With the deregulation of university fees still very much on the table, ANU students came out on Wednesday 19th August to protest for a quality and accessible university education.
ANUSA Education Officer, Jock Webb, said that the goal of the rally was to “keep these issues on the table.”
“I shudder to think what a drastic increase in our tuition fees might look like in terms of this breakdown and I certainly do not want to see the ANU transform into a bastion of privilege.”
“The Minister for Education is trying to force a set of reforms onto a parliament and a community who have manifestly rejected them, twice”, Webb said.
Senator Lee Rhiannon, the Greens Higher Education spokesperson who was present at the event, spoke to the fact that although there have been a “number of victories” on the issue of deregulation, more needs to be done.
“Fair, equitable higher education needs to be high on the agenda,” she said, in reference to next year’s election.
“Your voice was heard… however, we need to continue presenting a strong voice.”
Loren Ovens, ANU Women’s Officer, agreed, saying that she was “here to show ongoing support.”
She expressed that she thought it was “deeply concerning that we have students that have shown over the last two years that they don’t support these changes, and yet the Chancellery at the ANU and the government persist with them. “
Fellow ANU student Priya De, who spoke passionately against the reforms in front of the gathered crowd, stated, “deregulation is damningly unpopular.”
“Christopher Pyne is almost universally hated”, she proclaimed, asserting that “the Liberal Government is full of oddballs and madmen… Christopher Pyne is the Education Minister for his bank balance.”
Despite the slight police and security presence, the atmosphere was one of controlled and calm protest, with signs such as ‘Graduation Day – Only For Those Who Pay’, and ‘Fund Education, Not Detention’ littering Union Court.
Protestors at the rally included ANU students Claire Clively, who referred to deregulation as an ‘outrage’, and Grace Elkins, who stated that education was a human right.
“It is not fair, equitable or in any way responsible for a government to send its’ future generation into the world with debt up to their ears.”
“It deters people from getting the education they have a right to,” Elkins said.
Webb stated that “50% of students who live in share-housing and receive the maximum Youth Allowance, Austudy and rent assistance still live below the poverty line.
“Many students are forced to work a huge number of hours to get by, and are skipping meals to pay their rent.”
“To graduate with a degree that has been a struggle from start to finish and then be shackled with an enormous debt burden before even entering the (somewhat unforgiving) job market is a horrifying prospect.”