Many of the programs we run at GSA are designed to encourage students to get involved: not just in the University community, but also beyond. We’re very proud to currently fund over 90 Grad Groups (and we’re always looking for more!)
Our office bearers also recognise the importance of engagement, and are always looking to connect with their cohorts.
Recently, our Women’s, LGBTIQ and International Officers collaborated on an ‘Advocacy in Action’ panel, where renowned journalist and activist Van Badham was joined by Nina Khairina, the President of the Council of International Students Australia, and Coby Liew, a social worker and advocate who founded My Rainbow Story. During the panel, they treated us to a particularly fiery pep-talk on transforming an idea into a campaign with tangible results.
I think we can all agree that in Australia—and indeed globally—the current political climate is volatile and undoubtedly polarising. Large groups of people are mobilising in ways they haven’t before.
In a more postgraduate-centric context, federal budgets since 2014 have consistently attacked higher education during what is probably one of the most difficult periods ever to be a postgraduate student.
Expensive courses, expensive public transport, ridiculous rent and limited earning capacity/access to Centrelink but yeah, cut our funding. And don’t worry; we can definitely afford that massive HECS/HELP debt. Didn’t want to buy a house anyway. Cheers.
In short, now is a great time for us to be getting active.
Yet despite having good cause to be mobilised and motivated, we’re all relatively young and some of us lack the know-how to actually execute our ideas. Knowing where to start, who we should be engaging with, where to get funding from can be pretty daunting.
I’m hoping that our new project ‘Ideas in Action’ will help address some of these issues. Helping students that have the will, but not the way, as it were.
GSA is a representative body, and the best way for us to fulfil our purpose is to have meaningful communications and work actively with our cohort. We have the networks, the resources and the knowledge to make the ideas happen: but even though we do our best, it’s impossible to be across all the issues that concern students without (funnily enough) student input.
That’s where Ideas in Action comes in: it can help GSA to focus on the issues that students really care about, and gives students the opportunity to be a part of the process and witness the practical side of taking an idea and putting it into action. These skills will be something students can take with them long after they graduate.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out of Ideas in Action. I think that most students have ideas for change—whether that’s for the GSA, Melbourne Uni or the world in general—but are discouraged at the thought of going it alone.
But with a team of eager GSA staff and councillors behind you, being a campaign guru just got significantly easier! Also, we’re pretty fun to work with.
Getting the word out is one of the most important factors in the success of programs like this. All it takes is for a few students who’ve seen their ideas come to life to share that information with their friends, and the ball starts rolling until (hopefully) we’re overrun with ideas for a better GSA/UniMelb/Melb.
We’re always looking for ways to engage with postgraduate students, and participating in the Ideas in Action project is a great way to help us help you make your time at university a more enjoyable, rewarding experience. Which after all, is exactly what we’re here for.
Georgia Daly is 2017/2018 President of the University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association.