ANUSA executives and department heads are in the process of planning the creation of an
Ethno-Cultural Department to serve the interests of ethnically and culturally diverse people on
While not a completely new idea, it was given momentum by a discussion held between Monique
Langley-Freeman, ANUSA General Secretary; Queer* Officer Kat Reed; and the Deputy Queer*
Officer at an ANUSA mid-year retreat. Since then, at least two working-
group meetings have been held with ANUSA executives.
The meetings explored issues surrounding consultation in the creation of the Department, and
proposed outreach to existing societies that represent ethnic diversity, as well as clubs and
societies in general.
Discussion also focused on the role of the International Students Department (ISD), its current
role in promoting ethnic and cultural diversity, and the possibility of the Ethno-Cultural
Department assuming this role in the future.
Langley-Freeman said that ANUSA chiefly intended the Department to “elevate the voices of
people of colour, and to give dignity and validity to those who have been marginalised or
oppressed by dominant systems.”
Critical discussions surrounding the actual membership and audience of the Department were
also held, particularly whether it would serve people identifying as ethnically, culturally, or
linguistically diverse, or people of colour in general. Possible names of the Department and their
certain connotations were also acknowledged. The Ethno-Cultural Department’s semi or full
autonomy was also considered.
Regardless, Langley-Freeman told Woroni that through consultation with students and other
Australian groups, ANUSA would “avoid previous mistakes and clarify the spirit of the group.”
“One of the key issues in question is how to define the parameters of the department itself, both
in naming and in more general spirit. ‘Ethno-Cultural’ can be quite a loaded term for some, as
can ‘Person of Colour.’ I think the key point here is to ensure that members are self-identifying,”
The second meeting also highlighted the National Union of Students’ (NUS) attempts at creating
an Ethno-Cultural Department, with ANUSA wanting to take a different approach to better suit
ANU’s particular needs.
Langley-Freeman said that “[ANUSA] has reached out to NUS, mainly to try and tap into the
greater networks of groups doing similar things around the country… it will be important to
make sure that a future department is indicative of our unique population and is able to address
the needs of identifying members.”
However, she felt that despite ANU’s unique and diverse population – reflected in its range of
student clubs and societies – the university was falling behind in raising issues regarding the
She also mentioned that “we are reaching a critical point of thinking culture and ethnicity not
only in ANU, but also nation-wide,” citing recent ethnicity-centred debates over Adam Goodes
and the Inter-hall Miss Saigon production as indicators. “It is of primary importance that we
elevate the voices of those most impacted by these issues in that space.”
She claimed the recent establishment of a Women of Colour sub-department within the
Women’s Department was similarly indicative of the need to address the needs of ethno-
culturally diverse students.
The consultation process behind the Department’s creation will be opened up to the student
body, with its proposed establishment as a committee in 2016, followed by a transition into full
department status in 2017.