Indigenous student silenced at NatCon

16 December 2016

An Indigenous student was prevented from speaking during discussion on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) policy at the NUS (National Union of Students) National Conference (NatCon) this week.

A large group of Socialist Alternative (SAlt) students demanded that Jackson Newell, Indigenous student and member of the Liberal faction, sit back down until he eventually retreated to his seat.

Despite the a ban on filming the conference, Farrago has obtained footage the proceedings.

In the videos below, the SAlt members shout as the Liberal student tries to take the lectern.

After Newell was forced to sit down, the motion was duly passed along with the other ATSI policies in the bloc, albeit with opposition from SAlt.

The SAlt members responsible for the commotion were not asked to leave.

“I wanted to endorse our policy to the floor and make sure all delegates were going to vote in favour of it”, Newell told Farrago. “I believe that having help from government and help from NUS will certainly help decrease the large attrition rate of ATSI people. That’s got to be a key goal of NUS.”

“I wasn’t allowed to speak because simply, SAlt were just screaming their heads off. As we were moving the motion, senior people from NLS said that they wanted me to speak, however the voting process had already just got underway.”

“It’s absolutely disgraceful that SAlt did that to me,” the University of Sydney student said.

Another Indigenous delegate and independent from Swinburne University, Christopher Jakobi, took the stage during the second bloc of ATSI policies.

“Now I know why black people leave the NUS”, he said from the lectern.

NatCon has been criticised in the past for not giving ATSI policies the time in the spotlight they need.

This year, ATSI discussion was reduced to half an hour, with 17 motions moved in just two voting blocs.

With the conference running out of time on Wednesday night and Queer policy still to come, the floor voted to limit speakers to just three per bloc, with one minute for each speaker.

The Liberals’ policy this year proposed commitment from the NUS in providing “equal opportunities in regards to access to education”as well as acknowledging “the influence of community support in the life of a student”.

Queer policy was also given minimal time, with 23 motions passed in four blocs.

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