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SRC Elections 2020: The Lay of the Land

By Juliet Manolias and Henry Chen

Another year rolls by, and the SRC elections are upon us once more. Despite the absence of physical campaigning, this year is shaping up to be a hotly contested election, with two emerging student-centric tickets challenging the dominance of three progressive political factions.

There are five tickets running in the 2020 SRC campaign: Together, Rise, Left Action, Spice Up, and Trust. Taken together, these tickets represent 66 candidates.

Tickets in the 2020 Election

Together is an established ticket that held a clear majority on the SRC this year. Largely associated with two Labor factions (Student Unity and National Labor Students), the ticket is now in its second year.

Rise, founded in 2018, is a Grassroots Independents ticket focussed on environmental activism, with strong ties to the successful Fossil Free UNSW campaign.

Left Action is a well-established radical activist faction run by Socialist Alternative, dedicated to campaigning against education cuts.

Spice Up is a newcomer on the block, branding itself as a non-partisan ticket focussed on student engagement, increasing SSAF funding for Arc, and supporting clubs and societies. The bulk of Spice Up candidates are affiliated with Warrane College.

Trust is another new ticket branding itself as “the most academically, ethnically, and gender diverse team ever to contest in the history of the SRC”, building on a robust campaign for the less-politicised Postgraduate Council (PGC).

How much money do they get?

The proposed Arc Budget for 2021 would entitle candidates to the following honoraria, which have been restricted this year due to Arc’s financial restrictions under COVID-19:

  • President: $15,558
  • General Secretary: $11,424
  • Education Officer / Welfare Officer: $8,961
  • Other Office-Bearers: $6,721

Each collective will also have a discretionary budget of $1500, in addition to further shared funding for O-Week, Campaigns and Events.

Key Points

Voting will open on 19 October 2020 and will close on 22 October 2020. The Students with Disabilities Officer position was uncontested, while the Indigenous Students’ Association and the Queer Collective run separate elections in accordance with the Arc Regulations.

Tharunka gave all SRC candidates an equal opportunity to respond to written questions. Tharunka did not receive any responses from the members of Trust, resulting in more than half of the office-bearer responses received being from members of Together. With these limitations acknowledged, here’s our run-down on the candidates for office-bearer positions on the 2021 SRC:

  • Tom Kennedy, Shovan Bhattarai, and Nayonika Bhattacharya are the only candidates that have experience as members of the SRC.
  • John Economides, Natalie Simonovski, and Tom Kennedy are members of the Australian Labor Party and Student Unity, while Howra Al Timimy is a member of the Australian Labor Party and National Labor Students. Shovan Bhattarai is a part of Socialist Alternative.
  • One of the two Presidential candidates that responded, Shovan Bhattarai of Left Action, gave a response that was primarily concerned with activism and using the resources of the SRC to stand up for students against injustices imposed by the university, government, and society, ranging from the new threat to HECS students, to broader issues such as racism and climate change.
  • The other Presidential candidate, Tom Kennedy, placed a strong focus on policy changes for student welfare and cited a number of alterations to UNSW 3+ and student support services (complaints, special consideration, etc.) for improving the student experience from within the structure of the university.
  • Peoly Gunaratne, as the Ethno-cultural Officer candidate for Rise, shared similar views to Bhattarai on racial justice, equity, and activism. As Rise’s Environment Officer candidate, Anna Ho did the same.
  • Nayonika Bhattacharya, Natalie Simonovski, and Tom Kennedy shared common priorities as members of Together, including a push to establish connections with local charities and crisis support services as extra avenues for students who need help.
  • Natalie Simonovski, as a Women’s Officer candidate, extended this point by addressing issues with the safety services at UNSW, such as the StaySafe@UNSW app.
  • Tom Kennedy was also the only office-bearer candidate to acknowledge invigilated online exams (e.g. the use of Examity) as a problem students face.
  • All candidates cited financial issues as an issue students face, with many also acknowledging the negative role UNSW plays in this.

If you haven’t yet made up your mind, you can also view the official candidate statements submitted by all SRC candidates.

SRC President

Name Shovan Bhattarai [Left Action]

Please indicate for which position/s you run.

President, Councillor, NUS Delegate

What would you like to achieve on the SRC?

I think that student unions should be activist, fighting bodies that unapologetically stand up to defend the rights of students, workers and the oppressed.

I’m fighting for an SRC that is a strong progressive voice in society: one that takes a stand against police brutality, racism, climate change, inequality and neoliberalism.

The SRC should see the Ian Jacobs and Scomos of the world as enemies to be confronted, not sucked up to; and one that throws itself into organising an activist response to their attacks, in the same way I have throughout my year as Education Officer.

Have you been involved with the SRC before? How?

As 2020 Education Officer, I organised resistance to injustice and the various attacks by the Liberals and bosses that staff and students have faced in this year of immense crisis.

I organised uni student climate strikes , protests against the Liberals’ attacks on education, Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and protests against UNSW’s facultiy merger and the sacking of 500 FTE staff. Throughout the year I waged an argument within the SRC that the role of this body should be to organise an activist fightback – putting forwards motions in support of these campaigns, and expressing solidarity with the global fight against the injustices of the system from Hong Kong to Trump’s America.

Are you representing a political faction, or otherwise affiliated with one?

Yes, I’m running as a representative of Left Action and I am a member of Socialist Alternative.

What do you think the biggest issues facing students are?

Staff and students are under attack. The government and Vice Chancellors’ response to the crisis in the university sector has been to declare war on students: hiking uni fees, denying HECS to struggling students, slashing public funding, sacking university staff, cutting courses, and punishing international students.

The crisis is on all fronts – Australia has entered its deepest recession in history, set to only further exacerbate the inequality and racist injustice entrenched in our society. The impending climate catastrophe looms on the horizon, as we have experienced first hand recently with the horror 2020 bushfires.

How do you think students have been affected by COVID-19 and how will you respond to it?

The Liberals and Vice Chancellors want students, workers and the poor to pay for this crisis:

They want tax breaks for the rich while they push welfare below the poverty line

They want the fossil fuel industry expanded, uranium mining, and a “gas led recovery” while young people face a lifetime of climate catastrophe

They slash billions from education and deny students HECS while $270 billion is invested into the military.

On our campus, Ian Jacobs is trying to cry poor to sack 500 UNSW staff and cut courses, all while putting $1 billion towards building a second military campus!

The SRC should mobilise students where we have power to resist these attacks, in our numbers.

From civil rights to the anti-Vietnam War movement, students have been key to the fight against social inequality and injustice. Today, students are playing a leading role in resistance to right-wing governments in Thailand, Belarus, and the US.

The UNSW SRC should stand in this proud tradition and organise a fightback against the attacks of the Liberals and Vice Chancellors: it should call protests, organise activism, take a stand on progressive issues, and draw solidarity with other groups fighting back against the priorities of the rich and powerful.

Have you been involved in representation, consultation, or advocacy before? How?

The world of 2020 is filled not only with crisis, hardship, and attacks from the ruling class; but also with heroic resistance and inspiring mass struggle. The months-long Black Lives Matter movement that exploded after the state sanctioned murder of George Floyd in May has swept the world and transformed public opinion, throwing into the air questions of race, the nature of the police, and nature of the capitalist society which creates such horrors.

All around the world this year, masses of ordinary people from Hong Kong to Minneapolis to Lebanon to Belarus have proven that the only way to beat back the attacks of the rich and powerful on ordinary people is with mass struggle on the streets.

Since joining UNSW in 2018 I have thrown myself into organising activism and resistance to attacks on ordinary people: for abortion and LGBTI rights, refugees, climate justice, and against racism and the far right. Last year I helped to organise the Cancel Trimesters campaign which saw over 1000 people gather for the biggest rally at UNSW in almost 2 decades, and I have continued this activism in my role of Education Officer this year as I refer to above

Left Action is the only ticket running in the UNSW SRC elections that unapologetically stands on the side of students, workers, and oppressed, and is committed to organising the kinds of activism needed to confront the issues brought up by 2020 head on.

If you support having a progressive, activist SRC, Vote 1 Left Action for me as your president candidate, SRC councillor and NUS delegate.

Name Tom Kennedy [Together]

Please indicate for which position/s you run.

SRC President

What would you like to achieve on the SRC?

My priority on the SRC is pushing for the implementation of concrete policy changes within the University to improve student welfare. Some major issues I want to tackle include:

– Ensuring that all courses are implementing flexibility week properly (there was a substantial issue of non-compliance this year, and many people didn’t get a break in Week 6).

– Reducing ‘Week 0’ content such as pre-class tests, because holidays are already short enough.

– Establishing a more transparent and accessible academic complaints system, so that students can have a clearer indication of their prospects of success and what information will be required of them when they complain about poor course delivery, unfair marking, etc.

– Expansion of special considerations to automatically include a list of approved extracurricular activities, simplifying the process for students who want to get involved in stuff like debating, revues, etc.

– Transitioning our online examination system entirely away from invigilated exams (ie proctorU, Examity).

– Reform UNSW’s crisis prevention and response structures. This includes the addition of social workers and other crisis workers to CAPS, and reforming the first-come-first served system to secure a place at CAPS (which prior to COVID-19 required students to line up for hours for the chance to see a psychologist).

– Establishing formal and enduring connections between the SRC and crisis support services such as women’s shelters, headspace and other mental health charities, etc.

Have you been involved with the SRC before? How?

I have been involved with the SRC as a Councillor in 2019 and as the General Secretary in 2020.

In 2019, I designed and marketed the SRC Trimester survey. After receiving almost 1500 responses, I presented the information to UNSW management. On the basis of the results of that survey, several changes have been instituted over the course of the past two years, including:

-The re-introduction of an altered midterm break, now known as Flexibility Week

-The expansion of StuVac to a full week (week 11)

– Mandatory assignment feedback before census date, so that students can have an idea of how they’re going in a course before they’re locked into paying for it

-Expansion of Spec Cons to include job interviews, weddings, and certain extracurricular activities, as well as reducing the evidential requirements for getting spec cons for health issues (including mental health issues), funeral, and other things

-Progress towards universal lecture recordings (this was in the works before COVID-19, but the pandemic has definitely accelerated this process!)

As the General Secretary I have continued to work on the issues raised in my 2019 survey, and I have also been responsible for much of the administration of this year’s SRC.

I also helped design our 2020 SRC COVID-19 survey, which has resulted in progress towards the following:

– Greater flexibility in course delivery options (online, in-person, hybrid)

– Reduced lecture and tutorial attendance requirements

Are you representing a political faction, or otherwise affiliated with one?

I am running with Together, and I myself am a member of the Labor Party and Student Unity.

I think it’d be fair to characterise my orientation towards the SRC as consistent with my political affiliation. I don’t think that everything that I’m campaigning for is perfect, but it’s better to implement a good solution than fail to implement a perfect one.

For example, I would very much like to get rid of trimesters, but UNSW has literally just spent several years, tens of millions of dollars, and performed a massive restructure to try and make Trimesters work. This is a long-term investment and it’s highly unlikely to be reverted in the near future. As frustrating as it is, I think it is better to lobby the university management to implement concrete and realistic things like flexibility week and expanded spec cons, rather than to spend time and resources on an unachievable goal.

What do you think the biggest issues facing students are?

While obviously this depends on the specific circumstances of an individual student, I think that most of students’ current issues stem from two sources.

COVID-19, which I will discuss in my next answer.

Trimesters, which has had a number of consequences:

– Students have a reduced ability to absorb and catch up on content (though this has been improved somewhat by Flexibility week)

– There is substantially less down-time between Terms, especially when many courses are demanding that students complete tasks in the second week of holidays. This is why I have been pushing for a reduction in ‘Week 0’ content.

– Students are also having difficulty in applying for Jobs/Internships/etc, as our calendar now clashes with the start and end of many summer internships. I have helped reform the current Spec Cons system to allow for some flexibility in respect to internships that clash with T3 final exams or the start of T1, but this needs to be expanded further.

– Our holidays do not align with other universities, which has social consequences for students who want to see their friends from other Universities.

– Many courses haven’t been properly reformed to fit into the new calendar, with some courses skipping classes or chapters entirely.

How do you think students have been affected by COVID-19 and how will you respond to it?

For everyone, the COVID-19 restrictions, and being unable to participate in regular activities, have had substantial consequences on people’s mental health . I think the hard lockdown period in April-June was particularly difficult, and will have lingering effects on many people.

Studying online has also proven challenging for many students (and staff! shoutout to all the staff who have done their best to support their students). For international students who are unable to return to Australia, there has been the added difficulty of being unable complete their studies locally, access internet resources, see friends in Sydney, etc.

There have also been substantial economic consequences. International students and casual workers have been intentionally excluded from Jobkeeper by the Coalition government. This is particularly difficult for International students, because Australian students are (mostly) able to access Jobseeker/Youth Allowance if they do not receive financial support from their parents.

Obviously our welfare system isn’t perfect, and I support increasing the amount & accessibility of these payments, but at least it’s something. International students get nothing. Recent reports have said that up to 30% of international students are skipping meals and up to 60% have lost their jobs, and yet international students are entitled to basically no Federal Government support.

Domestic students who aren’t from Sydney have also been particularly impacted, especially in terms of needing to renegotiate their tenancies.

If elected, my priorities would be:

– Improving the flexibility of content delivery so that students can choose to work online or in-person depending on their desires and circumstances.

– Establishing connections with local charities such as crisis accommodation charities, Headspace and mental health charities, so that the SRC can direct students who have been acutely impacted by COVID-19 to effective support services.

– Pushing the university to continue to offer financial support (such as $200 grocery vouchers, zero-interest loans) to students, as well as providing legal support to students who may need assistance renegotiating their tenancy agreements/visa conditions.

– Engaging with country-wide campaigns by the National Union of Students and the broader union movement to extend State and Federal Government support to international students.

Have you been involved in representation, consultation, or advocacy before? How?

Not substantially beyond being in the SRC and campaigning for the Labor party in the 2019 State and Federal elections, and being School Captain in High School.

General Secretary

Name Nayonika Bhattacharya [Together]

Please indicate for which position/s you run.

General Secretary

What would you like to achieve on the SRC?

As an active member of the UNSW community, I want to recreate a strong

sense of identity and safety at UNSW. These unprecedented times have tested us in a variety of ways and as a student body, I want us to be met with compassion, understanding and appropriate support from the university academic and non-academic staff. Greater transparency, stronger and wider student consultation and student participation across various boards, student decision-making processes drives my interest in ensuring we have an inclusive, safe and transformational campus. I want to ensure people feel empowered enough to contribute to their academic, social and professional journey at UNSW and are supported through various individual circumstances. My policies to ensure this aim at increasing student town halls and consultations, improving student partnerships with the Division of EDI to produce a cultural competence module, facilitate leadership engagement opportunities for BIPOC, SWD and students from rural and regional areas, improve access to non-traditional learning methods, implementing a textbook renting scheme on campus to help students access affordable resources and materials, widening first responder training across more societies, pushing for a more accessible campus for students with disabilities, improving access to sanitary and hygiene products across campus, improving the quality and availability of nutritious and affordable food across campus for future students, facilitating and furthering discussions to support students affected by the Pandemic, increasing student employment in translation, interpretation and support roles and access to mental, physical health resources promptly.

Have you been involved with the SRC before? How?

I have been the SRC International Officer in 2019 and am currently the Welfare Officer in 2020. In my roles as the International Officer – I closely worked with CISA and other International Student Organisations to increase partnerships with various university divisions and with student bodies across Australia to improve the response to international student-specific issues and increase advocacy and lobbying efforts. I worked on improving international student turnout and participation in events and increasing opportunities for women and non-binary people to attend conferences and events.

In my role as the Welfare Officer, I have worked on delivering over 100 welfare packs to students affected by the pandemic, advocating for students to make education more accessible at the Academic Board, improving the awareness and discussions are sexual and reproductive health, worked on collaborations with SACS to improve student access to support services, improving BIPOC representation in leadership positions and working with EDI to make the boards and student opportunities at UNSW more accessible, inclusive, diverse and responsive to student issues.

Are you representing a political faction, or otherwise affiliated with one?

No, I am an Independent Candidate.

What do you think the biggest issues facing students are?

There are several issues students are facing that range across multiple areas:

1. Unaffordable on-campus housing that prevents students from being able to access safe housing options while navigating multiple expensive situations

2. Expectations to have relevant work and academic experiences but being held back by limited adequately paid opportunities and having to work multiple jobs to support themselves

3. Navigating varyingly difficult and diverse individual circumstances while maintaining FT study loads to qualify for student assistance and managing their mental health with increased risk of burnout and narrow university-wide support for these circumstances

4. Unsupportive or inconsistently supportive experiences at university affecting their ability to equitably participate and make the most of their commitment t gain an academic qualification

5. Inadequate and long waiting times to access affordable mental health support services on campus or externally to manage and navigate stress across different areas of life

6. Limited support to break the glass ceiling in male-dominated areas and or actions to improve the safety, representation, participating and inclusion of people from all walks of life in university

7. Limited knowledge of and staggered and translucent information from the university about direct decisions that affect student welfare with limited to no consultation on matters

How do you think students have been affected by COVID-19 and how will you respond to it?

Students have been affected physically, mentally, economically and academically by the pandemic. In this unprecedented time, we must work in unison for student welfare and benefit. To support them through this, I am going to ensure that discussions are continued to explore avenues how we can support the student financially who have been deeply affected. To ensure students still have a chance to continue studying and are supported through the transition online while also managing individual circumstances, improving access to flexible lecture recordings, improve access to textbooks and resources online and work on reducing prices of textbooks, materials and other equipment necessary.

Other areas of improvement and support include a proactive stance to student support –

1. Introduce early check-ups to help students connect with course lecturers and tutors and not have a communication free course experience

2. Improve communication and consistency of moodle and other delivery platforms for consistent access to information about courses

3. Facilitate discussions and introduce flexible deadlines and assignment re-dos for students

4. Push for timely feedback

5. Collaborate with faculty and board student representatives to improve student engagement to create a sense of community

Have you been involved in representation, consultation, or advocacy before? How?

I am actively involved in student representation, consultation and advocacy in my role as the SRC International Officer at UNSW and the SRC Welfare Officer at UNSW. In my role, I have worked with multiple university departments to facilitate discussions and improve international student representation, increase the visibility of students with disabilities to make academic and social spaces more accessible and increase leadership opportunities for students of colour and from other diverse backgrounds. I have also facilitated discussions around student safety in public and especially on campus through my roles and within colleges. I have actively been involved in increasing conversations to pivot it towards improving student inclusion and participation across various UNSW events. I am also a Multicultural Hepatitis and HIV Services Student Advisor. I this role I have advocated, represented and consulted on various matters to increase and improve the formats of delivery of sexual and reproductive education for students across multiple educational institutions across Sydney’s multiple areas. As a City of Sydney International Student Leadership Ambassador and EA to the Education Officer at CISA, I have consulted on various student matters across student safety, welfare, transportation and affordability for International Students.

My diversity of experience and passion for improving the student experience and well-being has given me immense opportunities to be actively involved while sharing my journey with other students to participate too!

Education Officer

Name Howra Al Timimy [Together]

Please indicate for which position/s you run.

Education Officer

What would you like to achieve on the SRC?

In the position of Education Officer, I will endeavour to ensure that no student will be left behind, especially in this time of significant uncertainty and difficultly. And with the attacks on our education climbing, students, more than ever, need to be represented by someone who will fight for them. I want to do whatever it takes to be that person. With this platform, I will take on the responsibility of ensuring that university management is transparent as best as it can be and does everything it can to support students and staff.

In this portfolio, and working with other office bearers and councillors, I aspire to build a collective space that is proactive, progressive and accessible for all students. Creating this environment where all students and staff can feel comfortable to share their voice in an inclusive and welcoming environment is an absolute priority.

Have you been involved with the SRC before? How?

I have been involved through collectives such as engaging in the education col. meetings.

Are you representing a political faction, or otherwise affiliated with one?

yes, NLS (ALP.)

What do you think the biggest issues facing students are?

It’s tough being a student and in times like this it is no different, we face and have always faced with a considerable amount of obstacles that impede on our educational experience at university. We are faced with chronically unaffordable housing, a devastating recession, student poverty on the rise, and inaccessible mental health services (and, unfortunately, the list goes on…)

How do you think students have been affected by COVID-19 and how will you respond to it?

Covid-19 and the recession that followed have made students very vulnerable in their university experience. Wreaking havoc on the intrinsically linked areas of their wellbeing, many students have faced emotional, mental, financial, social and physical hardships and these can not be ignored.

Everyone has been impacted by this pandemic in one way, shape or form and no matter how small or large the impact is, I will listen to concerns of any student who needs help and will use my platform to be an advocate and serve to support anyone who is having a tough time.

I will also push for more accessible and better-funded support services for students as no student deserves to have their education impacted by means beyond their control.

Have you been involved in representation, consultation, or advocacy before? How?

Yes! I served two terms in my LGA as an ambassador for my Councils’ Youth Advisory Committee.

Welfare Officer

[deleted by the Returning Officer]

Name John Economides [Together]

Please indicate for which position/s you run.

Welfare Officer

What would you like to achieve on the SRC?

The main thing I want to achieve is that all students who are under any form of socioeconomic stress feel supported, not just by myself but by the university as well. I plan to do this by continuing the amazing programs like the free breakfast stall as well as have many campaigns for important welfare issues run by the welfare collective.

I also hope to develop a trust with the student body so that people can feel comfortable coming up to me for help with issues they generally have trouble talking about so I can help direct them to the resources they need to solve their problems. I hope to gain this trust by running many events online and in person so that people get to interact and know me and how I’m available and happy to help within my power on any issues that may face them.

Have you been involved with the SRC before? How?

Last year I ran for NUS delegate as well as campaigning for myself and friends however as I was about 6th preference on the ticket I was not elected. I hope that this year can be the start of solid involvement on the SRC over my student life.

Are you representing a political faction, or otherwise affiliated with one?

Yes, I am a member of the Australian Labor Party and on campus I am a member of student unity as they best represent my views.

What do you think the biggest issues facing students are?

I think there are three major issues facing students now are the rising cost of education, job insecurity/wage stagnation and a damaged mental well-being.

University is currently having the cost of an arts degree rise by over 100%! Personally I am a STEM student but I also understand the importance of having a diverse workforce and how education can provide more than purely a job qualification and how having extremely high student debt can discourage people not from high socioeconomic backgrounds to study which is simply does not follow the Aussie ideal of giving people a fair go. This leads to the next issue, most students have a job in some form or are looking for a job while studying at university. Right now, due to a global pandemic, jobs that were previously easier to find and now becoming scarcer and scarcer, not to mention that wages in real terms have been growing at incredibly slow rates causing people to work more hours than they would otherwise. This extra time working is time that could be spent studying or enjoyable, which everyone needs.

Coronavirus has been long and hard for everyone and has caused us to miss a lot of things that are often very meaningful, which has been a drain of everyone’s mental health. Personally I remember not being able to do anything for my birthday since it was in the peak of lock-down. I remember not being able to visit friends for awhile while everyone was extremely panicked early on, which has eased more now. Luckily I was able to keep my job but I know others who were not so lucky and were also not casuals (as the job market has become extremely casualised) for long enough to receive job keeper. Clearly there is also far more things that have could have happened to people that has damaged there mental well-being but I think its clear everyone has been affected in some way or another.

How do you think students have been affected by COVID-19 and how will you respond to it?

Covid 19 has affected students in numerous ways and it truly depends on who you are as to how it has affected you. For many students I know who are rural or international they have moved back home and some friends who live with parents are barely allowed to leave the home. This has been detrimental to many people I know as they preferred to study on campus as it was there only quiet place where they had their own space to work.

The job market has also become more of a risk to work in, especially in areas where there have been bubbles such as bars in many areas around Sydney. A few friends in hospitality have also told me those on job-keeper have been rostered on far more than usual as it is “free work” for the workplace, causing them to be rostered on far less than before. Obviously the list goes on an each and every negative implication causes a drain on students mental health and well-being so I hope to do my best to support everyone I can whether I get elected or not.

Have you been involved in representation, consultation, or advocacy before? How?

One thing I have been getting into this year is attending rallies for causes I support to help bring awareness to important issues. Two things that come to mind were attending the international woman’s day walk in the city and a save our buses campaign in Manly. I do hope to attend more in the future and be as involved in making a positive difference as I can.

Women’s Officer

Name Natalie Simonovski [Together]

Please indicate for which position/s you run.

Women’s Officer

What would you like to achieve on the SRC?

If elected, I want to improve the quality of safety services at UNSW. An example is the StaySafe@UNSW app, which does not allow individuals to contact safety escorts discretely. If students feel in danger or uncomfortable on campus they’re required to make a phone to request assistance, which could potentially deter individuals from accessing support. To better this service, I would push for the app to include mechanisms for individuals to access assistance quickly and discretely. I would also like to increase the information available on the safety options and services at UNSW, increase the quality of services provided and push policies and campaigns that will ensure the safety and wellbeing of members in our community.

Have you been involved with the SRC before? How?

No, but I did campaign for Together last year to support some of my


Are you representing a political faction, or otherwise affiliated with one?

I am a part of the Labor Party and a member of student unity.

What do you think the biggest issues facing students are?

I think the biggest issue faced by students is the widespread decline in mental health. Uni students are currently facing a particularly large number of challenges with COVID-19 and Trimesters, which compound each other and negatively impact student wellbeing. It is important that we provide accessible and effective support mechanisms for students, such as CAPS and social work support, and provide students a platform and support network that advocates for their rights and needs. Some of the various struggles that students face includes financial insecurity, relationship struggles and increased university workloads. Since the start of the pandemic the impact of these issues has increased dramatically. International students and regional students who are unable to live on campus are some of the groups of students that are especially vulnerable, and I believe that it is imperative that these students have a voice on the SRC that advocates for their needs and pushes for policies that reflect these realities.

How do you think students have been affected by COVID-19 and how will you respond to it?

CW: Domestic Violence

Students have been affected by COVID-19 in a numerous amount of ways, such as food and financial insecurity, decline in mental health, job loss, isolation and decreases in access to various services. For women and non-binary people in particular, there has been a marked increase in incidents of domestic violence, and greater barriers to getting crisis support. I will support students by campaigning for substantive policy improvements within the university, such as more flexible special considerations rules and access to alternative marking criteria (such as SY/FL) for students who have been acutely impacted. I would also like to improve access to crisis support services for students, by providing information on various services for students to access, establishing partnerships with local and regional crisis support services, and pushing for university policies that provide greater support to those impacted by COVID-19.

Have you been involved in representation, consultation, or advocacy before? How?


Environment Officer

Name Anna Ho [Rise]

Please indicate for which position/s you run.

Environment Officer, Councillor B

What would you like to achieve on the SRC?

The role of Environment Officer is twofold – firstly, building the autonomous Environment Collective on campus, and secondly, representing the student voice during SRC meetings. The Environment Collective is a well-established activist student body at UNSW. In 2021, I would work to build mass on campus movements for demonstrations like the school strikes and collaborate with other universities’ environment collectives to initiate other campaigns and actions. As for what I would like to achieve in SRC meetings, I would introduce and vote for motions which express solidarity for climate justice movements (e.g. climate strikes) and condemn extractive projects (e.g. coal seam gas projects on Gomeroi country), as well as other progressive motions and campaigns. The fight for climate justice must be intersectional too – so to the best of my capacity, I would be a contributing member of other SRC collectives. If I am elected as Councillor B, I would continue my involvement with the Environment Collective. My contribution in SRC meetings would remain unchanged.

Have you been involved with the SRC before? How?

Last year I campaigned for Rise during the election week. This year I was an active member of the Environment Collective. I was also a panellist for the Black Lives Matter Arc discussion about environmental justice and racism, which was a collaboration between the Environment and People of Colour Collective.

Are you representing a political faction, or otherwise affiliated with one?

I am running with Rise, the left wing grassroots ticket. I am not affiliated with any federal political parties.

What do you think the biggest issues facing students are?

Notwithstanding the immense disruption which the COVID-19 pandemic itself has had in students’ lives, students are living in, and will graduate into, a climate crisis. It is clear that the state and federal government are using the pandemic to push for a fossil fuel led future. This is almost universally at odds with protests from Indigenous elders (and therefore Indigenous students at UNSW) and scientific consensus that we need to rapidly shift away from a fossil fuel dominated economy. The climate crisis is a public health concern too – whether that is because longer bushfire seasons will make summer unsafe for people with respiratory conditions or groundwater will get contaminated at fracking sites. Of course, the government’s introduction of financial barriers against accessing HECS is also deeply troubling. In particular, Tehan’s policy which would cut access to HECS for students who fail more than half of their courses is extremely punitive. It disregards the underlying reasons as to why students fail their courses (needing to work several part time jobs, expensive student accommodation, poor ESL support), uses incentives of fear instead of making mental health services at university more well-known and widely available, and ignores the fact that special considerations are harder to access than ever.

How do you think students have been affected by COVID-19 and how will you respond to it?

As I flagged in my previous response, recent proposed government reforms to our higher education sector will have detrimental impacts on students’ learning and staff working conditions. In 2015, mass student mobilisation was able to push back Abbott’s proposal to deregulate university fees – a similar response is required in this situation. The SRC should support strikes which staff hold and be an active participant in campaigns run between SRCs in Australia and the NUS (National Union of Students). I know that studying online has been very isolating for students, especially for first year students. I think this is an issue which is probably better handled by both the SRC and Arc – for example, the SRC could campaign for better mental health services, while Arc, as the representative body for student life, could ensure that clubs and societies are able to remain active online.

Have you been involved in representation, consultation, or advocacy before? How?

I have been involved in environmental advocacy before, through my involvement with Fossil Free UNSW last year and Environment Collective this year. That has included talking on panels and making speeches at events.

My job as a head debating coach at a Sydney high school also requires me to be a proactive point of consultation for students, teachers, parents, and other schools.

Ethno-cultural Officer

Name Peoly Gunaratne [Rise]

Please indicate for which position/s you run.

Enthno-cultural Officer

What would you like to achieve on the SRC?

As the Ethnocultural Officer Bearer my first and foremost priority is to ensure that at UNSW – allyship, anti racism and solidarity aren’t perks but remain as student obligations especially of those within stupol positions/ spaces. Running with RISE will ensure that the UNSW Ethnocultural office spearheads anti-racism and anti-colonialism in all the work that is to be undertaken. I aim to increase the level of proactive engagement UNSW takes in areas of student activism and solidarity actions to ensure that the work of the Ethnocultural Office is grounded in tackling students’ needs, especially those from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds. I hope to achieve this by organising direct action that targets three main areas:


I will ensure that the Ethnocultural Office remains a safe space for productive and inclusive discussions about race to take place. I will endeavour to push for awareness and the need to take direct action against racist behaviour not only on campus but globally. 2020 has shown the student body that conversations on race, allyship and white supremacy are instrumental in educating students on the importance of dismantling the oppressive systems that perpetuate racial discrimination. In accordance with that, I aim to push for greater action strategies within human resources and development to ensure that students of colour are well supported following events of racial discrmination and racist behaviour/ attacks. Increasing accessibility to educational resources and safe discussion spaces is another priority. Education is the key to engaging student action so I will utilise Arc’s platform to share accessible resources in the form of online events to enable the social justice change demanded by movements such as BLM. I will continue to create spaces where people can connect and learn as I want every UNSW student to feel included in the social justice movement toward anti-racism and this can begin within the Ethnocultural Office.


As the Ethnocultural Officer I will work towards increasing the educational pathways/ opportunities provided for low SES and Indigenous students. UNSW prides itself on being an “international exemplar in equity, diversity and inclusion” (taken directly from the website) yet I see many of the actions UNSW executes as borderline performative – a means to simply “check a box” in the fight toward equal opportunity. I will ensure that the Ethnocultural Office provides adequate support to students that are experiencing difficulties and are disproportionately impacted by funding discrepancies. The Ethnocultural Office will voice student concerns and push UNSW to increase funding allocated toward equity scholarships and programs that will open doors of opportunity to many more students. I want the SRC to be more vocal of it’s support toward the Australian Indigenous community and take pride in UNSW First Nations students whilst normalising discussion and project based action on Indigenous affairs well into the future. This can be achieved by participating in collaborative efforts with Indigenous youth organisations whereby alliances and healthy relationships can be built upon to ensure the SRC’s efforts remain sustainable.

Additionally I hope to collaborate with other Office Bearers to fight for affordable housing schemes and opportunities for students, increasing means of accessibility for disabled students and working more closely with international students and uplifting their voices and needs.


In this role I will always endeavour to provide support and spaces for those voices that are often neglected, particularly First Nations and refugees and asylum seekers. I will achieve this through working more closely and supporting other SRC initiatives and other student led activist campaigns that align with the Ethnocultural portfolio. This includes and is not limited to – working more closely with COFA and showing allyship with the ‘Stand with Tess’ campaign, publishing statements of support for racial justice movements such as BLM and other campaigns that target student fee hikes, education cuts and University job losses, climate strikes and climate action. Continued student solidarity is crucial to ensuring SRC remains united in working towards the collective needs and interests of the UNSW community.

I want every student to be well supported by the University during their time

at UNSW.

I want every student (no matter what) to feel included, represented and

heard. Every UNSW student is deserving of their place within our student


I want to see our student body more united and stronger than ever – and

this begins with a greater action taken on the issues of racial justice, equity/

equal opportunity and student activism.

Have you been involved with the SRC before? How?

Being a first year student, I haven’t had the opportunity to get involved with UNSW SRC at an Office bearing/ council level. This year, however I have attended and been involved in many of the online events run by the POC Collective which is under the guidance of the SRC Ethnocultural Officer. Having been part of such incredible change-making, most notably during the BLM events, I was inspired by how many young people united together and were willing to engage in respective, inclusive discussions about race. The events hosted by the POC Collective motivated me to take up the challenge of running for the role of the Ethnocultural Officer because I felt it was crucial that the momentum of the racial justice movement toward anti racism continued and only grew stronger within UNSW.

Are you representing a political faction, or otherwise affiliated with one?

For the 2020 UNSW Elections, I am running with RISE which is a progressive, left wing grassroots party that is 100% student funded and student run. RISE is not affiliated with any political party/ faction external to UNSW and solely works to make sure UNSW student voices are heard and uplifted. RISE engages in collective action and focuses on community organising to ensure change is created at both a social and institutional level. RISE’s policy principles are anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, anti-racist and non hierarchichal and this ensures student issues are tackled using sustainable action. RISE also operates on a direct democracy framework.

What do you think the biggest issues facing students are?

Two issues in addition to the ones discussed above in my policy snapshot


Climate change:

Pushing climate action and environmental sustainability to the forefront of university processes and university life – an area I believe needs to be supported more by the UNSW student community. Prioritising sustainability and climate action is an area UNSW is well overdue in addressing effectively. Through collaborative efforts – the SRC has a responsibility to ensure environmental issues are better recognised both upon campus grounds and within the internal bureaucratic processes of the institution. Climate change is not a leftist topic – the risks of climate change impact every single individual (especially First Nations communities) and I aim to place greater pressure on the UNSW SRC as a whole organise greater student initiatives and create meaningful, long lasting relationships with statewide Indigenous activist groups and address the climate crisis more broadly by committing to an achievable sustainability strategy.

Student Fee hikes:

The increase in University course fees will result in many students having to rethink their University course options – more specifically, students that are thinking of studying Arts and Law subjects. This hike in students fees ultimately bars many low SES students from even having a University degree as an educational path they can feasibly take. It angers me deeply that the lowering of fees for STEM (and related) courses comes at the sacrifice of other University courses. The prioritisation of producing “job ready graduates” and providing greater support and incentive for students studying STEM (and related courses) should not economically disadvantage an entire demographic of students.

The UNSW SRC response should be a plan of action that works to support low SES students first both within University and applying to UNSW. SRC must work toward voicing student concerns related to fee hikes to the UNSW Council to ensure that equitable learning support is increased in the form of more scholarships being created and awarded that cover not only large degrees like law and medicine but also support students wishing to study degrees and subjects that are directly impacted by the fee hikes. With the fee hikes – current scholarships (for e.g law) will be a lot less valuable to students so there needs to be an altering of scholarship funding for the current awards as well. For our current UNSW students, SRC should work toward improving support services that relate to online learning hubs to assist toward bettering resources. Collaborative efforts with faculties impacted by the fee hikes is crucial to understanding what actions should be prioritised and what means are most effective in battling the fee increase.

How do you think students have been affected by COVID-19 and how will you respond to it?

COVID 19 has proven to take a hard hit on students both economically, socially, academically and psychologically. From the welfare of international students to pushing for greater mental health initiatives to increasing academic support services – the impact of the pandemic on the UNSW community is long standing. I will respond to it by responding to student concerns in a collaborative manner with the rest of the SRC. Collective united action is far stronger than independent initiatives.

Have you been involved in representation, consultation, or advocacy before? How?

External to UNSW student politics, I have been heavily involved in youth advocacy through a number of different ways. Most notably, I am the co-founder and the Director of Operations of the youth led, non government organisation Provokewoke. Provokewoke is a change making platform that prioritises youth empowerment and education on all areas of race and multiculturalism in Australia. The organisation’s aim is to “foster a broader ripple-effect movement towards equality and inclusivity” (Provokwoke website) and equip young people with the knowledge and leadership skills needed to navigate issues related to racial justice and equality. By inspiring young people to provoke action and promote productive conversations about race, the organisation works to tackle racism through online education, workshops and other collaborative efforts. Additionally, I volunteer as a facilitator with United Nations Youth NSW and currently hold the position of the POC and Womxn’s Officer. At the moment I am working collaboratively with other facilitators both at a national and state level to tackle issues young POC and Womxn face in the volunteering/ youth advocacy space.

If you are a candidate and you would like to make a correction to this article, please email tharunka@arc.unsw.edu.au.

Henry Chen is a former member of the UNSW Labor Club.

*Please note this article was edited on the 20th of October to reflect that the SRC’s 2021 honoraria have not yet been passed by Arc Board.