UMSU Elections 2019

Stand Up for your new student representatives

28 November 2019

DISCLAIMER: Finley Tobin ran unsuccessfully with the Independent Media ticket for a general representative seat on Students’ Council in this election.

The 2019 University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) annual elections are wrapped up, with long-standing ticket Stand Up! recording a landslide victory.

Hannah Buchan and Jack Buksh led the way for Stand Up!, winning the positions of President and General Secretary, respectively. The ticket claimed a raft of Office Bearer (OB) positions that they did not hold in 2019, including Environment (Olivia Sullivan and Sophie Kerrigan), People of Colour (Gurpreet Singh and Nicole Nabbout), Clubs & Societies (Trianna Valdes and Jordan Di Natale), and Welfare (Declan Kerger and Natasha Guglielmino). Guglielmino will serve a second term as Welfare OB under a new ticket, having joined Stand Up! after the dissolution of ticket More! earlier in the year.

Stand Up! also retained their 2019 offices, with Charlotte Fouhy and Charlie Joyce re-elected as Education Public OBs, while the Education Academic office was secured by Georgia Walton Briggs and Joshua Munro. Aria Sunga was also elected for a second term and will return as Women’s OB in 2020 alongside Naomi Smith.

New ticket Pride. In [Y]our Collectives (Pride for short) did not contest major positions such as President, General Secretary, and the Welfare and Education offices, instead focusing on collectives, including autonomous departments and the Environment office.

In its inaugural election, Pride secured the Queer office (Ciara O’Sullivan and A’bidah Zaid), as well as the Disabilities (Hue Man Dang and Srishti Chatterjee) and Creative Arts (Emily White and Olivia Bell) offices. The Disabilities office was one of the most closely contested, with Stand Up!’s Lucy Birch missing out on a second term by 20 primary votes. The People of Colour office was even closer, with Pride losing out to Stand Up! by only seven primary votes.

Just Clubs. Just Activities. will hold the Activities office in 2020, represented by Hayley Stanford and India Pinkney. At the Southbank campus, Verity Crane and Hayden Williams will represent Stand Up! as Campus Coordinators, while independent Lily Ekins—who was Campus Coordinator this year—will be the Activities and Events Coordinator. Independent Media’s Amber Meyer, Sarah Peters, Tharidi Walimunige and Bethany Cherry were elected unopposed into the Media office, while independent Kaitlyn Hammond was also elected unopposed as the Burnley Campus Coordinator.

On Students’ Council, UMSU’s governing board, Stand Up! achieved a supermajority, winning 12 seats out of the available 21. Officially, they won 10 seats, but that ignores a deal between Stand Up! and Pride enabling Stand Up!’s Molly Willmott and Joshua Bruni to run for council with Pride. In return, Stand Up! did not contest the Queer and Creative Arts offices. Six Pride candidates were elected to the council, though the ticket will effectively have four councillors as a result of the deal. Left Action and Just Clubs. Just Activities. each earned two spots on Students’ Council.

When the final council seats were being decided, affirmative action (AA) measures were invoked to ensure that the election complied with UMSU regulations, which stipulate that at least eight councillors must be women. This is the first time that AA has been applied for Students’ Council in over a decade, Returning Officer (RO) Stephen Luntz confirmed.

Each year, delegates are also elected to attend the National Union of Students National Conference (NatCon). The National Union of Students (NUS) is the peak representative body for Australian students, advocating for accessible and equitable education across the nation. Stand Up! successfully elected four delegates to attend NatCon, and a further two delegates who ran under Pride, owing to another deal between the tickets. The remaining NUS delegate was elected by Left Action.

The Burnley Campus Committee, along with the Indigenous Committee, Indigenous OBs, and Indigenous Repre- sentative on Students’ Council “did not get any nominations by the deadline for the main election,” Luntz said. Nominees for both the Burnley and Indigenous Committees have since been elected unopposed, while the two remaining positions—Indigenous OBs, and Indigenous Representative on Students’ Council—have been decided in a by-election from October 21–23.

The 2977 votes cast in this election is the lowest since 2015, representing a drop of nearly one fifth (17.7 per cent) of the 3619 votes recorded last year. This means that only 5.6 per cent of the student population voted—more than three per cent less than the 8.9 per cent who voted in 2018.

Luntz attributed the lower voter turnout to the fact that “most prominent positions were not heavily contested”, leading to a smaller number of campaigners, and therefore less traffic at polling booths.

The dissolution of More!—which has featured promi- nently in UMSU elections since 2016—was a factor in the lack of competition for some positions. After it dissolved, some members joined Stand Up!, while others formed new tickets such as Pride. in [Y]our Collectives and Just Clubs. Just Activities., which did not contest major positions such as President and General Secretary.

2019 has been marked by an uncommon number of resignations, with OBs from seven offices—Activities, Disabilities, Education Academic, Education Public, Indigenous, Media, and Queer—stepping down before the end of their term.

Hannah Buchan told Farrago that in 2020, she would like to foster “a collaborative, effective, and visible Union”.

“This Union needs to collectivise more and engage in what collectivism really means—bringing the student body together to fight for an issue,” she said. For example, “When the University continues to harm students and put them behind profits and prestige, we need to have a strong grass- roots voice fighting against this,” Buchan said. Her term “will be the start of a new decade, and with the move to the new student precinct soon, a new era for our Union.”

With engagement in student politics showing few signs of increasing, bringing the student body together may be easier said than done.


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