USU Board Interview Transcripts 2022: Onor Nottle

Honi Soit interview with USU Board candidate Onor Nottle..

ON: I’m Onor Nottle. I’m Arts/Law third year, majoring in politics. My slogan is “On Board with Onor” and my colour is switch yellow.

I just wanted to say just before we jump into it, I am Zooming in from Waiben, the Land of the Kaurareg people.

I just wanted to acknowledge that and pay respect to Elders, both past, present and emerging. I’m really lucky at the moment that I’m in the Torres Strait in an incredible community learning environment. So I’d just like to acknowledge that before we start.

HS: Cool. Thank you so much. Just so you know, you are dropping out a little bit if we look like we can’t hear you, it is catching up with the lag.

ON: Okay, cool. Yeah. Sorry. I’m doing the best I can with reception up here.

HS: Oh, good. Thank you. Who’s your campaign manager and what is your faction?

ON: Yeah, so my campaign manager is Telita (Goyle) and my faction is Switch.

HS: So you already mentioned that you’re part of Switch. Are you part of any other political parties?

ON: No.

HS: How would you characterize the role of the USU?

ON: I’m so sorry. The role of the USU or the role of the USU board?

HS: The role of the USU, and then you can talk about the boards specifically.

ON: Yeah. Perfect. So I think the USU has an incredible opportunity to be there as the advocates for students. I think the USU is the organization that is providing for students and staff, that is ensuring that campus life is giving students and staff the best outcomes that they can possibly get.

And I think it is the USU board director’s role, at the head of that, to ensure that we are providing for students, that we are having progressive left wing outcomes on campus, that student life is really cultivated, and that resources are being adequately put into those enriching things like clubs and societies like events. So that’s how I see the USU and the USU board.

HS: So you’re part of the left-wing factions, such as switch, which is obviously very well known for its activism. How about student unionism more broadly? What is the role of that? If you were to be elected, how would that play into your position as a board director?

ON: Yeah, certainly. So I think student union unionism is so important. As you know, in the last (Federal) Budget of Scomo (Scott Morrison) , we’ve seen literally not a single mention of students, of providing for tertiary education and, quite frankly, that’s abhorrent. It is so important that we, as a student union, advocate, for positive educational outcomes, positive tertiary education for all facets of students.

And I think also that has a role in supporting staff. So, for instance, in the strikes coming up in week 11 and 13, it’s so important that the (University of Sydney) Union backs the staff and backs their negotiations for the EBA, because at the end of the day, when staff are provided for,, when staff are invested in, that’s when our students are also provided for, are also invested in, and that’s when their learnings can reach the full potential.

So certainly, I think that unionism is really important.

HS: Let’s talk a little bit about your experience and what makes you qualified to be a board director. First of all, what motivated you to run for USU?

ON: Yeah. So kind of a two-pronged answer to that. The first thing is to say that like I’m a regional interstate student. So I came over to Sydney and I just kind of threw myself into as many clubs and societies as many events as possible because I had no one over here. I needed to kind of make that community and through doing that, I’ve seen the ability that, you know, USU affiliated groups and other student organizations on campus have to create a sense of community, to create a place of belonging. And from that, I’ve kind of gained institutional knowledge about the USU, but also from that I’ve seen the issues. I’ve seen the entrenched problems that we continue to see throughout USU organizations. And I’ve also kind of – second prong here – realize how important it is that we have left wing directors on board, because I think the best outcome for students will always be a left wing outcome.

And so for me, it’s really important that we have someone who has the politics, but also who understands the institutions, who’s been a part of the clubs and societies and who is competent enough to kind of enact those outcomes for students.

So that’s really why I’m running because, firstly, as I said, I’ve realized the impact that these kinds of organizations can make on student life. But secondly, I think to get the best impact and to get the best outcome you need competent left-wing directors.

HS: So let’s about those two things in more detail. Firstly, you are very clear that you are a left-wing candidate and you really want to bring that in. What is one political issue that you are very passionate about and that you want to try to incorporate into your term as board director if elected?

ON: Yes, certainly. So something I’m super passionate about is really.

Working to end the rape culture. The National Student Safety Survey that came out a few weeks ago, it was absolutely deplorable. And I think it’s an indictment that a quarter of the sexual harassment or sexual assault incidents that happen at the University of Sydney happen in those clubs and societies, and happen in those clubs and society events.

My stance is that it is time to radically address those issues and treat this issue as the health crisis that it is. So for me, that looks like implementing a standardized and anonymous reporting system for all clubs and societies. That looks like exec being able to external facilitators come in when dealing with those complaints and those situations, because as a 19 year old exec member, even if you do the modules on canvas, you’re not going to be well equipped to deal with these horrible and harsh and hard circumstances.

And also looking at ensuring that security is that every high risk drinking event, that clubs and societies run, because as we’ve seen from the data this is where those issues and those incidents occur. And then of course working with WOCO (USyd’s Women’s Collective) working with and holding space for anyone who is passionate about the cause, so that we can continue to make change in that regard.

Because as I said, it’s a health crisis and it needs to be treated as so.

HS: The second thing I wanted to ask about is your experience with clubs and societies, and with campus life in general, engaging with the USU. What makes you qualified specifically for this position?

ON: So for the past two years, I’ve been on the Law Society executive. So that’s a socials director in 2021 and campus director in 2022. I’ve been a part of the Debate Society since I came to uni. And I’m an SRC councillor this year.

I’ve sat on an academic board. And in that position I’ve had consultation hours with disability offices, from FASS (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) and SULS (Sydney University Law Society) . I also have been involved extracurricularly, so that looks like being in the law revue cast, before it got shut down. That looks like doing the policy reform project for the past few years. That looks like volunteering theough the Youth Justice Mentoring Scheme.

So all of this is to say that I think I have the knowledge of how clubs and societies operate. I think I have the knowledge of what clubs and societies need. I also think through those positions, I’ve proven that I am a person who gets things done, who, when she says she’s going to do something, she makes it happen.

I think that’s really important in terms of accountability, transparency for board directors.nAnd I think it also just shows that, you know, Naturally because I am so far, well, not as far, but because I am far from home in Sydney, i’ve had to make the uni my second home. And so it shows the kind of care and the kind of richness, that I have shown, that I have been able to derive from being a part of university life.

HS: I’m going to do this to policy based questions. So I’ll start with some sort of broad ones. What is one thing policy-wise that you think the USU has done well in the past two years?

ON: Yeah, for sure. So I think… hmm, just then take a second to think about that.

HS: Any sort of broad favorite policy? I can come back to that one if you want, if that would help?

ON: I think, you know, it’s a bit cliche, but Welcome Fest was incredible. That was really great for the directors to get that up and running after two years of being online. And I think that was an incredible feat. I think it got everyone invigorated about student life and returning to campus. So I really, really appreciated that initiative and loved what the current board did with that.

HS: I agree. Welcome Fest was great. What’s one thing that you think the USU could have done better policy wise?

ON: I’m just going to think for a second, if that’s okay.

I think one issue with the current USU board is that there are the initiatives, but there’s two key issues. And I think the first is that a lack of a communication channel and transparency with clubs and socieities, whether that be about the grant system, whether that be about our training modules. But then also in terms of the grant system and training modules and those initiatives, marketing and publicizing all of those kinds of events and initiatives and getting it out to the student body and getting it out effectively and coherently to clubs and societies exec.

 I think that that is currently where the tension stands in terms of having those ideas and actually enacting them in a way which really does help the student body.

HS: The first part of your policy statement ‘Onor on Feminism’, you say you’re going to fight with C&S and WOCO for a safer campus for women. WOCO’s main political point this year has been dismantled the colleges and replace them with needs-based student housing, their t-shirts have “burn the colleges” on them, etc. Do you feel this poses a sort of conflict for you? In working with both WOCO and the college community?

ON: Thanks for the question. No. I, having been at college understand the extremely disappointing and extremely disgusting issues that they have regarding rape culture, and unfortunately I have been privy to it myself. I completely understand where Women’s collective is coming from.

And the thing I have to say is that, where that may be the ultimate goal, in the interim where these colleges exist we have survivors who are suffering. We have survivors who are on the front line of disclosure of these horrible incidents. We have people who are having to go to breakfast with their perpetrators.

We have people who are too scared to speak up. The perpetrator is the person celebrated on the cricket pitch. And so it is imperative, regardless of what the final destination is in terms of burning down the colleges, in terms of affordable housing. For me, the most important thing is ensuring that students and women are protected right now. And that when they’re in that environment, they are being supported and they are made to feel safe and they are made to feel like they have an avenue for reporting for getting justice. I in the past few months have been having meetings with people in positions of power post the National Student Survey results regarding what the colleges can do.

I’ve spoken out on this issue. I am very passionate about it. And I believe, actually, to be able to provide for people in the colleges currently, you need that institutional knowledge. You need to be able to liaise with those people in positions of power, but also you need to be able to support and work with Women’s collective. I believe I can bridge that gap. And for me, it’s about the people who are suffering right now, the survivors who, for the past three years that they’ve been in college, haven’t had these avenues, haven’t had the support and for those who are to come in the future.

So, I believe I have a unique position to be able to actually get those groups to come together, to provide for people who are currently suffering, who are currently survivors. To me, that’s the most important thing.

HS: So another policy point in “Onor on feminism” is security mandated all drinking events.

In the last few years, student communities who sort of felt uncomfortable with campus security. In 2019 Honi revealed that the recently appointed head of campus security, Simon Hardman, had received allegations of homophobia in his time with the Newtown Police. There were complaints of homophobia to campus security about the security gods, which Hardman was very quick to dismiss at that time.

 Do you have any comment on the fact that many students don’t feel that campus security make events safer, many of them feel that the opposite is the case, given the kind of relationship with the police between campus security.

ON: Yes, certainly. Thanks for that question. We’re always, so I think the first thing is to say that I condemn all of that behavior and that I am extremely, extremely passionate about ensuring the wellbeing of students in these events.

In terms of security mandated at these events that looks like consultation with the clubs and societies as to what form of security would be best for them. So that’s not to say that it’s necessarily campus security. That’s not to say that it’s necessarily X many officers for X many people, X many events.

This policy came off of me talking with a number of STEM students about ways in which they feel unsafe at their major events because there is that lack of a clear avenue of people to go to if they get into harm. So that’s an idea there, obviously this policy comes from the framework of wanting to support students at these events in these scenarios.

And so it is imperative to me that when that is developed, it’s developed with clubs and societies exec, with the student population,i n a way in which they can feel safe. So a hundred percent it does not automatically mean using campus security. It may look like increasing funding or having another grant scheme or using that discretionary pool so that campus societies can employ their own security, or looking at all the ways to work with outside partners.

I just want to make it really clear that that’s a consultative process. And that, first and foremost, in that consultative process will be ensuring that students feel safe. So if campus security aren’t doing that then campus security will not be at those events.

HS: Moving on to the accessibility policies, you talk about a campus disability room. Honi had an article that came out yesterday, which basically detailed a four year administrative back and forth in terms of getting that disability space up and running. What will you do differently compared to what’s been done in the last four years to actually get this opened?

ON: So firstly, I think it is an indictment that for the past however many years, board directors have promised a space and it hasn’t happened. And I think, much the same way as if I was elected, I’d address the Foodhub scenario, it’s not about pointing fingers. It’s not about this ping-pong back-and-forth. It’s about taking responsibility. What can we do now to ensure that this is implemented as quickly and as effectively as possible? So if I were elected to board, it would be taking responsibility for this policy. It would be consulting with the disabilities officers of clubs and societies, and what it would be is being staunch, not backing down and following up on this policy and ensuring that it gets passed, that we actually get somewhere. I think, you know, one thing about me is that I’m not someone to back down.

Once I’m saying I’m going to do something, I’m going to commit to it. I’m going to get it done. And that’s what’s been lacking in this scenario. There’s too much pointing of fingers. “It’s up to you.” “It’s up to you.” Pinponging back and forth about whose responsibility it is. To me, we need to take responsibility. We need to take initiative and we just need to get it done.And so I think I would just fight to get it done, and finally have it effectively achieved.

HS: You also talked about equity tickets for USU events. These currently already exist, so I was just wondering what this policy means, what do you want to do about equity tickets?

ON: Yeah, thanks. So whilst equity tickets do currently exist, they’re not particularly well advertised.

A lot of people don’t know that they are there, there isn’t a lot of transparency about how many equity tickets are available. I think we can increase the amount of equity tickets available. I think we need to increase the advertising for that because currently people don’t even investigate getting tickets to events because it isn’t even a thought that they would be able to apply for that equity opportunity.

To me, that’s looking like expanding the pool, lowering the prices and just really making sure that that avenue is as open to as many people as possible.

HS: One of your policies is rename Wentworth (Building) , could I ask a little bit about who Wentworth is? Why we would be renaming the building?

ON: Yes. Certaintly. As we know, Wentworth profited off Indigenous oppression, off Indigenous slavery and is not someone that we should be platforming in our university, in our Union, whatsoever. So for me, the ultimate goal would be to tear it down, would be to completely get rid of it.

That is one of the kind of policies that we’ve heard time and time again. It’s time that we finally, actually have some action. And I also, in terms of that policy, it’s really important that we consult with the Gadigal Center. Currently there is barely any consultation. I don’t think there is any between the USU and the Gadigal Center.

That is a fantastic, fantastic center, doing incredible things with so much knowledge. So, for me, it’s looking like consulting with them about the best ways to go about ensuring that we de-colonize that space.

HS: Sure. Just on the Gadigal Center, are you aware of any of the issues they’ve faced with Uni administration the last few years? Or just like many of the issues indigenous students are facing generally?

ON: Um.

HS: There are no wrong or right answers. Just like broadly, what sort of support do you think Indigenous students could benefit from?

ON: So I think Indigenous students are, time and time again, let down by our University. I think there are a number of ways that needs to be addressed. That looks like firstly, following the law school’s lead in terms of, they’ve just finally hired their first Indigenous practitioner in-residence Teela Reid, so having that sort of representation in faculty.

I think in terms of the broader university, from a sustainable environment point of view, that looks like consulting with First Nation’s people when we’re talking about environmental policies, when we’re talking about environmental targets. That looks like a actually talking about, for instance, in law degrees, customary international law.

That looks like expanding programs, like the one that I’m on right now, the Service Learning in Indigenous Communities program, which is run by Indigenous people and kind of promotes knowledge sharing about climate change and health, promoting those to the broader community. That looks like holding space for Indigenous and First Nation’s people in terms of consultation in everything that we do.

 There definitely needs to be an active de-colonization of the USU and also the university in general. Right now there is not space held for those people. There is not support given to those people. And that is a real shame.

HS: So we have been contacted by a number of people, and also just sort of following things online. There is, as I’m sure as you would know, some things, some concerns people are holding around your use of potentially harmful or racist language, stuff on Usyd Rants and things like that. Was there anything you wanted to say to sort of address those conversations going on right now?

ON: Yeah. Thanks for that, Roi. So what I want to say is that those rumors are unequivocally false. I unequivocally did not use that language. And I unequivocally do not use that language and those rumors are particularly hurtful and disappointing.

But I think they provide an opportunity to start the conversation about how the USU and the university needs to be decolonized. As I mentioned before, that looks like restarting Foodhub. That looks like having multilingual online content. That looks like platforming Indigenous voices and having consultation with the Gadigal Center. That looks like getting Wentworth down.

I have shown over the past few years, my support to platforming the anti-racist agenda. That’s through doing six months pro-bono work with the Refugee Legal Afghanistan Clinic. That looks like volunteering for the Aboriginal Legal Service. That looks like doing volunteer pro-bono native title research. That looks like going to Invasion Day protests.

That looks like what I’m doing right now, which is working in and with community, currently on sharing Indigenous knowledges re: climate change. That is an extremely, extremely important cause. And I think anyone who knows me, anyone who knows my politics, knows the truth and knows where I stand there.

HS: Great. Thank you so much. Just wrapping up on the sort of Indigenous issues questions. There was a big campaign the last few years, “Wentworth must fall”. Are you able to just give a brief outline of Wentworth’s full name, who he is, how his colonial track record is directly linked to the University?

ON: Yeah. I’ll just take a second about what exactly I want to say here, if that’s okay.

Okay. So regarding the tearing down Wentworth. William Wenworth was a founder of the University of Sydney. He was barrister, he was a landowner, but the most damning and the most important thing that we need to remember is that he was of the trio who kind of crossed the blue mountains and found the continental inland that they then decided to colonize.

In doing that, they grabbed the land from the Indigenous people. They “discovered” this land, but in doing that, they oppressed the Indigenous people. They violently attacked the Indigenous people.And, it was taken with blood on their hands. So it really is, Wentworth and platforming that name, is a nod to that colonialist past.

That absolute degradation of Indigenous cultures, of Indigenous peoples, of Indigenous lands. And that kind of trio, which started the kind of colonial exploitation. So it is so important that our University and our buildings are not rooted in that racism.

HS: So I just wanted to ask you about the USU’s fossil fuel investments, since that’s part of your policy. What do you know about the USU’s investments in fossil fuel companies?

ON: Yeah. So thank you to Fabian (Robertson) for that whole article, which came out yesterday, and the work behind that. So at the moment in terms of… sorry, was that USyd investments or USU investments?

HS: Well, both of them since they’re both kind of investing in fossil fuels.

ON: So, in terms of the USU, 60% of the investments are in investment funds that invest in fossil fuels. Not only is that abhorrent, but what was abhorrent to me reading the article was the fact that the board directors didn’t seem to know that this was occuring, didn’t seem to have the details of the investments that the USU were making.

And so they actually couldn’t advocate against that because they seem to be ignorant of it. To me, it is so imperative that when, and if, I enter the USU board, I get that information. I ask for all of the information necessary about these investments and that we work towards actually countering that greenwashing in terms of the USU supporting a fossil free USyd in 2020, how then is supporting those investments, and also the USyd investments in Santos, Caltex, BHB, Rio Tinto… how is that in any way, consistent with that stance of supporting a fossil fuel USyd? It’s not. To me, that was an extremely damning article and it’s really important that we review those urgently.

HS: So if you were voting on a motion to divest from fossil fuels, would you vote yes, if you were elected on board?

ON: Yes.

HS: , sure. So, you’ve got collaborate with C&S to expand live music on campus. It’s pretty common for board directors to have policies about more live music on campus, at Manning, etc. But it never really seems to take off. Is there anything that you’re going to do differently?

ON: Yeah. Sure. So, I think the ideas are there, right. Like the TBC nights is a fantastic idea. The fact that before the Manning Party the other week, we had that day of gigs is really fantastic, but what’s lacking is getting it out to the student populace, is having that marketing, is increasing that initiative engagement. So for me, that would be the key thing that I’d focus on.

I think, you know, we have incredible performing arts candidates running this year and I’m really hoping that they get up and then we can work together. In terms of having that incredible talent, but harnessing it in a way in which people are going to get engaged in ensuring that there is the USU branding and ensuring that that marketing is out there.

I think that’s really where it’s lacking at the moment.

HS: You’ve also got accessible USU rewards. Does that just mean making it cheaper?

ON: Yeah.

HS: Okay, cool. Just wanted to clarify that. You’ve also got pill testing at major events. I do note that Nick Forbutt had free pill-testing through the USU as a policy in 2019. That was stifled. Is there any way that you plan on actually making it happen?

ON: Yeah. So I think the precedent has been set by O week, of these bigger events in terms of music festivals, ,in terms of having those stages, having those partying environments. And I think that as that trajectory progresses, that is also a rising need for having those services.

I think that the nature of where the USU is now, that those are the sorts of events that are being progressed is, really indicative of a need for those services. And I also think that at the moment, we have a unique scenario where we have an incredible left wing group on board. We have an incredible left-wing SRC. And so, we now have the sort of avenues to be able to push those progressive agendas in a more effective way.

HS: Another quesiton. You’ve got Cellar Theater investment here. Could you tell me a bit more on what that means?

ON: Yeah, certainly. So, from consultation with students involved in the performing arts community, it’s become clear to me that the Cellar Theater and that the resources given to Revues, to SUDS,are just not up to scratch. The Cellar Theater has not been revitalized in a long time.

There is not enough space. There is not up to date technology. And there are ways in which we can use that space, but use it in a way that is more effective, and that enables more engagement by these dramatic societies. So for me, that would look like consultation with those groups because personally, I have not been super involved in performing arts at Usyd.

But consultation with those groups that we can take that space and we can ensure that it is actually meeting the needs of the groups that use it.

HS: So just to wrap up, who are two candidates that you would most like to work with on board if elected, and two candidates or however many if you have any, that you would least like to work with?

ON: Yeah, sure. So two I’d love to work with, obviously Madhu and Naz. Madhu is in my faction, and I really support her vision, her ideas. And the same with Naz. I think Naz, I’ve worked with her with SULS (Sydney University Law Society) and she’s a force to be reckoned with. I think she has a really incredible vision and a really incredible perspective to bring to the USU board.

In terms of people that I wouldn’t work with. My faction, being from switch, we don’t do deals with the Libs. We also don’t do deals with so-called Lib-dependents, and I would really struggle to work with people who don’t have that institutional clubs and societies knowledge. So that’s my answer there.

HS: If you are like to Union board, who would you vote for to be Board President in the exec election?

ON: So for me, it’s not about who is president. It’s about ensuring that we have a left wing executive. For me, it’s not about an individual person being President.

What it is about is having a left wing exec and having a competent, left wing exec and a left wing board that can provide those policies for the student population. As I said, it’s not about a particular person being in the Presidential position, but it’s about as having a strong, left wing exec, and I really believe we have the people to achieve that.

HS: Why should students vote for you above any other candidate?

ON: So I think a few things here. I think I have the clubs and societies, the student life, the organisational knowledge and experience to then be able to apply that to left wing policy. And I think most importantly, I have the competency and ethics, the work ethics, to get those outcomes, to get those left wing, progressive outcomes for students.

I think I am the only candidate who is able to combine those together into tangible outcomes. I think I have the institutional knowledge. I think I have the policy and I think I have the skills to be able to be on Board and enact that change.

HS: Cool. Last question. Are you engaged in any preference deals?

ON: Not at this stage. Preference deals are not confirmed.

HS: Is there anyone you’re looking to work with in terms of preferences?

ON: Yeah. So, as I said earlier, to me, the most important thing is that we have a really competent, left wing Board. So in terms of preferences, it’s looking at the left wing candidates, looking at who compliments each other’s perspectives and visions to have on board to have that strong board that’s going to advocate for students for left-wing policy.

HS: Anything you want to add before we wrap up?

ON: I think that’s all.

HS: Yeah. Sorry. We asked a lot of questions. If that’s the case, we are officially done with the interview. Thank you so much for your time.