Independent candidate Sarah Strange (she/her), running for the position of Welfare Officer, has announced her policies. As a self-described “progressive left-winger,” Sarah believes in a grassroots approach to activism. She emphasises that this perspective does not mean that her motive is “solely to build for some kind of utopian Marxist revolution,” and explains that her support for anti-capitalist politics is based on the premise that “it’s the left that fights for cheaper education and better working conditions.” She contends that the Welfare Officer portfolio within ANUSA has been a wasted opportunity and asserts that her motivation behind her candidacy for this role stems from her belief that “when it’s not done right, you do it yourself.”
Sarah’s policies focus on key student concerns, from supporting working students and advocating for increased accessibility for disabled students to fighting for housing justice within the ANU community.
Policy 1 – Working Conditions for Students and Combatting Wage Theft
Sarah’s determination to fight for improved working conditions for students stems from her own experience of “hav[ing] no hope of achieving job security and no rights to basic sick leave.” In a recent Facebook post, Sarah proclaimed, “I’m the only candidate you can trust to fight for working students as a number one priority.” She also hopes to advocate for the ANU to adopt USyd’s extension policy, allowing ANU students to request 3-5 days extensions without having to provide extensive documentation. In her view, “making students choose between learning and surviving is an idea that should be left in the past.”
Sarah also pledges to prioritise combating wage theft on campus since it “hasn’t been enough of a priority for previous Welfare Officers.” She criticises the university for not paying attention to “students employed by on-campus businesses who have been victimised by rampant wage theft.”
Policy 2 – Fighting for Students with A Disability
Previously a Deputy Officer of the Disability Students Association, Sarah states she strives to fight for disabled students. She aims to scrap mandatory in-person exams since “disabled students will need vastly more accommodations for in-person exams than online ones,” and further explains that this would cost them more “effort, time and money.” She goes on to highlight that the university would be “out of touch with reality,” to believe that having in-person exams is “the most suitable course of action in 2023.”
Some of her other policies for disabled students include fighting against high medical costs and getting involved in residential hall accessibility. She will strongly push for bulk billing for staff and students, free and accessible primary care, and improving the physical accessibility of residential halls.
Policy 3 – Combatting Housing Injustice
Sarah is committed to addressing housing injustice in the ANU community. She contends that her extensive involvement with the Housing Action Collective throughout the year uniquely positions her to champion this cause. While she acknowledges the efforts of the Housing Collective Action in the first half of the year, she believes that it has become “moribund.” To tackle this issue, she intends to build a campaign with a broader scope than ANU’s residential halls and build coalitions with the wider community. She also critiques the ANU’s decision to “sell off most of its colleges to hedge funds and let them set extortionate prices that cripple the residential hall community.”
Policy 4 – Accessibility and Inclusivity of ANUSA
In another policy, Sarah hopes to improve ANUSA’s online presence in order to make important information more readily available to students who are not very familiar with ANU. She believes that “expanding beyond platforms like Facebook to reach students on platforms like TikTok” would play an important role in improving student welfare. Sarah recognises that moving forward with this policy proposal would entail pitching to the entire executive team.
Sarah’s final policy aims to enhance the logistical aspects of and improve the inclusivity of the annual August 1st rally, an event dedicated to protesting the persistent occurrence of SASH in ANU. In her opinion, the “political direction [of the rally] this year was sadly unfocused and in some ways underinclusive.” She recalls that “not a single speaker mentioned SASH in contexts other than residential halls.” In addition to providing logistical support, she seeks to ensure that the August 1st campaign “fights for all students experiencing SASH, not just a few.”
Sarah draws upon issues that are pertinent to lots of students – working rights, housing injustice, and equality, whether it be for students with a disability or inclusion within ANUSA. An extension process similar to that of U Syd has also been called for by the Together for ANUSA ticket, and will likely be popular with students. Likewise, housing is front of mind for many students given the current cost-of-living crisis, yet it is notable that Sarah believes efforts this year have stalled in the second semester. Increasing reliable access to healthcare, including a bulk-billing GP, builds upon the previous campaign to ensure the ANU Medical Centre remained bulk-billed. Finally, increasing the accessibility of ANUSA is a policy that draws upon real concerns that information currently does not reach students, and Tik Tok is a platform widely used by students.
While Sarah outlines her goals in her policy document, most of her concrete plans involve modifications of current strategies – such as modifying current protest activity to public forums and meetings and leafleting in the broader ACT community. Sarah emphasises the effectiveness of activism in her policy document, and cites successful examples including the recent after-hours access protest within the School of Art and Design. However, activism may not be enough to achieve some of the changes Sarah is outlining. As mentioned by Sarah herself, the execution of some policies requires intense discussions and negotiations with ANU’s executive team, which will demand a substantial investment of her time and effort, and may require a different approach than that required for activist action. As she advocates for multiple important issues with implications not only for the Welfare portfolio but for others such as the Education Officer and Treasurer, it remains to be seen how she will effectively work with others within the executive to achieve concrete goals.
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