PARSA Unite

Unite! for PARSA, a ticket formed for the PARSA elections on August 15, is beginning its campaign on a platform of advocacy and enfranchisement for marginalised students. Headed by first and current Women’s Officer Alyssa Shaw running as president, the ticket is running candidates in each executive position, each college (except Physical & Mathematical Sciences), and five general representatives.

Woroni was given the opportunity to sit down with a number of ticket members for an interview.

Shaw told Woroni that her experiences as PARSA’s first Women’s Officer enlightened her to what she perceived as a gap in PARSA’s ability to advocate for marginalised students.

“PARSA can be a more effective advocacy body for students, wherever they come from… Women, Indigenous, international. We’re taking the next step up,” she said, referring to her ticket’s overall objective.

Kim-Marie Spence, the vice-presidential candidate and current VP, outlined issues their ticket wanted to explore, such as ANU under a new Vice Chancellor and the restructuring of the Schools of Music and Culture, History, and Language. She also acknowledged the diversity of the postgraduate body, not only in nationality but in “life stages,” with some postgraduate students having to balance family and childcare commitments with their studies.

Spence also tried to dispel the allegation that PARSA “only [does] social events” and noted that “isolation is a big issue” in the postgraduate community and wanted to connect members of the student body to resolve this. Jingting Gao, College of Business and Economics Representative, also wished to see greater integration of international CBE students, particularly from her native China, into PARSA activities and services.

When asked what their first changes to PARSA would be, should their ticket succeed, Shaw flagged mental health as a priority after discussions with ANUSA and Dr Richard Baker, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience). Unite intends to increase the number of mental health counsellors at the ANU, and would use SSAF funding to expedite this, underlining that postgraduates were more likely to suffer from mental health issues.

She also hopes to make ANU’s body of counsellors more culturally and linguistically diverse and establish a culturally-sensitive resource database for international students with different perceptions of mental health.

College of Law Representative James Shin echoed these ambitions as necessary for the College of Law. He stated that given the difficulty of the degree, many Law postgraduates suffered from mental health issues, and described Unite’s policies as partly “welfare-oriented.”

At PARSA’s previous AGM, Shaw also opposed the Chancelry’s plan to separate the roles of ANU Council Member and PARSA President into two distinct positions, instead of the combined role that they are currently.

The ticket members agreed that discourse during the election would centre on advocacy and mental health issues, and efforts to make PARSA more relevant for postgraduates, whether they are Masters or PhD students.

Spence believed “big issues” like the CHL crisis would take the spotlight, and also identified student housing as another example. She explained one of her past experiences in PARSA having to put some postgraduates in hostels around Canberra as a temporary accommodation solution.

Shaw concluded, “At the end of the day it’s about student rights and student welfare. That’s what we’re here for.”