The Student Representative Council voted to reaccredit with the National Union of Students (NUS) on Tuesday night, after a debate which highlighted apparent division in the ANUSA executive.
The motion to reaccredit with the NUS was carried out by 24 votes in favour, 11 against and with no abstentions in a secret ballot.
The ANUSA President, James Connolly, who moved the motion, said that, ‘A vote against accreditation is effectively a boycott. It says that we have identified problems with the NUS but don’t want to have a voice in their solution.’
Connolly said that the NUS’s strong national campaigns, as well as an opportunity to be involved in moves towards reforming of the organisation, were the most compelling reasons to reaccredit with the union.
The vice president, Eleanor Kay, spoke in favour of the motion, which was seconded by general representative, Lauran Clifton.
But the division in the executive became quickly apparent as other members of the executive opposed the President’s motion. The education officer, Jessy Wu, the general secretary, Kat Reed, and the treasurer, Harry Feng, rose to express their opposition.
The women’s officer, Holly Zhang, and the Queer* officer, Gabriel Scott, also spoke against the motion.
An amendment, proposed by general representative and NUS observer Tom Kesina was also passed, and means that the $5,000 required to reaccredit with the NUS will not be transferred until:
- Minutes and executive office bearer’s reports are made available online
- The full audited financial report is made available to member organisations
- A returning officer is appointed who is not a member or former member of any faction
- A guide to National Conference in line with Laura Campbell’s reforms is produced and distributed
- And the NUS budget is approved online
Education Officer Jessy Wu argued that, for reaccreditation to be justified, the SRC should be satisfied that the NUS ‘is meaningfully accessible to its members,’ that it ‘amplifies the voices of ANU students’ and that the NUS’s policies advance equality.
Wu said that ‘compassionate and caring people’ are ‘disempowered from fighting for change within their factions’ and that the NUS normalises damaging and discriminatory behaviour.
‘We [ANUSA] have demonstrated that we don’t need a national body to coordinate campaigns and capture media interest,’ Wu said.
‘If [university fee] de-regulation happens, I’m going to be so devo,’ Allan said in the meeting. ‘In my mind, we’ve got to give the NUS the best possible chance it can have.’
The ACT state branch president of the NUS, Nick Douros, spoke in favour of the motion to reaccredit, saying that, ‘We have some of the best people at our university, why can we not add to the debate?’
Douros told Woroni after the meeting that he was very happy at the result, as he was not sure what the outcome would be. He thought the vote would ‘go down to the wire’.
‘I think it is a step in the right direction in terms of building the relationship between ANUSA and the NUS,’ he said.
The majority of speakers acknowledged that the NUS has been plagued with cultural and institutional problems, especially at national conferences where delegates have been intimidated and mistreated.
But those speaking for the motion argued that it was only be reaccrediting could reform happen.
Former NUS secretariat member and previous national conference delegate, Harry Needham, said that the only way to achieve reform to the NUS was to reaccredit.
‘Sitting on our hands will not achieve anything,’ he said.