The decision of whether to re-accredit with the National Union of Students (NUS) has dominated ANUSA SRC meetings over the past six months, with certain ANUSA members, including President Ben Gill, historically being firmly against re-accreditation. However, after several months of discussion, the decision was finally made to re-accredit.
The NUS is the national peak representative body for Australian undergraduate university students, and plays the key function of lobbying for student rights. Students associations and unions from universities across the country pay a fee to accredit with the NUS every year to support the Union financially.
There have been concerns about the ANU Student Association (ANUSA) re-affiliating with NUS this year after stories of serious mismanagement within the organisation came to light, with the ANUSA treasurer, Sophia Woo, labelling the NUS as “financially irresponsible”. It was revealed at the 2014 NUS National Conference that the organisation had accumulated approximately $300,000 in deficits over three years, despite reports from consecutive NUS General-Secretaries that the budget was in surplus. To make up for this financial shortcoming, the NUS proposed potentially blending campaign and advocacy work between specific departments, a move that has received extensive criticism from ANUSA Department Officers.
At an SRC meeting earlier in August, the decision was made to re-affiliate with NUS for a fee of up to $5000, despite the NUS initially requesting almost $90,000 from ANU.
Ben Gill, President of ANUSA, said that the SRC had voted against not re-accrediting with NUS at the end of last semester, and that following this decision, he liaised with the NUS Executive regarding a fee reduction. Gill said that while there had been some debate in the SRC over recent concerns with the NUS’s management, “overall it was decided that NUS still remained an important advocacy and lobbying avenue for ANU students.”
However, others are disappointed with how little ANU has decided to give to the NUS. Vishnupriya De, who is running in the upcoming ANUSA elections for Gen Rep and NUS delegate with Let’s ANUSA, said that she “absolutely supported” ANUSA’s decision to re-accredit with NUS.
“NUS exists to support students’ rights and fight for student rights as a national body,” she said.
But De said it was “disgraceful” that the ANU has re-accredited for only $5,000, or “pocket change”, as she described it.
“Take Flinders University, their student union’s entire budget is $17,000 and they accredited for $15,000. That’s what student unions can do and should do,” she said.
“Last year ANUSA spent more than $5,000 on custom made jellybeans – if they can spend $5,000 on that kind of shit, surely they can also spend it supporting the body that puts up a fight; that protects students; that represents students when they’re under attack from the government which happens all the time.”
Gill said that while there are some on the SRC who do not agree with re-accreditation, the motion to re-accredit was received positively overall. However, the discussion of whether to re-accredit in the future is a discussion that he believes the student body should have every year.