Prove your humanity

This is part 1 of 2 from the Curtin Student Guild AGM Summary. Read Part 2 here

For any of you who have been to one of the Curtin Student Guild’s AGMs before—specifically last year—you know that tensions can run high and that a disruption-less meeting is unusual. However, 2019’s AGM was a smooth and informative opportunity for students to learn more from their peers in the Guild.

After an acknowledgement of country, the Guild quickly addressed the previous AGM minutes. At the last meeting, a motion was passed to deregister Curtin Socialists/Socialist Alternative club as an official party of the Guild. Finlay Nolan (Guild President) noted that this recommendation was not upheld and that it was not within the Guild’s power to deregister a club. Guild president at the time Liam O’Neill referred the issue to the Discipline Tribunal in accordance with the Guild regulations.

The students who put forward the motion at the time were invited to make written statements to substantiate their claims, but this was not done and so the motion was not carried. She also noted that no formal complaints had been made against Socialist Alternative since that time, and so the club continues to operate. As far as Grok could tell, no members of Curtin Socialists attended the AGM this year.

After the minutes of the previous meeting had been accepted, the meeting moved on to reports.

President’s Report (Finlay Nolan)

The first report given was Finlay’s President report. Finlay discussed her predecessor Liam’s contributions to the Guild, including “lifting the public profile” of the Guild and ensuring student satisfaction and the financial sustainability of the Guild for years to come.

“In 2018, the Guild organised the ‘Stop the Trimonster’ campaign, one of the most high-profile campaigns this Guild has ever seen,” said Finlay, “which successfully prevented the implementation of a trimester model.”

Finlay also spoke to the Guild’s process of addressing “the systemic issue of sexual assault and harassment” on university campuses, including through their new Respect module. Finlay said that Liam, in his work, was able to address the Guild’s “worsening commercial situation”, and “future-proof” the Guild, by making the structure of the Guild more efficient and allowing deeper discussions on governance and representation.

“It takes a dedicated team of students and professional staff to get things done,” said Finlay. “As the 50th Guild president, I look forward to leading this organisation in taking up the fight on issues that matter to students, ensuring that we can continue to provide a high level of support and ensuring that we are always working towards the most vibrant, safe and accessible version of Curtin University.”

Vice President – Education Report (Hana Arai)

Hana Arai was next to give her report. “Our student representatives, who come from all walks of life, sat on over 35 University and faculty committees, boards and panels every month, to provide the student perspective, and elevate the student voice on a range of issues.”

These included both internal and external issues, including reduced penalties for late assessments, the increase of exam weightings (maintaining that all exams remain below a 50 per cent weighting), and a new assessment policy—which would ensure no student would be overloaded with assessments. The Postgraduate Student Committee also got a mention, ensuring better support for postgrad and HDR students.

“Our representatives also worked to ensure that disadvantaged students are supported, respected, and are given the opportunity to participate in the university experience in a safe way at Curtin.” This included a quiet 30-minute low-sensory block of time at Guild O-Day events, and the work of the Queer Officer to ensure a smooth process of changing one’s name within the university records without delays.

Business as usual was conducted on the 26th of January as a protest against the Australia Day public holiday, as well as attending the Change the Date rally, and petitioning the Town of Victoria Park “to recognise the mourning and pain that January 26 represents for native Australian people.”

Vice President – Activities Report (David Jorritsma)

David Jorritsma began by citing the successes of his predecessor Adam Parsons, including his work on ensuring the safety of events and an increase in female-identifying acts present at Guild events. “In the club’s space, Curtin saw 129 clubs up from 121 clubs [in 2018], with 19 of these clubs registered in mid-year,” said David. The addition of the People’s Choice award, an updated sponsorship application process, updated club constitution including the option to incorporate, and an improved club’s information section on the Guild website were also listed.

Secretary’s Report (Chris Hall)

Chris began by acknowledging the work of previous Guild Secretary, Dylan Heywood, who ensured a more balanced budget for representation departments, ecologically-friendly supplies at Guild outlets, and more funding for student services provided by the Guild.

The First-Year committee was also established last year, which brought together first-year students from each faculty to provide their perspective on student issues. The Curtin Extra program was also expanded, and “also rolled out a welfare campaign from the National Union of Students,” in the form of a national day of action which involved Unions Australia in fighting for worker’s rights.

The groundwork was also laid by Dylan for research into pill testing kits, “which we’re hoping to continue to research and fight for [so that] those who do want to have pill testing kits on campus can do so safely and with the right information.”

The Financial State of The Guild

In his report, Managing Director David Luketina provided a financial snapshot of the Guild, stating that there was an underlying operating profit of $35,000. The Guild receives a $14 million turnover each year, with roughly $3 million of that coming from the half of the Student Services and Amenities Fee that the Guild receives; the other half of each student’s fee goes to the University. Of that, around $10 million is raised by Guild outlets.

Image source: Curtin Student Guild 2018 Annual Report, p.14

David stated that the turnover dropped roughly $1 million in 2018 compared to 2017, so there is less money that can be allocated towards Guild activities. As a result, the Guild has had to let staff go, with wages reduced for others. Some reductions were made to the available funds for clubs, but these were relatively small compared to other cuts the Guild has made to maintain financial stability. The effect on students was carefully considered, with as few cuts directly affecting students made as possible.

Business on Notice

The first motion on the Agenda within this item, “That the 2018 Annual Report and the 2018 Audited Financial Statements be noted” was passed. You can find the official annual report of 2018 here.

The second motion, brought up by a student, questioned why only one of the previously two guild club vouchers were now available in the free Curtin Student Guild diary distributed on O-Day. These vouchers are refunded by the clubs that receive them for a real cash amount, paid for by the Guild.

The Guild responded by stating that financial cuts had to be made, and Hana noted that the increase to two vouchers had only been made in 2013 due to a grant which is no longer received by the Guild from the University. When a student asked why this grant hadn’t been fought for, Finlay stated that “the University, unfortunately, is not in the greatest financial situation, and that is the case for universities across the country at the moment. So, unfortunately, it’s not something we feel we can prioritise.

“While we’d love to have that additional club voucher, when we’re going to the University to ask for funding, we feel as though it needs to be for those that are truly essential.”

The number of clubs registered with the Guild has also increased substantially, and it was not feasible for the Guild to provide two club vouchers to every student anymore. They still provide significant support in the form of grants, and David Jorritsma noted that another guild voucher was still available for first-year students in the O-Day showbags in addition to the free single voucher in the diary, to encourage first years to join more clubs. In the end, the motion was not passed.

You can find more information on the AGM through the Guild’s minutes. You can find them here when they’re made available, in addition to an audio recording of the event.