I’m not reformist in the sense that I will undo the left-wing work of the SRC. I will just present an SRC that does left-wing work for students rather than left-wing work for left-wing work’s sake. And it will be this idea of bringing a progressive president that has a pragmatic approach to working with management, so that the SRC can get the best SSAF allocation, so that the SRC can actually serve students in the best way possible. My pragmatism and my experience in managing finances and in working to achieve the best results for students in regard to funding is what will make my presidency especially strong. Because I will guarantee that my reforms will have the funding and that my reforms will have the strength and the backing of students and the SRC to actually bring meaningful change for students that USyd.
ATC: So you are running as Student Unity’s presidential candidate, which is the Labor right faction. Does your faction bind your decisions?
MC: Not at all. USyd Unity is entirely nonbinding, and I am my own candidate in that sense. And in most senses. My policies are my own, my vision for the SRC is my own. And USyd Unity has just decided to endorse and support that vision.
ATC: Evidently, your faction is connected to the broader Labor Party, and you are a member of the ALP yourself. Should students be concerned about the influence that your faction, and how its actions reflect on the Labor Party in a federal election year?
MC: Not at all. I’m a member of the Labor Party because I’m a proud working-class unionist. I come from a working-class background out in the Blue Mountains. My parents both have education backgrounds. My brother is a nurse and I teach for work. And I understand what it’s like to have to work to support yourself, particularly when living in Sydney. I understand what it’s like to be a university student. And the reason I’m a member of the Labor Party is because I believe in the power of the working people to create change for themselves through unionism and Labor is at its core, the party of the working people. And that’s why I support Labor because they will bring positive change particularly in regard to education across the board when elected next year. And there’s absolutely no fear that my federal and state political beliefs will impact how I work on the SRC because that’s all laid bare in my policies.
DE: Earlier this year, Unity-led UTS Students’ Association penalised education activists for postering on campus, while Unity-led Monash Student Association permanently limited in-person student elections. Meanwhile, the Unity President of the La Trobe Student Union abolished that body, sacked its staff and redirected SSAF funds to a new student association. These decisions have led to accusations of repression of student representatives and activists. Do you agree with those decisions?
MC: Not at all. Absolutely not. I am a proud unionist. I am a proud student. And I’m a proud person who has worked for the best of students. And I absolutely do not support the decisions of these Unity, or in the case of Latrobe, former Unity members. And that is absolutely no reflection on myself or what my presidency will bring. My policies, as I’ve said, they are my own policies. And they are truly what I’m passionate about bringing to serve students and to put student interests at the core of what the SRC and myself, as hopefully President, will do for them next year.
DE: So can you guarantee that we won’t see similar measures at USyd during your term?
MC: Definitely. USyd Unity is quite separate from state and national Unity. Our convener isn’t even, like she resigned as an executive from state Labor because of disagreements. So we are ourselves. You mentioned before, what did you say sorry, whether essentially, we have our own voice within unity. And we are our own voice. We are our own students. We are our own ideas, and that is respected. And there’s no sort of, that’s a very strong word. There’s no sort of fear for expressing ideas, and there’s quite healthy debate. And I do love debate. I do love to disagree with people. And I do love to play out that discourse and see what happens. But as long as it’s in a respectful way, that maintains the dignity of students at the end of the day. That’s what I want to see from council and that’s what I’ve seen in Unity.
ATC: Almost every year, there’s tension between presidential candidates who want a more activist-focused SRC, and a more service-focused SRC. If you have to choose should the SRC lean towards more activism or services?
MC: I think at the end of the day, the SRC is a union. And that means activism. The SRC is not inherently a service provider, I’m very glad that it is, because the USU has been over corporatised and is failing students on many fronts. And I’ve written extensively on how I think the USU is not the world’s best institution. And I think that if there was an ideal world and the USU actually did what it needed to do for students, then the SRC could become a purely progressive, purely activist, union, and that would be inherently the function of a union. But as the status quo is the SRC has to provide services for students and those services are so extraordinarily valuable, and they’ve made my life easier. They’ve made so many students’ lives easier. And I want to make their services more accessible and more widely available to the university’s students.
ATC: In your candidate statement, you call the SRC an insular organisation based on fear and intimidation. What do you mean by this? And this is a pretty big claim. Can you point to some concrete examples?
MC: I think the most concrete example of this is the content of the motions in Council. There are so few motions, and I was quite disappointed to discover this in Council this year, there are so few motions that are actually moved to directly benefit students or to change what happens in USyd, and change what happens for students in USyd. Many of the motions, rightly so — it is a union’s place to get involved in international politics to get involved in ideological debate, I just think that the ratio is skewed. And that makes SRC continue to lose its potential. It isn’t meeting students’ needs and isn’t operating for students. If we just rebalance that, and still have a vibrant debate about how the world should be, and what we want as students, progressive students for the world, then we can also serve students practically. We can fight against course cuts in council. We can fight to find reports, to commission reports against centralisation. And we can actually work for what students need and what students want on a weekly, or in the case of council, monthly basis to brings about some real change for students in addition to having a place on the global stage as a powerful student union.
ATC: But on that note a bit more what exactly did you mean by it’s an organisation based in fear and intimidation? Like that’s quite like a big thing to say, what like the experience of fear and intimidation that you’re talking about there?
MC: Yes, there’s quite a few shouting matches in council over ideological debate. And I was honestly a bit intimidated by the quite aggressive and very passionate stances that students took. And having done more research agree with why this is such a heated and passionate stage of discourse. But I think that that can turn students away a little bit and can be a little bit too… A little bit too heated, a little bit too passionate. And then we miss the mission of the SRC, which is inherently a student representative council. That’s kind of what I mean by that. Actually, that is what I mean by that.
ATC: So what do you want to do to change the culture, then?
MC: I would like to see Unity get a decent number of seats on council for starters. I think that would go a long way to creating a more diverse Council and creating more diverse perspectives on Council. And as President and Chair, the President has control over the Standing Orders within reason, council could always vote to change those orders. But the President can moderate debate a bit more, so it remains respectful. And it remains something that the dignity of every student, regardless of their political or ideological beliefs, is maintained. And at the end of the day, we all deserve dignity in one form or another. We are all human. And we are all students, regardless of faction.
DE: In previous years, turnout for SRC elections has been as low as 5% of eligible voters. Several international students are still stuck overseas and aren’t as connected to the SRC. At the same time, we’ve been seeing numerous USyd rants about SSAF fees — you know, what’s happening with them. So how would you increase student engagement with the SRC next year?
MC: I’d begin increasing student engagement with an introductory Canvas module that explains the SRC and explains what its services do. And that would be every student’s first interaction with the SRC for the year, and possibly their first interaction ever. It puts the SRC on the map, and it puts the SRC at the core of student life. And just to have known in first year, what the SRC could do for me with caseworkers, what the SRC can do with students more broadly in regards to the legal service, and to get involved in activism on campus. That would have changed my university experience. And I want to set that up from the very beginning with students, I want us to be as visible as possible so that we can perform our duties, perform our mission, and represent all students from the very beginning of the year.
ATC: So the past few years have pushed universities to a critical state with widespread attacks from the government and university management in the form of austerity measures. How will you turn the tide? What will you do for education if elected, as SRC President?
MC: I will campaign tirelessly against the now legislated Jobs-Ready Graduates Package. That legislation can be undone, all legislation can be undone. And we can see a tangible improvement for students in regard to these constant attacks that the Federal Liberal Government have put through over the last decade. It’s just been defunding over defunding, I was reading through Honi articles recently around 2013-2017 in that time period, when the last slate of cuts came through. And it’s absolutely disheartening, watching higher education become more elite, more insular, and I want to fight. I want to work with the education officers. This years’ have been brilliant, Maddie and Tom. And I want to continue their legacy and get to the legacy of the SRC as an activist organisation that will advocate and activate for students. I will also work as President through the committee’s with the University’s management, to continue pushing, to continue demanding that they represent students to the Group of Eight, that they represent students to Universities Australia, and that they push those very powerful lobbying groups to continue fighting the federal government to continue pushing against these cuts and to not just give up the fight, because part of it’s been done. It’s a continuing battle, and I will take up that torch.
ATC: As SRC President, what is your personal role in these education campaigns in a more specific sense?
MC: My personal role would be to have my boots on the ground. I will have the freedom, without having to have work outside of the SRC, to have the ability to attend as many if not all the protests that I possibly can. Also the role of president as sitting on all of the University, not all of them, but like several of the University’s very powerful committees. And having, for example, in our meeting with the Vice-Chancellor before every academic board meeting, being able to put that education agenda that refunding of universities, that prevention of course cuts, prevention of staff cuts, demanding equal pay for casuals, demanding good conditions, and supporting particularly in the coming months, the NTEU and CPSU in their EBA negotiations, and putting that at the front of the Vice-Chancellors mind, putting that at the front of management’s mind. And demanding that they work with students, demanding that they make change that brings this university to a better place for every single person attending.
DE: How do you envision the relationship between the SRC and other groups on campus, namely the USU, NTEU, The Casuals Network and SUPRA?
MC: I envision the relationship as being a very positive one. At the end of the day, we are all students, not so much The Casual Network, but we are all students. And I mean many casuals at USyd are students. And it’s that idea that we are fighting and working towards a common goal of having a high-quality education. We all want the best regardless of what faction runs what organisation, or what person is sitting in what chair we do have that shared experience of students. And we have that shared goal to create the best academic, the best physical health, the best mental health and the best student life outcomes for students. And at the end of the day, that will be my priority and working with other organisations is easily one of the best ways to achieve that.
DE: On a different note, students this year — well, students in general — have been left behind by our current economic crisis with many losing work, struggling to pay rent and put food on the table. In your policy document, you say that you’re passionate about advocating for low SES students. You suggest that the last few SRC Executives have failed to do so. And that, unlike recent presidencies, you won’t be reactionary when it comes to the issue of student welfare before they escalate into a full blown crisis. What are you referring to when you talk about these?
MC: I’ll just address that in two parts. First, the low SES, I have lost, I haven’t worked in an orchestra since 2019. And that was the base of my income. That’s how I afforded rent. That’s how I afford to eat. So I had it, it wasn’t a very fun time at the start of COVID when I also lost all of my teaching, until schools brought on online capabilities. And I couldn’t get Centrelink before because I hadn’t worked — I was one hour off the casual work requirements for the Sydney Symphony, and I couldn’t access support, and I was in such a bad mental place. I was skipping meals I got, I used to be quite a lot heavier than this. This is a lot of weight loss actually that I’ve kept off since. It wasn’t a great time for me. And I didn’t have extensive support networks behind me financially. So I really was on my own in those moments. And I tried to just make it through and I did thank heavens while still supporting students in the CSA and advising them on their own Centrelink applications because I’ve navigated that bureaucracy enough. And that’s why I’m so passionate about catering to this roughly 10% of students that USyd who are low SES who fall below the cracks. And the USyd SRC doesn’t actually have a low SES collective. There’s no dedicated voice to these students, there’s no dedicated means of the SRC to communicate with them directly, to understand what they want. So having that lived experience, and having the lived experience of struggling with the university brings me onto the second part, allows me to understand what students want, what students need from a position of lived experience. And it’s that lived experience that means I will be ahead of issues I will be living them as they come, or have lived them. And I also have a very broad range of friends. As I’ve said, I’ve got friends through all the various faculties across all the campuses. And it’s just I understand what students are facing, what their troubles are. And I will try and address issues as they arise not before they become a crisis, like the 12-week semesters. No, not that one. That was an excellent thing. Like the special considerations crisis that’s been brewing for years, there have been Honi Soit articles about that where students had two months of waiting to get responses. And the SRC should be at the head of that, the SRC should be handling that before it becomes a crisis. A good SRC should be doing most of its advocacy work before students know they need it, so that students don’t actually reach a point where they are in crisis, where they really need support and where their mental and physical wellbeing, and even academic wellbeing is so heavily impacted, that they have to drop out, defer ,where they go into bad places.
DE: So on that note, what have your thoughts been on this year’s President Swapnik and last year’s President Liam?
MC: I’ve worked on Swapnik with a few projects this year, and we’ve had a reasonably good working relationship around relocating some Foodhub to The Con, and he’s been very helpful in those regards. But my thoughts overall is that there is a large level of reactionary in his presidency. And I would like to, if I were to improve upon his work, to be ahead of those issues, and to really make sure that students are represented before students are crying out for help. And that’s what I would like to bring. In regard to Liam, I haven’t interacted with him a huge amount personally, because I wasn’t on council at that time. But I did watch some of his speeches at Academic Board and I think he fought hard against course cuts and against the Job-Ready Graduates Package. But at the end of the day, he was unsuccessful, sadly, and I don’t envy his job. But I hope to take up his mission where he left off and where Swapnik’s been working and to actually work to undo this legislation and to make sure that students have the best education they can have.
ATC: Next year, we’re facing a federal election which students undeniably have a stake in. How are you planning on advocating for student student interests in the next election?
MC: I would advocate for student interests just as I advocate for anything else. I would, of course, consult with the SRC’s caseworkers and understand what they see as the most pressing issues and their expertise as unionists in the sector, who understand so much about the complexities of government and so much about the complexities of the university. And I would take their recommendations, and I would throw them my recommendations, and we’d hopefully come up with something that’s a very strong policy position for the SRC. And then we’d campaign, we’d campaign hard so that both sides of government really listened to our voice and really tried to prioritise students first. I don’t want one side or the other to take up the mantle of education. If everybody wants good tertiary education with secondary education, and a higher quality of learning that is easily accessible, that is affordable and that is equitable in Australia, then we are doing our job right. Then we are serving students and then we are serving future generations.
DE: This week, Universities Australia began its National Student Safety Survey on Sexual Harassment and Assault. In your policy statement, you hope to reduce sexual assault on campus and demand more transparency and reporting. How exactly to do that and what changes will your leadership bring?
MC: This is a very personal one for me, actually. I’ve experienced assault, I’ve witnessed assault. And it’s predominantly women and minority groups that face this challenge. And that face this very serious issue in our community as a university and our community is a broader country. And it needs to be something that’s addressed. Survivors deserve to be heard. And survivors deserve to have the respect of an institution that lets their voice be heard easily. And in reporting as both a witness and a survivor at the University, it’s been extremely challenging. The latest instance, where I reported seeing an incident, I had to go to a staff member to help me find where to report the incident. And it took us about 20 minutes sitting in their office to figure out where the heck the link for that reporting site is. Even though the university claims to be supportive. It’s just not intuitive and it’s not an easy, user-friendly experience to report any sort of incidences. And my goal would be to consult with the University and to really push the University so that they can set up a system. I would push and demand that the University prioritise the well-being of survivors, and emotional and mental toll that any sort of reporting takes so that they can be heard and that they can be seen effortlessly.
ATC: Do you think that your opponent, Lauren Lancaster can win the election?
DE: I think at the end of the day, this election may come up to a coin toss. I honestly don’t know. She’s a very strong candidate within Grassroots. And I respect Grassroots as a faction and the rank and file members for being left-wing, for having progressive ideas for wanting to make university better for students. I don’t think that recent issues within their leadership, particularly reflect their rank and file membership. And I think that issues within the leadership still need resolving before they are fit to hold office in the SRC. Again, and I think that we need a stronger voice for students on Council that represents all students.
ATC: So what are these issues in leadership that you’re mentioning here?
MC: These issues are what we’ve seen reported in the Women’s Edition of Honi. Where there’s been mass resignations across the faction and incidences of miscommunications and not clear transparent management within the faction itself. And while I understand everyone has their own business, and everyone has their own challenges, I think responsible government in that case, of the SRC, they shouldn’t be trying to help students, and run students and mandate what students need if they can’t figure out what they need themselves. And I know what we need, I have listened, I’ve experienced, I’ve lived and I will bring a vision that is student-focused to the SRC, and I will make that the priority of my presidency.
DE: And just to conclude, just very briefly, why should students vote for you?
Students should vote for me for President of the SRC because I have the lived experience to lead. I have the lived experience of working for students. I have the lived experience of giving up time, of giving up money, of giving up lots of what I have, so that I can make students’ lives better. I have the lived experience of working in the University’s bureaucracy, working through the University’s bureaucracy, and working through the challenges that we face. And it’s a universal student experience. We all struggle through it at various times in our degree. Students may not have yet, but there will come a point where we all have to access the services, and where we need a union that is strong, where we need a union that understands what students want, and that will defend student interests. And I will make sure that the SRC is in the best position to represent students in 2022.
Disclaimer: Editors Vivienne Guo (a candidate for Council) and Marlow Hurst (involved with DRIP’s campaign) have declared a conflict of interest for election coverage (including this edition) and are not involved in any of the 2021 coverage of Honi Soit, NUS and SRC elections.