Kai Dreyfus-Ballesi has entered the ANUSA Election as the first and only independent in this year’s race. Running for Welfare Officer, he believes “that it is important for ANUSA to be open, accessible, and represent a diversity of student voices.”
Dreyfus-Ballesi believes his experience makes him a suitable candidate. He outlines that during his past five years at ANU, he has “worked with ANU Counselling to develop new group support programs, engaged with students at ANUSA O-week events, and started the ADHD Collective, a community support network of over 300 students.”
He further claims that “the central challenge of the welfare portfolio is communication”. In order to mitigate this, the Welfare Officer must engage in “constant outreach and consultation with students from all over the uni – people from different halls, autonomous departments, and academic disciplines.”
Whilst he applauds the current use of the portfolio in providing services such as free breakfast and financial grants, he opines that the role should extend beyond mere service provision. Instead, the role should “run campaigns, with the assistance of the Wellbeing Committee and in partnership with the Education Officer, to improve the material conditions and lives of students” in addition to service provision.
To do so, Dreyfus-Ballesi intends to fulfil four key objectives: improving ANUSA’s outreach and accessibility, fighting for affordable housing, providing free and affordable meals, and supporting and consulting with autonomous departments more meaningfully.
IMPROVING OUTREACH AND ACCESSIBILITY
To improve outreach and accessibility within the University, Dreyfus-Ballesi will aim to engage “students in res-hall N-week events, SR trainings, and first year lectures,” advertise ANUSA’s initiatives more heavily on social media platforms, and open office hours in the Brian Kenyon Student Space (BKSS). Additionally, he wants to work with the General Secretary to “make ANUSA meetings more open and accessible.”
Penetrating residential halls would be a big achievement as the two cultures, ANUSA and residential halls, tend to stay away from each other. Expanding outreach could help to reshape ANUSA’s image and give it a broader base of support in the university. Becoming involved in SR training might be a more ambitious goal, but it would give ANUSA an entrance into pastoral care that might then expand into improving the system from within.
Dreyfus-Ballesi has also set himself apart by advocating for more accessible ANUSA meetings; other welfare candidates have not discussed this idea.
However, residential halls have designated positions to hold and manage events for residents, including SR training which is done by the hall itself, not ANUSA. ANU may be reluctant to involve ANUSA. Furthermore, Dreyfus-Ballesi’s policy could risk overburdening students: they mightn’t like the idea of being approached outside of lectures, for example.
Similar to Action! For ANUSA, Dreyfus-Ballesi would use his position to campaign against rent hikes for students living on campus. In doing so, he would work “with the Canberra Housing Coalition to advocate for affordable student public housing.”
The cost of living on campus is a recurring theme of this election and each candidate has reflected this in their own way. Dreyfus-Ballesi, has, it seems, tapped into a common source of discontentment, making affordable housing almost a non-issue in this election. Working with the CHC is a good strategy, they are an advocacy group that ANUSA could put their support behind, rather than creating an entirely new campaign. This also circumvents other tickets who have simply promised activism with little planning.
Yet, supporting the CHC may not be as effective as it seems. The ANU is federal land, and its rent contracts are private, avoiding some ACT regulations. It is unclear whether the territory government could push the University to address rent.
Dreyfus-Ballesi’s third policy objective is to provide free and affordable meals to students. This would include “[e]xpanding the student bites program by implementing an ANUSA Food Rescue Program” and “[c]ooking regular hearty, healthy meals in the Brian Kenyon Student Space 2-3 times a week.”
The BKSS has seen a significant expansion in output this year, suggesting there is capacity for ANUSA to provide more food. The BKSS is also in heavy demand, it regularly runs low on breakfast and dinner. There is an obvious student appetite for the BKSS that this policy appeals to. Additionally, Dreyfus-Ballesi’s policy of sourcing food waste from students and local businesses could help to reduce costs.
A number of tickets are running affordable food policies this year, especially Action! For ANUSA. Dreyfus-Ballesi’s policy involves the lowest cost to students and may gain more support because of it. However, ANUSA would then have to bear the burden, and hence students may doubt the achievability of such a policy.
This policy does raise the question of who will be the one cooking meals in the BKSS, and how wastage would be minimised. The issue of food waste from the free breakfast at the BKSS would be less of an issue compared to “hearty” meals, as ingredients and leftovers are highly perishable as opposed to cereal.
Dreyfus-Ballesi is not the only candidate to run on sourcing more food from charities and local businesses. It highlights the extent of ANUSA’s underfunding that candidates cannot turn to the ANU for more money but must seek out charities instead.
MEANINGFUL SUPPORT FOR AUTONOMOUS DEPARTMENTS
Dreyfus-Ballesi intends on supporting autonomous departments by “providing organisational support” on campaigns and “work[ing] closely with departments to make sure that ANUSA meetings, services, and communities are safe spaces for marginalised groups.”
Dreyfus-Ballesi evidently feels that accessibility is still an issue ANUSA. Indeed, at the Woroni x Observer election debate on the – of September, Azraa Hussain, Action! For ANUSA’s presidential candidate, raised how other people often talk over them in ANUSA spaces as a person of colour. Ironically, minutes later SAlt heckled her. It may be exactly this to which Dreyfus-Ballesi is alluding.
As written previously, department members are a key electorate for ANUSA. Appealing not only on grounds of support in departmental advocacy, but also overall on accessibility and inclusion may put Drefyus-Ballesi at an advantage.
However, autonomous departments already organise campaigns internally and fulfil administrative work. It is unclear if incoming officers of the departments would want external help on serious and autonomous matters.
Dreyfus-Ballesi has crafted a policy suite that, more than others, balances achievability with student support. His main drawback will likely be his independent status; he will not have the financial resources and the social network that larger tickets use to campaign so successfully. But this may set him apart from professional-seeming tickets that some students find sanitised and ingenuine.
Woroni has written extensively about the upcoming ANUSA election, including policy analyses for each ticket. See our website for more.
Voting for the election begins at 9am Monday 26th of September.
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