ANUSA’s fractured relationship with the NUS, the union tasked with lobbying for student rights nationally, will come to a head this week in Ballarat. The ANUSA NUS delegates will arrive at the NUS National Conference without voting rights, after refusing to accredit to an organisation struggling with financial transparency and accountability.
A vote was made to re-accredit at SRC 2, in March of this year. Accreditation means paying funds to the NUS, and in return getting voting rights at the Conference that determines the NUS policies in 2019. However this re-accreditation was subject to the NUS meeting Key Performance Indicators. The 2018 indicators were jointly agreed upon by multiple universities, and related to accessibility and transparency of the association.
ANUSA also attempted to force institutional reform using KPIs in 2017 but the results were underwhelming. The requirement of a non-partisan returning officer was not met, when a former member of Student Unity (Labor right) was chosen for the role of overseeing elections.
Some 2017 delegates speculated that ANU representatives were not valued as NUS delegates because they were independents and not associated with the major factions that control the Union. The absence of ANU reps in 2017 increased the voting power of the factions: SAlt, Unity and NLS.
This year it was hoped that the combined effort of eight universities, which would result in a larger monetary impact of $240 000, would cut across factional divisions. However shortly after, some universities distanced themselves from the demands.
Further, at SRC 8 Education Officer Harry Needham spoke of the disparity in approaches of NUS Officers. Some took the KPIs seriously, while others didn’t at all.
The result was that some KPIs were met, others were attempted and some weren’t attempted. One notable absence is the audited financial statements. The previous years audits were meant to be available publicly online in June, but they never appeared.
ANUSA has had a particularly troubled year with the NUS. At an August SRC, the Council passed a motion of no confidence against NUS Queer co-officer Jasmine Duff following transphobic comments made at NatCon in 2017. The Officer was also alleged to have bullied and harrassed queer students at their home university of Monash. It played into a wider debate about lack of autonomy when deciding Queer officers.
At SRC 8 in October, the International Student Officer for the NUS was also condemned, for failing to appear at any executive meetings and also failing to adequately report on their activities.
The motion was moved by the International Students Department Officer, who said that there had been zero communication between them and the NUS about the rights of international students. The condemnation comes at a time when there has been renewed focus on the vulnerability of international students to workplace exploitation.
NUS NatCon will be attended this year by Tanika Sibal and Lachy Day, who promised at the election to align with the Grassroots Independents. They will have speaking rights and can move policy but will have no voting rights. Niall Cummins will also be attending as a non-voting delegate and convenor of ACT Student Unity. ANUSA NUS delegates Ashish Nagesh and Croft Sun will not be attending.
Woroni won’t be in Ballarat this week, but we will still bring you coverage of the Conference. We will be posting updates on twitter (@woroni) and reporting on policy discussions and major events as they relate to ANU students.