The ANUSA Executive has faced considerable criticism over a recently introduced funding model for their internal Departments.

Despite being billed as autonomous departments, the ANU Disabilities Student Association, Environment Collective, Indigenous Collective, International Students’ Department, Queer* Collective, and the ANU Women’s Department all receive their funding from ANUSA’s Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) allocations.

Prior to 2014, Departments were allocated $10,000 each. $2,500 of this came from SSAF and was to be spent on honoraria for the Officers. The remaining money came from ANUSA’s O-Week income and was to be dedicated to campaigns.

In late 2013 the incumbent ANUSA Executive introduced a new funding model for the ANUSA Departments due to a lack of efficiency in the previous model. According to the 2014 ANUSA President Cam Wilson, this model was introduced because “a one-size-fits-all model was not working for Departments. While each of the Departments were given $10,000 for expenditure in 2013, their reported expenditure fluctuated between $28,000 and $0. It was clear that the model was not working for the Departments nor ANUSA generally.”

In Semester One 2014, Departments were given the constitutional amount of SSAF provided funding. Any funding that was required for campaigns was submitted to the ANUSA Executive to be awarded at their discretion from a large pool of non-SSAF money, dedicated to Department spending.

A requirement of SSAF funding is that the money cannot be spent on political party purposes. This funding model aimed to ensure that the SSAF money was not put towards political purposes, while the money from the group pool could be used for anything construed as political campaigns.

This model has since been abandoned by ANUSA because, according to Wilson, “Although it was an improvement over last year’s model, there was still room for improvement in terms of reducing workload and clarifying the model.”

A third model is now in its early stages. This third model simply requires the Departments to apply for funding, providing they deliver a detailed budget of expected costs. The new funding model aims to ensure that funds are distributed proportionate to the greatest need and still enables the Executive to have a greater control over the causes the SSAF money is put towards.

This control is the primary concern of many of the Department Officers. Some Officers maintain that the model will infringe on the autonomy of their Departments as the final funding decisions rest with the ANUSA Executive, not with the Department Officers. Cam Wilson, however, believes that the current model will be no less restricting to the ANUSA Departments. “[The third model] does not [infringe on autonomy] any more than the last model. Decision-making is still – and always should be – autonomous. Departments are, however, [and] have always been, financially dependent on the organisation. With the new model, the Executive works with the Department Officer to find out their needs for the year and works to achieve that with consideration of ANUSA’s resources. I believe with working with the Department Officers, as we always have, together we can assess and address the needs of special-interest groups.”

Despite heavy criticism, Wilson has also asserted that the Department Officers were part of the decision-making process in implemented in both the Semester One and Semester Two models. “We extensively consulted with [Department Officers] to find their concerns, adjusted models with their feedback and [addressed] any misunderstandings and issues in the transition. For example, we understood that it would be difficult to present a budget during their holidays because of their members being away and inability to hold a meeting. So we promised that we would financially support the Departments for their Bush Week plans up until they could pass their budget.”

It remains to be seen whether the Semester Two model will be a success.