Woroni: Then and Now

What are the threads that bind a university together? Some claim that a university community is simply a group of individuals united by a problem – parking! For others, the university is a rich and complex society connected by many threads, including the student newspaper.

At the Australian National University connecting our community is a very important matter.

Woroni has had a vital role in connecting, informing and challenging the university.  The student voice from Woroni has been loud and powerful. Reaching its 65th birthday is a notable event that should be celebrated.

For those who enjoy seeing how Woroni has developed over the years I highly recommend looking at Trove – the National Library of Australia’s wonderful discovery service.  Woroni issues since 14th June 1950 have been digitised and can be seen online by Googling “‘trove NLA” and searching for “Woroni”.

It is fascinating to see how the critical eye cast by students through the newspaper has focused on the students’ association, the university and student life.

The goal of creating student identity through the newspaper can be seen in the continuing focus of enabling students to discuss their experiences, share ideas and promote many of the events that draw students together. Students lives are pressured and many come to Canberra from elsewhere to an environment where they don’t have family and friends. Woroni is one of the few ways that a connection to the whole university and student body can be created.

In recent years the promotion of international student life has become stronger. It is wonderful to see the diversity of the editorial board. This strengthens the nature of student identity as one where our differences are respected.

Maintaining a balance in reporting is a complex area in student newspapers. Woroni has had its fill of controversy. If you look at the 1 November 1988 issue you will see redacted material and evidence of the tension between the student association and the newspaper.

It is very important that Woroni maintains its independence, which will inevitably bring discord with student representative bodies. It is a sign of maturity that Woroni is developing policies seeking to clarify reporting standards.

Finally, having now read many issues, there is a fabulous history of fashion, entertainment in Canberra and social behaviour. Moustaches were a great feature of the 1980s, with hippie fashions strong the 1970s and it is rare to find an issue without nudity or sex.  Part of the nature of student voice!

Times have changed significantly – in 1 August 1966 when Woroni advertised for applicants for the position of editor “he” faced challenges. “No money, and an extremely nervous S.R.C., but otherwise it is a piece of cake.” Now the newspaper has a budget, office and uses technology in wonderful ways for the mobile and information hungry.

I congratulate Woroni on their commitment to critical enquiry and connecting students and confess to reading every issue that comes out cover to cover.

Roxanne Missingham has been Woroni Returning Officer for the past two years. She is ANU’s University Librarian (Chief Scholarly Information Services).