FAQ: Grad Group support during COVID-19

The GSA Grad Groups Team is here to support you as usual. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us over the phone on (+61) 0402 008 314 or via gradgroups@gsa.unimelb.edu.auOur office hours are 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday-Friday. 

1. Are GSA services open?

All of GSA’s support and engagement services are operating, though our reception desk, offices and meeting rooms in the Doug McDonell building are closed until further notice. All staff members are working and able to answer your queries. To get in touch, please phone (+61) 0402 008 314 from 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday–Friday, or email gradgroups@gsa.unimelb.edu.au 

2. What should we tell our members about Coronavirus (COVID-19)? 

GSA recommends directing all members to follow advice as given by the University of Melbourne, and DHHS. This advice primarily focuses on maintaining a conscientious approach to personal hygiene, and implementing social distancing

It is a difficult and uncertain time, especially for students. Staying informed with reliable, up-to-date information, and encouraging your group members do the same is an important part of coping with these changes as pragmatically as possible.

It is also vital to emphasise friendship and support: look out for your group members during this stressful period, and let others know if you are experiencing difficulties. For where to access further support and information see question 11 below.  

3. Should I run my scheduled Grad Group event? 

GSA is advising all Grad Groups to postpone their planned events. This is to enable social distancing and minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19. More than ever, this is a time to keep supportive connections strong.

GSA is absolutely committed to helping you and your group find ways to remain engaged, realise your projects, and socialise in these difficult circumstances. See question 9 below for some suggestions.  

4. Can I reserve/hire equipment from GSA? 

We will continue to offer support, funding and advice for Grad Groups as normal, but are unable to offer equipment hire until further notice. As the situation develops, we will look for alternative ways to provide different types of suitable support. 

5. Can we reserve meeting rooms?  

Given the risks of close physical contact and State Government mandates, in order to help mitigate the risks GSA meeting rooms are not available for group bookings.

We will be closely monitoring updated information from the DHHS and the University of Melbourne for any changes to this. 

6. What should we do if we are experiencing group financial hardship due to the virus? 

In line with GSA’s commitment to supporting Grad Groups affected by COVID-19, a Grad Group relief fund has been established for groups experiencing financial hardship due to the virus. To find out if your Grad Group is eligible and how to access these funds please get in touch with the Grad Groups Team at gradgroups@gsa.unimelb.edu.au explaining your Grad Group’s circumstance.  

Please note that this fund is in place to support Grad Groups in their administrative and operational functions. If individuals are experiencing other types of hardship due to the COVID-19 risk, University of Melbourne students can apply for individual Student Support grants. 

7. What happens if I cancel my event and have received a special grant? 

If you have chosen to reschedule your Grad Group event given the current situation, we are happy for you to retain the grant funds with the aim to organise a new date for this event once we have some more concrete information about COVID-19. Please get in contact with the Grad Groups Team via gradgroups@gsa.unimelb.edu.au to discuss a revised timeline for event planning. 

If upon reassessment you choose to cancel the event completely we will require a rough budget of how you intend to use these fund on alternative activities or projects for the group. You can find our guide to Grad Group engagement for ideas and advice on keeping your group operating here shortly. For initial suggestions see question 9 below. 

8. Can we still receive reimbursements from GSA for things we have purchased for events that are no longer going ahead? 

Yes. The reimbursement process in this circumstance remains the same. Just fill out an annual funding claim with the required information and tax receipts attached and your group will receive reimbursement from its annual funding balance.  

9. Can we hold SGMs and AGMS online?

Absolutely, both SGMs and AGMS can be conducted online via platforms such as SkypeZoom and Microsoft Teams.  If voting is taking place proxy voting can also be conducted online through platforms like Survey MonkeySlido and Google Forms 

Most of these services are free or are available on a trial basis. However, GSA will endeavor to financially assist Grad Groups for the costs associated with the COVID-19 challenges. If you feel your group is entitled to this compensation or have concerns about your constitutional capacity to hold online General Meetings, please get in touch via gradgroups@gsa.unimelb.edu.au. 

10. How can we keep our membership active and engaged during this time? 

There are many ways for your group members to stay connected whilst studying from home. This could involve organising weekly group challenges or running discussions that members can contribute to through Instagram, Facebook or other social media. Group online activities like watching a film togetherplaying a board game or going on a virtual group tour of a museum are just a few of the possible ways to connect through a joint activity. 

If your group organises regular study sessions, coffee catch ups or pub nights, transfer these to online forums which include audio and face-to-face interaction using SkypeZoom, or Microsoft Teams. Your group will function differently during this time; try to use these changes as a set of creative rather than debilitating guidelines – start new projects, think outside the box, and most importantly, commit to these alternative ways of interacting and being with each other.

GSA is fully committed to supporting Grad Groups in this transition. We are in the process of developing a ‘how to’ guide, filled with suggestions, advice, and fun ideas on how to keep your group engaged, together and supported during this time. Please watch this space for more information coming very soon.

If you would like to chat through options for your own Grad Group, or have specific questions, please email us at gradgroups@gsa.unimelb.edu.au 

11. Where can I access more information?