Finlay Nolan has been elected Curtin Student Guild’s 50th President and came into power in the same manner as her predecessor: by default. She will be the Guild’s chief executive, responsible for more than 150 staff and a $15 million budget.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a massive relief, but it’s also a very strange feeling to be congratulated by people when you didn’t even have to go to a ballot to get the position,” Nolan said.

“Despite being elected unopposed, I feel accomplished in the sense that the Illuminate team felt confident enough in me to select me as their Presidential candidate.”

Nolan said that she is prepared for the role. This year she was the Faculty of Humanities Representative, the Chair of the Representation Board, the Undergraduate Member of the University Council and a member of the National Union of Students National Executive.

Nominations for the election closed on August 31. Eleven of the 15 Guild Office Bearers, which includes the Presidency, were elected unopposed—all of whom are Illuminate members—leaving only four positions to be decided by democratic vote.

This has raised concerns about political apathy among students.

“The Guild always encourages students to take the opportunity to vote in the Guild elections—to ensure the voice that speaks for them is the one they want,” said outgoing President Liam O’Neill, but remarked that, regardless, the election turnout was disappointing.

A Guild spokesperson reiterated O’Neill’s sentiments about encouraging students to participate in student politics and said that election nominations were highly advertised this year.

Positions automatically won by Illuminate include the General Secretary, Activities Vice President, Students with Disabilities Officer, Women’s Officer, and Queer Officers.

Although this election is, primarily, of significance to students, participation in the ballot rarely exceeds a few percentage points.

The Guild notes that last year there were only 937 votes—a total of two per cent of the entire student population at Curtin.

“The size of the electoral roll, however, includes all Curtin students—including those offshore or studying through Open Universities Australia,” the Guild spokesperson remarked.

Nolan said that the number of nominations may indicate that students are content with the government overseeing the operation of the Guild, but admitted it was worrying nonetheless.

“The lack of competition in the elections is a possible indicator of a lack of student interest—which is definitely concerning.”

This is because the Guild’s role is to represent the students of Curtin and advocate for them.

They liaise with the University on numerous matters, including proposed alterations to the academic calendar and policies surrounding sexual harassment and violence on campus.

Nolan said that it’s important to see engagement from students because the interests of students are often disregarded.

“Universities across Australia are increasingly motivated by profit and image rather than the interests of students, and Curtin is no exception.

“We are facing changes to the academic calendar; increasing costs for substandard on-campus housing; attempts to roll out cost-cutting measures like flipped classrooms, online-only lectures, and increased class sizes across the university; mental health and disability services that are severely underfunded; and a deeply embedded culture of sexual harassment and abuse that is being swept under the rug.”

Although this election is, primarily, of significance to students, participation in the ballot rarely exceeds a few percentage points.

The Guild notes that last year there were only 937 votes, a total of two per cent of the entire student population at Curtin.

“The size of the electoral roll, however, includes all Curtin students—including those offshore or studying through Open Universities Australia,” the Guild spokesperson remarked.

Left Action are running for Faculty of Science and Engineering Representative and Faculty of Humanities Representative, while Illuminate’s Lydia Berhan and Feudalist Alternative’s David Bleakly are vying for Education Vice President.

Illuminate’s Cody Robinson and independent Fabian Yarran are competing for the position of Indigenous Officer.

A total of 36 candidates have been nominated for ten Guild Councillor positions. Of these, 32 represent Illuminate, three represent Left Action, and a single nominee represents Feudalist Alternative.

Seven delegate positions for the National Union of Students were contested by two independent, seven Illuminate and four Left Action candidates—but independent David Blayney has retracted his nomination.

O’Neill indicated that the lack of independents on the ballot was due to the current status quo—which favours parties. But he said the Guild are focused on developing its regulations to strengthen the position of independent candidates in the election process.

He also said that a lack of awareness about the role of student representatives and the previous experience required for these roles likely contributed to the marginal number of independent nominations, and the entire number of nominees generally.

He also nodded to the reputation of student union politics. “Guild Elections are very daunting, and often unnecessarily vicious and petty, with notoriously bad behaviour across Australia,” said O’Neill.

“This culture likely contributes to the unwillingness of independents to put their names forward for election, and more generally the unwillingness of students to vote.”

Nolan reiterated this sentiment.

“Student union elections are notoriously hostile and intimidating environments, which discourages students from having a go—especially those who want to run on their own or students with conditions like anxiety and sensory sensitivity.”

Despite this, she implored students to vote.

“Without a strong Guild that is dedicated to fighting for the best outcomes for students,” said Nolan, “the university and the government would have free reign to do whatever they want without consequence, and the unfortunate reality is that money takes priority over student welfare and high-quality education the majority of the time.

“Students cannot afford to be complacent.”

 

Campaigning is underway, and elections commence September 17.

 

Click here for more information about the Curtin Student Guild Elections for this year.

“Long live the Queen”—Liam O’Neill.