Prove your humanity

The Voice to Parliament plenary started off the second day of EdCon with a nice change of pace as all factions agreed upon the NUS support for the Yes vote.

Although even this was fractious as attempts to create a dialogue about what could be done to increase support for the Yes campaign were redirected by SAlt towards what they believe will achieve real change.

SAlt’s stance is the Voice to Parliament is empty symbolism that will achieve nothing and doesn’t address the numerous issues faced by Indigenous people.

NUS President Bailey Riley (NLS) gave a deadline in the Voice to Parliament workshop for student unions to have strategies ready and submitted by 20th July, with the focus on bottom-up organisation.

As the day continued, Curtin Guild President Dylan Botica made an appearance as a panellist on the Big in Ambition: How to support the smaller states workshop, alongside other student union presidents from SA, WA, and Tasmania.

Curtin Guild President Dylan Botica. Photo: Andrew Williams.

These student representatives were critical about their inclusion in NUS discussion, as “smaller states”, considering the reduction of SSAF funding, and the accessibility issues that accompany the longer travel to participate in NUS conferences.

The number of empty seats at this workshop only goes to support the notion made by Dylan and his fellow student reps, that NUS members tend to focus on the issues facing the Eastern States.

The Action for Housing workshop, run by members of Grassroots, on the other hand was obviously a topic felt nationwide as the room was packed to the rafters.

The main point made was the shortage of available houses was due to a variety of reasons. Grassroots argued Labor minister Rose Jackson has knocked down several public housing in Sydney despite promising in their campaign election not to do so.

The popularity of unregulated short-term rentals like Airbnb have made it harder for young people to gain rentals, with NUS Education Officer Xavier Dupe (SAlt) passionately shouting, “landlords should not have the right to treat their properties like a casino.”

NLS agrees with Grassroots, a rarity, and believes the housing crisis is a nuanced subject. Harry, a NLS member, said the short supply on rentals is a problem that is affecting all Australians, but it is the mismanagement of funds by the federal government hurting students the most. If money can be spent on AUKUS, Harry argues the ALP can surely fund housing.

While Socialist Alternative, Grassroots and NLS were in unison to denounce current Labor housing policies, Unity was alone in voicing their support for Minister Jackson. NSW State Branch President Aidan O’Rourke (Unity) couldn’t hide his excitement by asking SAlt why they wanted to preserve buildings with mould.

O’Rourke argued public housing buildings that aren’t fit for purpose need to be knocked to make way for liveable spaces.

The “Youth Crime”, Law-and-order campaigns, and anti-Aboriginal racism workshop was run by SAlt and continued the discussion about the empty symbolism of the Voice to Parliament and focused on the horrific treatment of Indigenous people in Australia focusing on the failings of the ALP.

Focusing on numerous examples of oppression and racism from ALP governed states, especially the recent events at the Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre which saw reprehensible comments from former WA Premier Mark McGowan who labelled rioting by Indigenous youths as “terrorism”.

The Disability Politics: why it matters within the Student Union Movement workshop was also constructive with University of Queensland Disability Officer Jordy Duffey (NLS) encouraging student unions across Australia to support disability causes.

While pride month is celebrated in November, Duffey reminded attendees that pride month for disabled folk is in July. The discussion in the disability workshops was less intense than the others, which allowed for disabled student representatives to speak on issues affecting them.

A Unity student representative says accessibility issues often make it hard for them to engage with student bodies. Usual engagement activism such as manning information booths at events can be draining not only physically, but mentally.

They mention many disabled people have aversions to loud noises which can be hard when events blast music through speakers.

The day ended with an Anti-Poverty plenary run by NUS General Secretary Sheldon Gait and Lee Carnie form the Foundation for Young Australians. The discussion touched upon the different issues contributing to student poverty, which has reached levels not seen in decades.

Statistics and research about the cost-of-living, rental, and housing crises, in addition to the inadequate funding of welfare services like Youth Allowance were covered as a primer for workshops to come in the following days.