GSA: The Election in Brief

6 August 2019

Forward won the 2019 Graduate Students Association (GSA) election after earning the most key seats in the council, including the presidency.

Forward’s success was confirmed during the first Annual General Meeting (AGM) after the election, held on May 31. The ticket gained six out of the ten positions that were up for election.

Emily Roberts, the 2018 General Secretary and Forward’s convenor, was elected President. Madeleine Johnson, also from Forward, took the seat of General Secretary.

Forward’s rival ticket, Better GSA, won three of the remaining positions. This result suggests a decline in Better’s power in GSA as they no longer form a majority in the council.

GSA council consists of 15 members, yet only 10 positions were available in this election. Seven are for a two-year term and three for a single-year term as they took up the casual vacancies left by resigning members.

GSA election nominations opened in March and voting was held from April to May. Ten members of the council were elected to represent the University of Melbourne’s graduate students. Senior positions were then determined during their first AGM after the election, where the council met to elect their president and office bearers.

There were 42 nominations for council by the time the election polls opened in March, which was “the largest field the GSA has ever experienced”, according to the University of Melbourne GSA Election Report 2019.

However, only around 13 per cent of over 22,500 graduate students voted in the election. Although the number of voters was down from last year, it still exceeded almost every other GSA election.

The election also left a vacancy for LGBTIQ Officer as no one nominated themselves for the position. The role has been filled by Lauren Taylor.

Forward ran their campaign with the promise of creating a “progressive, experienced and diverse” council. They claimed that all previous councillors who were running for re-election were running under their ticket.

Johnson said the council would be representative of the University’s graduate community. “We have arts students and STEM students, business students and teaching students, research, coursework, master‘s and PhD students,” she said.“Half of exec are international students (representative of grad students!) and sixty percent are women.”

Johnson also said the election process went smoothly with “alarmingly little drama” for an election. This differed from last year’s election, when Better accused GSA
staff of manipulating the results and breaching election regulation. These allegations were rejected by the electoral tribunal.

Johnson claimed that the domination of Forward on this year’s council is unlikely to cause any issues in the new council, as “ticket boundaries dissolve extremely quickly after elections at GSA.”

Tangshuang (Ida) Qin, who gained a position on the council on Better’s ticket in 2018, remains as Vice President, though she will be transitioning out of the role as she graduates soon.

Qin expressed her support for Roberts’ presidency, “I’ve been working with her since she joined GSA. She was fantastic as the General Secretary and gained a positive reputation from former councilors because of her remarkable achievements.” Qin also said she looked forward to working with Forward’s elected councillors. “They have varied capabilities and represent multiple student cohorts. It really does not matter which team the candidates are from.”

Forward consists of several former office bearers and staff of the University of Melbourne Student Union, including Roberts who worked as director of Host Program appointed 2016 and Destination Melbourne in 2017.

Speaking of her new presidency, Roberts said that she hopes to achieve “a unified and supported community that actively empowers graduate student excellence and experience.”

“I want to see a GSA that reaches out to all students regardless of their stage of life, type of course, the length of time at Melbourne, country of origin etc.” she said.

This vision includes “meeting graduate students where they are at rather than waiting for them to come to us. Providing meaningful activities that build up skills and positive communities and sending them well prepared toward whatever their next direction is.”

“Reach out, build up, send toward,” she stated.

This is an updated article that previously appeared in print. It has been updated to reflect the appointment of the LGBTIQ Officer.

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