I would like to start by giving a shout out to all graduate students; there’s no doubt this semester has not been what we hoped for, as undertaking your studies and research during a pandemic is no easy feat. So please be proud of your contributions so far, even if you’re behind or not where you would like to be just yet.

The return to lockdown in Melbourne, and developments globally and interstate can make us feel isolated while we are away from campus. I strongly encourage you to seek out the free support offered by the University, and to come along to some of our GSA events to meet other members of our fantastic graduate community. (P.S. If you tend to get busy and forgetful like me, try registering now and add them to your calendar so you can get reminders to attend and take much-needed study breaks!)

Your student representatives have been busy advocating across issues in regular meetings with the University. These include improving wellbeing support and academic support, quality of education, graduate researcher support and challenges faced by our international student colleagues. I would also love to hear from you about the biggest challenges you are experiencing in your studies or research, and what are some practical solutions the University could implement to ease these. My role is to advocate on behalf of you as a graduate student, so I’d love to ensure I can incorporate your great ideas into our work. If you’d like to get in touch, send me an email at president@gsa.unimelb.edu.au.

If you’re looking for other ways to get involved with GSA and being part of our advocacy, I’d encourage you to consider applying for our GSA casual vacancy (only open to women) as well as applications for our Committee Representative positions (open to any eligible graduate student)—both close August 27, so get those applications in soon!

There have also been a lot of important developments recently in initiatives to create a safer campus. You may have received some emails from the Respect Taskforce co-signed by me. I’d encourage you to have a read of each of these to increase our collective capacity to identify and act on inappropriate behaviour on campus or online. GSA’s Policy and Advocacy Team and the GSA Women’s Officer also recently made a submission to the University regarding the proposed sexual misconduct policy–chiefly, that the policy must be accessible and that graduate students must have a role in its evaluation. If you have experienced anything of this nature or feel in any way unsafe, please visit Safer Community or reach out to us and we can point you to the supports that exist.

I know constant reassurances that things will be okay can be fatiguing, but please be proud of the incredible contributions you as a graduate student have and are making to the University and broader society, even throughout these challenging times.  As always you can reach out to me at president@gsa.unimelb.edu.au, or otherwise, I hope to see you at one of our many upcoming events. In the meantime, stay safe and well, and all the best for any upcoming assessment or milestones.