Prove your humanity

Veronika Gobba – Illuminate

Veronika Gobba. Photo: Curtin Guild.

What sparked your interest in student politics?
It started out probably in high school when I was really into the climate crisis stuff and doing climate walk-outs and being part of community groups that wanted to ban plastics. Last year I was the Humanities rep at Guild for the last third of the term and this year I am the VP Education.

What’s the purpose of the VP Education role?
This role is responsible for a lot of the campaigns related to education and also equity and welfare a lot of the time that the Guild does. It sits on a lot of boards that the university does and basically advocates for a wider student community. A lot of things done in the role this year is keeping an eye on the uni on any decisions they’re making – making sure they’re not backing students in a corner to agree with anything they might want to do that could be detrimental to students. And pushing for things that could be better for students as well.

What did you achieve as VPE this year, and what are the challenges of the role?
This year something that myself and the Curtin Student Guild really wanted to do was engage in the university review process called the accords – it’s a national process that is looking at the whole university system and how it can be better and how it can be changed. We made a conscious decision to really engage in thats accords process. We made submissions to every single discussion paper in the accords process and pushed for things that students really want. That’s things like getting students paid for pracs, making sure student unions are well funded, things like abolishing the jobs ready graduates package, things like making sure sexual assault and harassment is mitigated on campuses. A big thing that came out of that was when the universities put out their papers for it, they quoted the Curtin Student Guild submissions that we wrote. We’ve got the government to concede on lots of positions like yes the job ready graduates package is very problematic, and yes students do need to be paid for their pracs or they are going to drop out. And so I’ve seen a lot of momentum on these issues that are going to effect not just students at Curtin, but students everywhere. And that’s why I’m running again, because I want to see the progress on these issues right through to 2024.

A big challenge I wasn’t expecting is that sometimes you will have the university pushing you into a corner to get student endorsement on a decision and I’ve really had to sometimes put my foot down and go ‘Look, I need to take this back to the Guild and the student body and make sure I get a well-rounded answer.’ Often the uni will try and make student representatives agree to a position and back them into a corner and that’s something you have to really stay strong on when you’re representing such a large group of people.

If elected, what do you hope to achieve?
So our big focus for next year for Illuminate in general is to reform Curtin counselling. We know that the counselling system takes too long and it’s under resourced and it’s inequitable. And that’s something we’re really going to push for Curtin to improve. We know that the federal system for mental health is not good enough and the university knows that as well, but the fact that they don’t try and invest more in their counselling system I think is quite shameful. I really want the university to be put in a position where they can proudly say that they care about student’s health and wellbeing and say that we have the best mental health services in Australia.

What’s your own confession at Curtin or what’s a Curtin life hack you have found?

My confession is that in my first year of uni I had an assignment or presentation that was due at 8am and I was up in the library doing it until 2am. It was a really long trek home so I decided to sleep in the library and I was on a little couch at one point, then I moved to the floor. I didn’t wake up until about 5am when the cleaners were vacuuming around me – it was like blasting in my ears. So life hack, never do that because that was the worst sleep I’ve had in my entire life.

Marcus Fernihough – Left Action

Marcus Fernighough. Photo: Curtin Guild.

What sparked your interest in student politics?

I’ve been involved in activism and politics for quite a few years now and I thought it’s a pretty natural thing to get involved in activist politics once I got to uni and Left-action is the activist ticket.

What’s the purpose of the role you’re running for?
I think the Vice President of Education should be taking a fighting position towards our education on campus. I think that the executives are running the uni like a business. They want to make cuts – I was here in 2020 when they cut $40 million from staff and other resources under the guise of the pandemic and I think there’s a real trend across tertiary education broadly and I think that the only way to defend that is to take it as a fight. In the sense that students have an interest in good quality education and the executives have an interest which is making money and so that will be approach to VP … It will be about pushing the students to lead those fights.

What would you do differently to the current Vice President of Education, Veronika Gobba, who is going for re-election?
My aim will be engaging students in that. It won’t be an approach of playing nice with the executive. It won’t be an approach of trying to negotiate with them – they’re not idiots, they understand what education is. They understand our tutorials are like three times bigger than what they were just 3 or 4 years ago. [They understand that] the staff are being stretched thinner and thinner. I’m sure people know that there was an industrial campaign led by the NTEU this year, so even the staff themselves are having to fight the university just to get paid properly; to get better working conditions. So there’s an obvious problem and my approach would be engaging with the NETU and to push students into the campaign, because a lot of that strike action went under the radar and I think that’s very much the Guild fault. I think it should have been the only thing they were concerned about the whole time.

If elected, what do you hope to achieve?
To build a campaign. To build a student fighting campaign that is actually taking it to the university. I think also to direct the Guild to a national campaign, so engaging with the NUS – obviously it’s not a representative to  a NUS position, but nevertheless you know, it’s in the Guild, it can orient the Guild, it can help push resources towards NUS representation because both the Guild is a giant institution. Millions of dollars of operational funds and the NUS is an enormous organisation across the whole country and they have the ability to run really important campaigns it’s just a matter of if you’ve got the will and drive to do it … And whether you’re going to use those resources to sit at a round table with executives who you have no leverage over, or push students to be activists and fight for their own education quality.

What’s your own confession at Curtin or what’s a Curtin life hack you have found?
If you are an activist, if you care about socialist issues and you want to promote them on campus, the south end of the campus – so the arts, humanities all that sort of stuff … [There] are very sympathetic staff there. So if you have posters for rallies and events and cool stuff like that they stay up there for a long time. They don’t get pulled down, so it’s a good stuff to put up your posters and get your stuff seen.

Muhammad Lababidi – Yeehaw

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