Update from GSA President – 13th April 2022

To all those who celebrate, Happy Easter and Ramadan Mubarak to you and your family! At this time in the Semester, it’s important to check in with how you’re feeling and reach out for any support you may need, especially as any assignments or deadlines begin to approach. GSA has a range of well-being initiatives in addition to the University’s free counselling services.

It has been a busy month for student representation at GSA. We’ve demanded more action on sexual assault and sexual harassment, advocated for Covid safety, pushed for change at CAPA, and lobbied for postgraduate transport concessions and legislative changes to decorporatise University governance.

National Student Safety Survey (NSSS)

In addition to GSA’s statement in response to the NSSS results, we have continued our long-running advocacy to ensure that survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus are heard and supported, and that action is taken against perpetrators. Along with UMSU, we successfully advocated introducing a standalone sexual misconduct policy last year. However, there has been little progress on the promised co-design public interface and processes behind this policy. While the university states its commitment to action, the inaction on its promises from six months ago shows that there is still a long way to go. As GSA President, I represent graduate students on the University’s Respect at Melbourne Committee, chaired by the Provost, overseeing the overarching response to sexual assault and sexual harassment in the community. I will continue to ensure your concerns are raised and that there is no tolerance for inaction on sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Covid Safety Advocacy

GSA has met with the University advocating for Covid safety measures to protect the campus community. GSA’s advocacy has helped shape student communications, availability of RATs, provision of masks, and information on ventilation. Alongside the NTEU, we called for transparency with on-campus cases so students and staff can make informed decisions about their risks. Despite reluctance from the university, we will continue to lobby for transparency.

Despite our accomplishments, there is more work to be done – please contact healthwelfare@gsa.unimelb.edu.au to raise any concerns about on-campus or placement safety.

Public Transport Concessions and University Governance Lobbying

Alongside CAPA, the NTEU and the Monash Graduate Association, we continue GSA’s longstanding FaresFair campaign. We are lobbying the Victorian Government to address the corporatisation of universities and return universities to their rightful focus on education and research. Victoria is the only jurisdiction in Australia that denies postgraduate students public transport concessions. We demand that the Victorian Government treats us equally.

Robert Menzies Institute (RMI)

There has been media attention to a recent protest at the Robert Menzies Institute in Old Quad. This protest was not an event organised, supported or endorsed by GSA.

GSA supports the rights of students to engage in peaceful demonstrations, open dialogue and debate. And we remain in opposition to RMI’s hyper-partisan activities and governance out of step with other prime ministerial libraries. Actions such as those alleged that intimidate or are overly aggressive toward the safety and property of others are unacceptable, should they be substantiated. Our campuses must be a place where the safety of our community and visitors is of the highest priority, even when engaging in disagreements, protest and debate.

Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA)

GSA has long valued our affiliation with CAPA to further grad student interests on the national level. However, we hold serious concerns regarding CAPA’s governance and the conduct of their ACM in February. We also believe that the CAPA Board has not ensured that the organisation is an effective advocate for grad students despite entering a crucial federal election year. Given these long-running concerns and despite our attempts to mitigate them over recent years, we will be pushing for an extraordinary council meeting together with other affiliates. Our priority is to ensure diligent use of grad students’ limited resources, and we’ll remain in communication with you on the progress of this work.

Representative Council Changes

Since the introduction of the Representative Council a year ago, it is clear that GSA has become a better advocate for graduate students with broader representation and focus on our key mission. Among several changes to the Representative Council composition based on consultation, we have introduced a new Disability & Equity Officer to take effect following our AGM in June. This change is an important step for GSA to address the experiences of those with disability and those who are entitled to equitable adjustments at the University. I’m excited to see the continued development of the organisation’s governance in the years to come.

 

As always, please feel free to reach out to me at president@gsa.unimelb.edu.au or drop into the 1888 Building for a chat.