We have entered a hallowed time in our University’s political calendar. You can probably feel it in the air; the energy of texts flying from candidates begging for votes to people they met once two years ago charges each election season with the usual levels of hackiness and desperation. Nothing fills me with more nostalgia for elections gone-by than observing the same three people commenting on every Schmidtposting post, engaging in enlightened and nuanced debate which we all care very much about. Which one of your vaguely popular college friends will be approached to run for a General Representative position? Which of your vaguely popular college friends, who also happens to be a person of colour, will be approached to run for Treasurer?
But ultimately no position draws more clout, ire or admiration than ANUSA President. Step aside, Clubs/Education/Environment/Welfare Officers! Return to your agenda-making, General Secretaries! Go back to pining for the banishment of your prefix, Vice-Presidents! The President is the one who enjoys the privilege of sending all student emails, of having their name appear in the ANUSA wikipedia article, and of being mostly unknown according to Observer.
At the time of writing four candidates have signalled they believe their neck is strong enough to bear the heavy weight of the SSAF-bejewelled crown. It is not unheard of for the position to be uncontested, and yet it is a profoundly important one! The ANUSA President is expected to work full-time, prioritising the role even above their studies, and receive a salary of $54,000 indexed for inflation. The ANUSA President also typically nominates to be one of fifteen to sit on the ANU Council, a body which provides strategic oversight of the University, appoints senior leadership and ensures the financially responsible acquisition of more bus stops.
In theory, the ANUSA President is the person among us with the most enthusiasm for attending SRCs and answering emails, both profoundly burdensome tasks that I do not envy and you shouldn’t either. So what makes a President, beyond their obvious penchant for martyrdom? Who are they? Where do they come from? What were they even thinking?!?!
In this brief and amateur demography I will guide us on a tour through Ghosts of Presidents Past and find that the true meaning of the ANUSA Election is not the crown-bearer, but the friends we made along the way.
This article examines the successful Presidential Candidates from 2003 to 2023. Where possible, I have collected data on the individuals’ gender, their schooling prior to university, their degree at the time of their election, notable positions the individuals occupied prior to their election, the Hall(s) the candidates lived in, the political affiliation of their ticket and any exhilarating miscellaneous facts. The Presidents covered in this piece are:
Ben Yates (2023), Christian Flynn (2022), Madhumitha Janagaraja (2021), Lachlan Day (2020), Eden Lim (2019), Eleanor Kay (2018), James Connolly (2017), Ben Gill (2015, 2016), Cam Wilson (2014), Aleks Sladojevic (2013), Dallas Proctor (2012), Fleur Hawes (2012), Leah Ginnivan (2011), Tully Fletcher (2010), Sham Sara (2009), Jamila Rizvi (2008), Claudia Newman-Martin (2007), Laura Crespo (2006), Aparna Rao (2005), Max Jeganathan (2004) and Steve Michelson (2003).
Sources covered to obtain this information were the individuals’ linkedin profiles; Woroni archives via the website, issuu and Trove; Observer articles via their website; the ANUSA Wikipedia page; some misc ANU articles; and Candidate posts via Facebook and Youtube.
I’ll be honest, consistent with all other spheres of politics, I expected the data to show more of a sausage party than is present. Since 2003, there have been ten female Presidents and twelve males.
The majority of Presidential scandals sit amongst the men, but we will detail those later. Meanwhile, some of the notable achievements of female presidents sit with Claudia Newman-Martin, who created new electoral disclosure requirements around tickets’ finances and expenditure in 2007, and Leah Ginnivan, who established the Student Housing Co-Op and is credited with being the first true independent candidate in 2011, triggering the streak of Independent success that persists today.
I could only find this information for seven of our Presidents, and they all went to private schools. Credit where credit is due though, we can at least say those presidents (and likely a few more within the undetermined lot) are representative of the broader ANU, also being majority private school students.
The data shows that an ANUSA President can boast diversity when they don’t study a law degree. Yes, it’s a low bar, but the data doesn’t lie. Eleven of our candidates studied a flexible double degree comprising Law, and something else, most often Arts.
The next most popular choice is a straight Bachelor of Arts, boasting two Presidents (Sara and Ginnivan) and the rest are groups of one. Ben Gill, our only two-term President, studied a Science/Engineering double degree – so we technically elected that degree twice.*
Most Presidents don’t just waltz into ANUSA and immediately assume the position of Top Dog. Most Presidents work that greasy pole, and they work it hard.**
Data shows ANUSA Presidents are highly likely to have done prior time in ANUSA. The cohort boasts three former Gen Secs and three former VPs, which neither confirms nor dispels the rumour that either of those positions are a pipeline to President. Ben Gill has the notable honour of having been ANUSA President before then becoming ANUSA President again (he was Queer Officer prior). Then we have appearances from a Treasurer and an Education Officer. If you weren’t previously in ANUSA you were probably the Editor-in-Chief of Woroni, which means there is hope for me yet!
Is it essential to have been or currently be a member of a Hall to become the ANUSA President – yes, undoubtedly yes. Ideally as well you live at either Burgmann or a UniLodge, as both of these halls boast three Presidents each.***
Ben Gill (again, the guy who got elected twice) is our only off-campus entrant, being from Griffin Hall.
Whether they are independent or not, most ANUSA tickets have always known that calling yourself independent is just cooler. “Independent” just has a sex appeal that “funded by Labor” can’t beat. This made this portion of the data somewhat difficult, because most of the tickets that were funded and populated by Labor preferred to identify as Independent. Still, Labor hasn’t held office in ANUSA since Ginnivan’s victory in 2010, leading us to four Labor Presidents and fourteen Independents.****
The process of identifying whether someone was Labor in disguise was greatly aided by discerning Woroni reporting. An interesting story emerged in Jamila Rizvi, who is said to have “orchestrated” her predecessor, Claudia Newman-Martin’s, success by sourcing Labor Party money and resources. Rizvi then endorsed Sham Sara, who would become her successor, while she herself was still President. Sara was a former Kevin Rudd intern and Rizvi worked in Rudd’s office immediately following the end of her Presidential term. Sara’s ticket was convened by the ANU Labor Club’s President and Labor Club members assisted in the campaign. Sara and Rizvi both claimed to be Independent, but having presented the facts, I will leave the final verdict up to you.
After Rizvi delivered her an election victory, Newman-Martin moved to change regulations to prevent such arrangements and require greater transparency around ticket funding and expenditure. Rizvi and then Labor Club President, Josh Gordon-Carr, attempted to end the ANUSA Ordinary General Meeting and kill Newman-Martin’s agenda. They staged a Labor Party walkout and the OGM lost quorum, however Newman-Martin managed to restore quorum and passed her regulations.
2003 President Steve Michelson resigned from Bill Shorten’s office in 2017, after a photo of him in blackface emerged. Michelson also identifies as a ‘proud dad’ on Linkedin, which is wholesome.
2010 President and former Woroni Editor-in-Chief, Tully Fletcher, initiated the separation between Woroni and ANUSA, allowing Woroni editorial independence for the first time in its then sixty year history.
2012 President Fleur Hawes was forcibly removed from office due to academic exclusion after she failed more than 50% of her courses across two semesters. Her replacement, also 2012 President, Dallas Proctor, only held office for a few months before he fucked off on exchange to America.
2014 President and former Woroni Editor-in-Chief, Cam Wilson, survived a motion of no confidence led by members of various Departments over grievances with how ANUSA Departments are funded. Wilson nowadays is a very good reporter for Crikey.
2023 President Ben Yates notoriously dropped an 80 page manifesto– uhhh policy document and will personally liberate us from the tyranny of ANU Parking.
Who will the next President be?
Here’s a list of all the ticket names discussed above to prove they’ve always been shit: Momentum Nexus, Excite Nexus, Innovate, Engage, Golden Ticket, Back to the Future, Common Thread, Bounce!, Connect, Let’s ANUSA, Amplify ANUSA, Lift ANUSA, Refresh ANUSA, Turn Over a New Leaf, Brighter Together, Grassroots ANUSA and Power in Community.
*Information for Max Jeganathan could not be found.
**Information for Aleks Sladojevic, Fleur Hawes, Leah Ginnivan, Sham Sara, Jamila Rizvi, Claudia Newman-Martin, Aparna Rao, Max Jeganathan and Steve Michelson’s prior positions could not be found.
***Information for Madhumitha Janagaraja, Cam Wilson, Aleks Sladojevic, Leah Ginnivan, Tully Fletcher, Sham Sara, Jamila Rizvi, Claudia Newman-Martin, Laura Crespo, Aparna Rao and Max Jeganathan could not be found.
****Information for Laura Crespo, Aparna Rao, Max Jeganathan and Steve Michelson could not be found
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