Letter From the Editor: On the End of the Year, and Tharunka Elections

By Brittney Rigby, Managing Editor


Goodbyes are the strangest thing. Five years ago, I said goodbye to my hometown to move to Sydney. Fast forward, and here I am saying goodbye to my final year here at UNSW, and goodbye to my editorship of Tharunka. I am proud and humbled to have been trusted to guide this ship. There have been rough waters, some almost-crashes, a person or two overboard at times, and too many times where I’ve closed my eyes, crossed my fingers and hoped I’m not stuffing this thing up (too badly).


I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished this year. All of us. Those of you who have gifted me, us, this, with your work this year. Reading your words and polishing them to make them shine even brighter has been a true gift. Admiring your art, poetry, opinions, interviews, wit, reporting, reviews and everything else you’ve submitted has been the best job I’ve ever had. I hope this issue is a fitting reminder that print isn’t dead. You’re all proof that it’s just being reborn. Again and again and again. We’ll always want stories. We’ll always come back to them.


Alicia, Sharon, Dominic and Leo. We’ve done something really cool. We’ve shared stories that really matter. We’ve been constructive and inclusive and messed up and done better. Thank you for your commitment to uncovering some cracking yarns, your perseverance in the face of tight deadlines and your boldness in voicing your opinion, even (and especially) when there’s the risk it won’t be a popular one.


In that regard, I think it’s only fitting for me to end the year with a reflection on Alicia’s piece in this issue, in which she argues for the return to elections for Tharunka’s editorial team. It’s an argument I’ve struggled with all year; I’ve flip flopped on my position, and I see the arguments for both sides of the electoral coin. But I think it’s important, as an outgoing (and appointed) Managing Editor, to weigh in nonetheless.


I probably wouldn’t have become Managing Editor in an election-based system. The SRC always felt removed from my experience of uni. Election season meant avoiding anyone wearing a coloured shirt holding a stack of flyers. I think that sense of disconnection from campus (a decent commute didn’t help) drove my sense of isolation. I prioritised working two or three jobs. I volunteered outside of uni. I rushed home the second classes finished because I never felt tethered to a community here. I know that I would not have put together a ticket to run, or had the time to commit to a campaign in between classes and work commitments I couldn’t get out of if I wanted to pay my rent. A standard job application, followed by an interview in which I was assessed on my journalistic capability, leadership experience and editorial vision felt much safer, and much more accessible for me. ”Fairer” even.


But I’ve come to realise that “safe and accessible” doesn’t mean an appointment model is the right one.


I’ve seen first hand the issues that crop up when we’ve tried to hold Arc to account whilst also relying on Arc to pay our next invoice. You’ve read about the censorship and Charter issues we’ve come up against. And I’ve worried about whether the job I’ve done is good enough. I’ve been paid by Arc, but my real boss is you, UNSW students. I applied eagerly for a position I know I’m qualified for, but one I wouldn’t have if I was forced to convince you all to vote me in. An election is a popularity contest, and that is terrifying to me. I never had strong campus networks. I never tapped into those powerful, but intimidating circles. Yet despite all this, it feels only right that if this paper is for you, you should get to decide who runs it.


We’ve seen in the past that running Tharunka elections alongside those for the SRC also isn’t a perfect plan. It’s attracted politicians, not journalists. And student politicians have personal and factional motivations that are sometimes stronger than editorial or journalistic ones. We’ve built up this publication to be a place for creative works and diverse voices and diverse issues. It shouldn’t be a platform primarily for self-promotion or stupol in-fighting. We need good journalists and good writers running Tharunka. We need the editors who guide this ship to be qualified to do it well. But we need Tharunka to have enough distance from Arc so as to be genuinely independent. Alicia’s solution is a good one I think: run Tharunka elections, but run them separately to SRC elections.


You are the one who reads this. You are who we rely on for submissions and feedback. You click on our articles and comment on our Facebook posts and like our Instagram posts. You are the reason our statistics have sky-rocketed this year, and our pieces have had more engagement than ever. You should have had a say in whether I was the right person for this job, even if that process pushed me well out of my comfort zone and made me anxious and risked prioritising popularity over merit. That should have been your choice.


Regardless as to how I got here though, I’m grateful for this experience and your enormous contributions. It has been a tricky, confusing, stressful thing to navigate at times. I can’t say I’ve loved every minute of this year or the last half a decade, because I haven’t, and a law degree is hard, and five years is a bloody long time and I’m so scared that ditching law to pursue a “dying” media industry could be stupid. My post-uni plans involve throwing together a few applications, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. It’s pretty anxiety-inducing. But I know I’m going to land on my feet. Because thanks to you, I have learnt more than I could have imagined.


Keep making stuff and putting words together and deleting them and rewriting and doing it all over again. Creation is a hard process, but it’s the best there is. Here’s to knowing that our work matters, and to handing on the baton to a team I hope will make this humble rag even better next year.


Keep up the good fight. Resist. Claim your power. Take care of each other. Take care of yourself. Rest. Keep writing, keep creating, keep publishing stuff that ruffles some feathers.


Thanks for having me, UNSW. Goodbye for now.