International Students Officer at the SRC Elections 2021: meet your candidates

by Kat Wong

This year, international students have continued to suffer from the ongoing effects of Australia’s border closures. The inability to return to campus is at the forefront of the candidates’ campaigns, with each contender taking different approaches to the issue. 

Tharunka spoke to the two candidates running for International Student’s Officer: 

  • Si Thu Zin from Together places emphasis on facilitating the return of international students 
  • Matthew Gondokusumo from Spice Up is focusing on refunding Student Service and Amenities Fees (SSAF) to off-campus students 
  • Both candidates want to improve student life for international students. To do this, Matthew aims to improve funding for societies, while Si Thu wants to collaborate with cultural clubs. 
  • Si Thu has served on the SRC for the last month as Councillor B and has also been heavily involved in campus societies. While Matthew has no experience on the SRC, he has participated in clubs and sports, and even founded UNSW Entrepreneurs Society. 

Get to know your nominees 

Si Thu Zin 

Ticket: Together 

What would you like to achieve as part of the SRC? 

My priorities next year as part of the SRC will be in three main areas: student return, campus life and wellbeing, and linking students to support services. 

I’ll be pushing for the return of international students. I want advocate for the government to seta clearer plan on the pilot program that they put through earlier this year, and increase the cap on the number of international students arriving each week. With the lockdown and online classes, I know that most international students are feeling a sense of social isolation. So, I aim to build a strong community for international students by having regular social events – this might be in collaboration with cultural clubs or cultural mentors.  

I want to advocate for better education experiences and involvement in campus life events. I’ll also be advocating for increased funding to UNSW Psychology and Wellness to employ more counsellors and to ensure that the services are culturally appropriate. I’ll also work on increasing availability of mental health first aid modules for cultural mentors. Lastly, I aim to help international students upskill and improve their employability and advocate for concession Opal cards. I want international students to know their rights when it comes to residency, work, visas. Finally, I plan to continue improving sexual health literacy among international students. 

Have you been involved in the SRC before? If yes, what initiatives were you involved in? If not, have you been involved in other aspects of the student community/organising? 

I’ve recently been elected as Councillor B and since then have been involved in international student events like SEXtember. I’ve also been working on events for the upcoming EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) with the International Students collective.  

I was the International Student Ambassador for City of Sydney and Sexual Health Officer for UNSW Health Promotions as well. Previous to that, I’ve was Secretary for UNSW ASEAN Society, Social Director at Fig Tree Hall College, and involved in varying capacities at UNSW Medical Society. These roles have allowed me to be a part of different experiences and to connect with like-minded international students and that is what pushed me to run for International Student’s Officer as well. 

What are the biggest issues facing students in 2021? 

The issues facing students this year are immense: inadequate and inaccessible mental health support and services, limited opportunities to get feedback on academic quality, racial discrimination (especially against international students), lack of social connection for both on-shore and off-shore international students, financial, food and job insecurity, and above all, the border closures.  

Matthew Gondokusumo 

Ticket: Spice Up 

What would you like to achieve as part of the SRC? 

As an International Students Officer, my goals would be for a reduction in the Student Service and Amenities Fees (SSAF) for online only students in 2022. A huge number of stranded international students still have to pay fees for something that doesn’t affect them at all.  

As over 25% of the students at UNSW are from overseas, another goal is to set up an office to help international students and staff with visa applications/extensions and other services.  

Another goal would be to have better funding for societies, especially the newer and smaller ones that don’t usually get the necessary support they need. This includes an increase in the payment per attendant, which would help societies make better events, and a one-off financial payment at the start of next year that would help societies recover from the pandemic. Through initiatives, the SRC can play a key role in the rejuvenation of the campus environment. 

Have you been involved in the SRC before? If yes, what initiatives were you involved in? If not, have you been involved in other aspects of the student community/organising? 

I have not been involved in the SRC before however, I have experience in running a student society as I am the Founder and President of the UNSW Entrepreneurs Society. This gave me the experience to set clear, achievable short- and long-term goals, as well as experience leading a team of over 30 committee and subcommittee members. I am also a part of the fundraising committee for the Indonesian Students Association New South Wales and a player on the UNSW golf team that UNSW in the Intervarsity NSW/ACT golf competition and will represent UNSW at Division 1 Golf Australia Nationals. The Peter Farrell’s Cup by UNSW Founders also gave me the knowledge to eventually start my startup with my friend. 

What are the biggest issues facing UNSW students in 2021? 

The biggest issues facing international UNSW students in 2021 would be the lack of care for international students. This can be seen from the student fees that are still the same despite online learning caused by the pandemic. International Students stranded back home with no way of coming to Australia have invested a lot to learn at UNSW. For many, it would have been a fortune for their families to seek out proper education. With the high cost, comes the expectation of high quality education. However, the truth is that most of them still have to pay the same amount of money regardless if they’re here enjoying all the services UNSW has to offer, or stranded in their home country with no additional international services and no way of returning. 

Elections will be held online in Week 4, from October 5th to October 8th. From Weeks 1-4, Tharunka will be covering the lead-up to the elections, including hosting debates with individual candidates in Week 3. To keep up with the action, follow us on  Facebook or check our  website