The ANUSA Vice Presidential position can be considered relatively hidden, but its impact on the functioning of the Association remains significant. In the run up to this year’s elections, Woroni sat down with Amplify vice-presidential candidate Eleanor Kay and Connect vice-presidential candidate Grace Shalders to discuss what they would bring to the role.
ANUSA’s Vice President is responsible for handling student appeals and advocating for student interests within the ANU. They also focus on educational and faculty policy, while also serving as the first point-of-contact for college representatives.
Kay, who believes ANUSA is a key advocacy and representative body, chose to run because she wanted to see improvements in and the continuance of current ANUSA initiatives, its mental health policies being the focus. She highlighted her personal experiences with mental health, and current capacity as general representative.
Shalders, who has not held a previous ANUSA position, comes to the platform with a “non-residential, low SES” focus, based on her own experiences. She aims to expand ANUSA’s services to offer more to the large number of students living off-campus and to greater represent student in the Union Court redevelopment process.
Regarding mental health policy, Shalders said that Connect would like campus mental health services to greater engage international, low socioeconomic, and off-campus students. Improving actual accessibility, and not just informing people of their existence, is essential. Kay then asked how Shalders would see this enacted.
Shalders responded by noting colleges “moving away” from ANUSA, and stating that there was much for ANUSA to learn from the pastoral system of residential colleges. She also hoped to see a buddy system implemented, where students would help newcomers settle into Canberra.
Outlining her policy, Kay said that she would oversee the implementation of a Health and Wellbeing coordinator for 2017, continuing efforts made by current President Ben Gill and his Let’s ticket from 2015. Her ticket feels that the Wellbeing coordinator would be able to collate the multitude of mental health programs on campus in a unified direction. Furthermore, while the coordinator would be employed by the ANU on a three year contract, they would still be directed by ANUSA.
Kay also wanted to see the Wellbeing coordinator interact effectively with international students as a short-term goal. In overcoming not only language, but legal and cultural barriers, Amplify would use 2017 to properly research and consult with relevant student bodies to do so.
The Connect VP concurred, and added that she would want an advocacy-based approach with preventative, rather than reactive engagement with international students. Shalders also raised concern with the possibility of ANU Counselling being tendered for private operation during the Union Court redevelopment, and wanted to ensure student consultation with the new provider was prioritised. Kay agreed, although both candidates acknowledged the uncertainty of who would eventually take over the Counselling service.
On whether or not the tickets would engage third-party mental health organisations to ease the load on ANU Counselling, Shalders said that while she hadn’t extensively considered it, she did admire Batyr’s networking efforts. However, she did stress the importance of increasing ANUSA’s preventative programs to recognise early signs of mental illness, but felt that relying on third-parties was not the solution.
Kay also added that information services would assist students during the long wait for ANU Counselling services, and hoped to bring social workers into ANUSA to triage students on mental health concerns.
International Students and Education
When asked by Woroni how the tickets would overcome challenges in engaging the large and diverse international community at ANU, Shalders wanted to use academic societies and services to draw international students into the wider student body. Citing her experiences in Griffin Hall, Shalders noted that many international students prioritise academic pursuits, and hopes to use these channels to engage them with ANUSA.
Kay, drawing from her experiences at UniLodge, acknowledged that barriers to engagement did exist but that they could be remedied by using international student clubs and societies, as well residential colleges to help network international students, especially in creating a welcoming discourse surrounding mental health.
On the topic of education advocacy, Kay signalled her willingness to work with college representatives to better handle student concerns. Yet, Amplify’s major policy is to split the VP into two roles, one for Welfare and the other for Education. “At the moment, the VP takes on a lot of educational advocacy to the point that they are unable to carry out other projects… so we are keen to see two roles created,” she said.
Shalders said that she agreed with most of Kay’s policies, and acknowledged that, as VP, she may have to fill in for Connect’s lack of an Education Officer. She built on Kay’s intensions to coordinate with college representatives, and highlighted Connect’s policy of connecting course and college representatives to better service students.
Shalders also spoke of Connect’s intention to begin lobbying the ACT government, particularly for lighting and transport support in areas with high student populations. Nevertheless, she also acknowledged the possible overlap between a possible Connect VP and the Education Officer, given the external nature of this lobbying initiative.
Finally, Woroni asked the candidates what made them different from past contenders. Shalders underlined her low SES and non-collegiate background as possible benefits to the Association. She felt that coming into ANUSA without prior experience within the Association would allow her to “bring a brand new perspective, learning where things are at the moment, but bringing a really fresh approach.”
Kay said that there were similarities between her and current VP Clodagh O’Doherty, and had “similarly aligned” passions. Referring to the high turnover rates in ANUSA, Kay felt that continuing many of O’Doherty’s policies would be ideal for students, and ultimately felt that communication during handover is necessary to keep ANUSA’s momentum.
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