Students Strike Against Cuts

30 June 2013

Students from universities around Melbourne gathered at the State Library on May 14 to protest against the federal government’s proposed $2.3 billion cuts to tertiary education funding.

The protests call for a cancellation of the cuts proposed to facilitate the Gonski reforms earlier this year. They also demand free education and a different allocation of the government’s financial resources.

For University of Melbourne students, the rally began on South Lawn. University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Education Public Officer John Lister started his speech by saying, “I give a Gonski!” and saying that David Gonski himself has even chastised the government’s proposals. Louise O’Shea described current education funding allocations, particularly for private secondary schools, as an “indictment of the Gillard government”.

The rally made its way around Melbourne’s campus, snaking around South Lawn, up past Union House, and along Monash Road, before making their way down Swanston Street.
Greens Deputy Leader Adam Bandt appeared in a video message on the big screen at Fed Square, telling students that he wished he could be in Melbourne, but that he and the Greens were fully supporting the rally. “Together, we can all create a surge of public anger that will make university funding a key election issue,” he said.

Warsan Mohmaud, an RMIT University student, said her biggest concern was an increase to HECS. “I guess that education is supposed to be something you enjoy and not some subsidised thing,” she said. “It’s a big concern, I mean, to find out that instead of getting the student scholarship from Centrelink, now we have to pay that back on HECS?! That’s just too much.”

Lou Mapleston, from Monash University, said, “I currently use the mental health services at Monash University and I’ve found it to be absolutely awesome! They’ve gotten on top of everything really quickly, but I’m worried that my sessions are going to be limited,” she said. “And people like me won’t be able to get the best academic outcomes that they could potentially have, so I’m passionate about this.”

UMSU President Kara Hadgraft said she was proud of the vast representation from the University of Melbourne at the rally, with the Graduate Student Association and representatives from the Victorian College of the Arts present. “It shows that this is an issue that is not just about Arts students, it’s not just about politicised students, it’s an issue for all students. This is going to affect everyone on campus when, next semester, we’re going to see our classes being cut, we’re going to see our teachers being sacked, and we’re going to see less and less time and a lower quality of degree,” she said.

“So I was proud today to see all of the students across the university uniting under this cause.”

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