In the cosy setting of Smith’s Alternative, a side table is stacked with slim-lined, red-spined publications. For an anthology fuelled by such passion against the government’s budget proposals, the set up for this student book launch is innocuous. A hand-written sign is drawn with arrows directing the audience to ‘de-reghead’ postcards and small red felt squares (‘FREE’), and ‘the anthology’ (‘BY DONATION’).
The brainchild of Canberra slam poet and member for the ANU Education Action Group, Raphael Kabo, Squarely in the Read Words on the 2014 Higher Education Cuts is a crowd-funded zine that has sought to provide student activists, lecturers and researchers with a platform to voice their concerns over the Abbot Government’s planned deregulation of university fees.
The idea for the zine was posited by Kabo at the “Read In” protests outside Chancelry in May this year.
“[He] received a highly enthusiastic response from fellow students,” writes Corey Bresnan, contributor to the zine and fellow EAG member, “the first call for submissions began in early June, and [the] first edition was released on August 13- Christopher Pyne’s birthday”.
Yet despite the timing of the anthology’s release, Bresnan presses that the zine was not written as a protest.
“We didn’t write it for them we wrote it for… students,” writes Bresnan when asked whether copies of Squarely in the Read will be distributed to Chancelry or the government. “Besides,” he adds, “I’m not sure the Abbot government has even read its own budget”.
By the time the launch was well under way, the humble book-shop setting was buzzing with students and members of the local community. The launch kicked off with a musical performance by Hayley Shone, followed by spoken word performances from Kabo, who acted as MC for the night, and Aaron Kirby. Amelia Filmer-Sankey presented her evocative audio composition which laid “all the stupid things” said by ministers of the Abbott government and the ANU Chancelry over a moody soundscape. Performances were followed by speeches; Bresnan discussed effective means of student response, whilst Connor Drum sought to debunk myths of student activism.
Squarely in the Read draws symbolic links from the red squares worn by student protestors in Quebec who successfully contested tuition fee increases in 2012.
“Many student organisations, including the ANU EAG, have adopted the Red Square as a symbol of protest against the attack on higher education championed by Ian Young and the Abbot Government” writes Bresnan. “We hope that others will follow our example and ‘wear the square’”.
The anthology is available for purchase at Smith’s bookshop and online by donation. Funds will go towards the publication of a sequel zine, for which Pilcrow Press are currently accepting submissions.