By Ishani Gangopadhyay
During the election campaign, Tharunka caught up with the candidates for Environment Officer. The successful candidate, Hannah Horton, shares her policies below.
What is your Name and Degree?
Hannah Cleary Horton, I am studying a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Indigenous Studies, and am currently in my second year.
Have you been on or run for the SRC before, or have you been a student representative before?
I have never run for the SRC before, although I did help [the] Grassroots campaign last year.
What initiatives were you involved in? Have you been involved in other aspects of the student community/organising?
In my last two years at UNSW enviro collective and the surrounding activism has been a constant, I have loved going to every meeting and event possible and as a result learnt and organised around issues I’m really passionate about. As part of Solidarity I have attended events and protests through the ed collective and also dabbled in some smaller societies.
What are the biggest issues facing students in 2022?
I believe that students are not a homogenous group, but instead the student body faces a plethora of issues that are both affecting students particularly or are a current issue for broader society. I believe the cost of living crisis drastically affects some students; with barely enough for rent and particular with Centrelink being after the age of 22, I feel that many students and potential students are being forced to choose between their education and their quality of life. Students should not have to choose between food, leisure and rent, or work and university. I think another major issue affecting many students is the aftermath of COVID in which youth mental health issues skyrocketed and people were forced to live incredibly individualistic lives – our campus need to be the place for students find their sense of belonging and begin the journey of climbing out of mental illness. Contrary to this need, our university continues to push online learning and larger class loads, without adequately providing services for those in great stress – our campus and other institutions need to do so much better.
In response to the same question, unsuccessful candidate Gina Elias responded:
Well, I think the environment officer’s responsibility is to organise students around doing activism and kicking up a fuss on campus. Historically there has always been a massive role that students can play in being part of revolting against the system and disrupting business as usual. Back in the 1960s and 70s students joined with workers in Australia to protest against the Vietnam war. We need more of that if we’re going to call the government and corporations to do anything. Even on campus, there’s things you can do to address the cost of living. We’re for putting price caps on lunches. I don’t they should cost above $10. We’re also for raising the welfare rate and we’re for raising wages as well. The university has made I think like $360 million dollars in profit last year. They should totally use that money to go towards student and staff needs. We shouldn’t be subsidising businesses and the university. Our uni fees are going up and staff getting cut and courses getting cut is just so the university can make profit. Our education, our basic needs to live on a planet, they should come before their profit. Basically, we need to build up more student protests about this so that we can rebuild a fighting student movement because clearly management and that only listen when they’re under a lot of pressure.
Are you a member of, or affiliated with, any political party?
In the last year, and over the course of the election in particular, I decided that volunteering my time to the Greens was the best way I could help student and my communities needs to be met during the federal election. On campus, Grassroots is the group I am affiliated with, and I think that activism against the interests of state and institutional power is vital. The Greens seemed like the closet step to these beliefs and desires within a system that I do not support.
Why are you running to be the Environment Officer?
I am running for Enviro Officer because I want the space to remain the home of radical environmentalism on campus and it was important that function and form of the collective remained in the great shape that I was welcomed into by other members. As someone in the collective for the last two years and as someone passionate about enviro-union organising I believe that I have the ability to use this position to support other activists, and allow old and new members to flourish as I take on a little of the hard yakka. Good activism comes from the support of other activists, good learning comes from the two-way dialogue between people and good organising comes from a respect of that community and a desire to protect it. I believe I am the best fit for this responsibility.
Why did you choos to run with Grassroots?
Although a member of Grassroots, I came into this election with the desire to ensure that the left came together and fought against apolitical parties that threatened to depoliticise and strip collectives of their important activism and political education. I believed that it was in the best interest of the left to come together and I am proud of Left Alliance, Grassroots and Together for working together to ensure that doesn’t happen and to have the foresight to ensure stability on our campus.
What do you see the role of the SRC as?
The SRC is the home of the student voice. It has both the responsibility and the privilege to create actions, pass motions and support causes that represent the interests and the desires of the student body. It is through union organising and the strength of mass voices that we can demand experiences, standards and actions from the business that is UNSW. The SRC has the express purpose of refusing to allow anything that compromises the student experience, political interests and opinions of the student body for the desires of management and profit. It is by creating this union and allowing students to belong within causes and interests that engage them that students become such great assets to our society. The SRC must play this role of resource management, support and representation for the fights and rights of students.
What policies are you running under as Environment Officer?
For me, the most important component of my policies is to create three main functions of the collective: to create an educative space, organise and support widespread activism and cultivate a community that allows activism and conversation to flourish. My key policies include ensuring the
- The Environmental Collective remains radically activist.
- A continuous support and organization of movements and mobilization of students around major rallies and events relating to climate justice.
- Building and maintaining relationships between enviro collectives on other campuses to strengthen statewide climate activism.
- Promote the role of indigenous activism in climate justice; First Nations justice is Climate Justice.
- The Environmental Collective must be the location of accessible political education.
- Run educational and social activities where student activists and questions students can meet and form connections, skills and opinions from one another.
- Hosting and joining events between collectives and other societies/bodies on campus to build a healthy political community on campus. This would include sustainability organizers, other activists, and the creation of spaces for debate and respectful argument with groups the enviro collective doesn’t historically engage or agree with.
- Build and create events around the necessary solidarity between issues of class, race, gender and environment. Activism can never and should never be a single-issue space, our enviro collective should reflect our society and the intersectional nature of this ecological crisis.
In response to the same question, unsuccessful candidate Gina Elias responded:
A big thing – we need to have no illusion that society is going in some green transition. That’s really the talk of the town from politicians and university administration. For us, we’re for actually cutting back and shutting down fossil fuels unabashedly. I think that has to be our demand, as well as getting the government to fund emergency services, pay for people who were displaced and affected by the climate disasters which disproportionately affect working class and oppressed people. For that, we’re going to have to build up a movement big enough to take on the rich and powerful, who have to pay for this crisis and are responsible for it. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight; we’re going to have to be real about it, and right now real about how fossil fuels are booming globally, especially in Australia. For us we want to build up protests and resistance where we can. University campuses have an important role but we’re also building up protests off campus around Sydney like in the National Union of Students because I think we need to build up a fighting movement.
What is your favourite book?
Sadly I’m a little boring, and over the last couple years I’ve been fascinated by non fiction – the one that rocked my perception of the world the most was the Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion – written by Jonathan Haidt. I read it three years ago and it has shaped the way I look at political discussion, my own values and the confrontations within my own family more than any other written text ever has. But I have to say I’m the daughter of film makers so it’s always the visual arts that truly get me.
Who is your favourite hero or heroine?
My favourite Hero, and this is for no other reason that Chris Evans is incredibly attractive, is Cap America.