The annual election for ANU Student Association (ANUSA) positions is bound to be overwhelming for any first year. How do you engage in this election discourse? Keywords such as ‘NUS accreditation goals’ or ‘low SES representation’ will be foreign to people who have just settled into university. At the same time, it’s impossible to ask someone to click and read up on every General Representative’s profile picture to learn about their background and goals. To a certain extent, both Observer and Woroni have done a fantastic job in recent years of providing election coverage that has narrowed this information gap.
My personal experience with the elections has been unique: I’ve always supported my friends’ endeavours to run for something that means a lot to them. In my first year, I found the ANUSA elections overwhelming, as a large number of strangers – as well as my friends – ran for roles I didn’t quite understand. In the next year, Observer election breakdown articles and explainers gave me a better understanding of what candidates were advocating for. This even prompted me to take part in some of Facebook group ANU Schmidtposting’s Q&A sessions. Finally, I gained the courage to run on my own terms after being involved with ANUSA opportunities such as the Clubs Council and volunteering on a first-year camp.
‘Selling yourself’ on ANUSA’s official expression of interest form is one way to get involved. However, the creative freedom (whether that be aesthetic design choices or the goals I wanted to achieve) I would retain from organising my own campaign appealed to me. Overall, elections challenge you to think outside the box and consider how you might differentiate yourself from your competition. Anyone who saw me during last year’s campaign zone knew me for my “Believe” campaign slogan and the large banner that I frequently used.
Branding will be your most important element to set yourself apart. As always, logos have to be ‘catchy,’ but must retain important properties such as being visible when shrunk. In today’s modern age, do-it-yourself graphic design is made easier with apps such as Canva. At the same time, it’s important to have a dedicated website that contains detailed word breakdown and explanations ready at the same time as when you launch your Facebook platform. This way, interested readers will know what to expect immediately. In another instance, running solo means you’ll have more time and space to promote your own content, whereas group tickets have to equally dedicate their time on social media to promote their members.
I think overall, my greatest advice would be to hone in on what makes you you. I’m referring to this in two ways. Firstly, the flexibility of the Gen Rep role means that you’re able to determine what you’d like to do during your time at ANUSA. Developing this comes easier when you choose to run on something you’re passionate about. Coming from a clubs and societies background, I refrained from dabbling in things I never fully understood such as residential policy. Next, keep close to your own core values, and only do what works for you. I was adamant on running as fairly as possible on my own terms, and made the conscious decision not to have endorsements from any of the platforms I was running at the time. I also decided not to implement certain tips I was given, whether that was the suggestion to use Mandarin to communicate with native Mandarin speakers or using a spreadsheet to keep count of whom I had messaged.
Although I was running as my own candidate, I was never alone. I recruited my friend Alexa Malizon, who generously created my campaign advertising materials and gradually became my pseudo-campaign manager. I sought advice from members of last year’s general representative cohort and people with previous experience with ANUSA elections before knowing for sure that I wanted to run. At the same time, I took a break from physical campaigning during the third day of open polls, because I was falling behind on completing an assignment.
Overall, contesting elections the way I wanted to was an eye-opening and rewarding experience. I would encounter old friends on the campaign zone while meeting new people with whom I’d be working in the next year. I think one of the most exciting aspects of being on ANUSA was attending a Kambri student focus group shortly after the election. One last thing: remember that being in ANUSA isn’t everything, and there are many different ways to contribute to student life at ANU. If you’re reading this, and will be running for something you’re passionate about, then I wish you good luck.