18 August 2014

WHY YOU SHOULD COME TO THE NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION


The decision to undergo tertiary education is not something one makes lightly, it is not a cheap endeavour by any means. The costs associated with studying at university begin to pile up when we purchase textbooks, readers and academic incidentals, but they do not stop there; these costs follow us well after we complete our degrees via our Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) debts. All of this is not ideal, it already tends to holdback hundreds, if not thousands of young people from attending university or having the same equal access to a fair education as their peers - the system is not perfect, but further changes will only make it catastrophic. 

Many of our parents, teachers, lecturers and academic idols were lucky enough to be educated just after the Whitlam Labor Government abolished university fees in 1974, under a scheme to prioritise tertiary education and open this amazing educative opportunity up to working and middle class Australians. This however, was a short-lived opportunity, afforded to individuals like Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and the Minster for Education Christopher Pyne who choose to attack our education today.  

Thousands filled Town Hall Square in July to protest the Budget
Providing free tertiary education to all is an ideal, an ideal I share and would love to witness the dawn of again, but the perceived impracticalities of it as a policy led the Hawke Labor Government to introduce the Higher Education Contributions Scheme (HECS), the system we pay for university fees under currently. Subsequent governments have sought to alter this system, the Howard Coalition Government introduced a three-tiered HECS fee system, which charged higher fees to certain degrees - based on the perceived value of the course. Following this there have been further attempts to take some of the financial responsibility for providing fair and equitable education away from the Federal Government. All of this will seem like nothing compared to what we face now. 

These changes, if carried through, will be the worst yet. Why? Because they are part of a string of damaging reforms to many things we take for granted in this country. The current Federal Liberal Government seems to believe that introducing uncapped university fees, striking funding from healthcare and drastically altering welfare payments (just to name a few of their "plans") are all good ideas. Why? Perhaps they believe that to save money and be fiscally responsible we should cut services and opportunities that promote welfare, equal opportunity and fairness in our nation.

To this I call bullshit! 

I, like many others, believe that education and access to welfare services are basic rights, and when such rights are facing extreme opposition, we have a duty to stand up and fight in their defence. Thankfully, I am not alone in this view. The University of Sydney Union Board of Directors is united against these changes, changes that will make being a university student even harder. 

My response to the Federal Liberal Government's budget
The road ahead looks grim for Australians. It is grim for unemployed graduates, who struggle to find work after completing their degrees and will find it increasingly difficult to secure welfare payments straight out of university. It will be grim for those with longstanding illnesses, who will now be expected to pay for each visit to their doctor under the guise of funding further medical research. And it will be especially grim for young people from low-socio economic backgrounds, especially if they wish to take on tertiary education after they finish high school. Basically, if you are poor, sick, or unemployed, you're fucked!

Sorry Abbott and Pyne, but you're both hypocrites!
BUT BACK TO EDUCATION - Moves to deregulate university fees will invariably lead to an education system much like that in the US, where universities can charge whatever they like for a degree, without considering the impact it will have on young people from low-socio economic backgrounds. Couple deregulation with changes to HECS so that we incur interest and we have an tertiary sector that will be dominated by those from wealthy families, with the occasional token poor kid being lucky enough to grab a spot. I came from such a background, and if faced with deregulated fees I would have been unable to justify enrolling into one, let alone two university degree programs. And the worst thing is, this is the case for many of my friends and a wide pool of currently enrolled students. This budget only seeks to benefit the rich, and bleed workers and the poor dry. I hope the hypocrisy of these changes being introduced by a government that is full of individuals who reaped the benefit of free tertiary education is not lost on you. 

This Wednesday 20th August, students across the country will be attending rallies, marches and debates as part of the National Day of Action (NDA) to display their sheer outrage against the Federal Liberal Government’s proposed budget, which contains the most significant attacks to welfare and education we have seen in this country. This budget, in my view, cannot be defended. I am angry, and you should be too! You can read up on the 2014 - 2015 budget here: http://www.budget.gov.au/2014-15/index.htm

THE NUS/SRC poster calling students to the NDA
Some might argue that it is not the place for the Union to take a stance on a federal issue, to them I say, you’re damn wrong. This is exactly what we should be doing. As a Student Board of Directors we have a responsibility not only to our membership, but also to the legacy of this university and our organisation.  We have a responsibility to ensure the welfare of our members and staff, both present and future. Many of us on the Board and employed by the Union would not be where we are if we were faced with a country that accepted these changes, this is why we are joining the fight. In the past, Boards have protested against Voluntary Student Unionism and even the Vietnam War, I believe it is time to bring back a fighting student Board. 

This view is not isolated to just the Board of Directors, it is held by staff and members throughout the organisation. This is why we have taken steps to assist the National Union of Students and the Sydney University Education Action Group in marketing the NDA in our outlets with flyers, posters and badges, and on our social media channels. 

We at the University of Sydney Union believe it is time for us to speak out on campus and assist the SRC, SUPRA and the wider student community in building a strong movement against this budget. This is why we urge everyone who reads this to get involved in the campaign against the budget and the various actions that are taking place on campus – particularly the NDA this Wednesday.
The Board says "BUST THE BUDGET"

You might read this and say "this does not impact me" or "I will be finished uni by the time fee deregulation happens" - that's fine to say, and it could very well be true. But think of the thousands of people who will be faced with fee hikes in the future. Take a stand not for yourself, but for future generations!

Check out the following event links for more information.

The University of Sydney feeder rally: https://www.facebook.com/events/1512027665680662/?ref=4



Look forward to seeing you at the NDA!

Robby Magyar
Honorary Treasurer

EMAIL: R.MAGYAR@USU.EDU.AU


15 August 2014

2014 USU CIDER REVIEW


First there was the landmark Queer Review. Then there was the Transparency Review. Now the Union Board of Directors brings you the Cider Review. On the 14th August 2014, Alisha Aitken-Radburn and Kade Denton tried all of the ciders at Manning Bar. These were their live findings, no edits have been made:

Kade and Alisha on the ground conducting research

JS Orchard Crush - $6.80 Non-ACCESS (N/A) - $5.80 ACCESS (A)

Kade – With the first, timid mouthful Orchard Crush tastes very similar to how I imagine my personality will be when I reach 75 – dry and bitter. I really have nothing against Orchard Crush, I mean it’s a nice drink and all but it’s probably one for when you’re feeling happy and just don’t want to feel much happier.

Alisha – This is a hard one. As the first cider of the night, I sit here – nervous. I am nervous because I think this one may be my fave of the entire review. The first sip hits me like a friendly slap to face. It is tangy, tart and just that little bit sour all at the same time. The perfect beverage to drink listening to some Destiny's Child when you’re just a little bit rundown. 


5 Seeds - $6.10 N/A - $5.20 A

Kade – While having a scent that could only be described as “quite urine-y” - 5 Seeds definitely delivers in the taste department, with a sweet, smooth and ultimately non-offensive mouth of juice. If you’re in for a big night then this is probably one for the long haul.

Alisha – 5 Seeds is incredibly disappointing.* It would have been the drink of choice when I sneaked in underage to Greenwood had Vodka Raspberries not existed. I feel like I’m drinking one of those flavoured Pump waters and I’m definitely not here with the intent to be hydrated. It’s weak. It’s boring and I’m just not into it.

* In the interest of transparency – I ate some spicy buffalo wings in between the tasting of Orchard Crush and 5 Seeds.


Editor note: I do not accept responsibility for the comments below

Pipsqueak - $7.40 N/A - $6.30 A

Kade – Like a well endowed man and a huff of amyl, Pipsqueak Cider definitely hits the spot. It's fantastic. That’s really the only way to describe this cider. It’s sweet but not too sweet, a little fancy but not too fancy, and just rolls down your throat like an angel lightly sobbing into your mouth. I can’t recommend this drink enough. I love it. I’d even bath in it if bathing in enjoyable ciders were a socially acceptable act. 10/10.

Alisha – It’s good. It’s got way more body than 5 Seeds, while not being as super heavy as Orchard Crush. It’s close, but no cigar. I’m still preferencing Orchard Crush because it is very supportive, like a close friend – but alcohol. Pipsqueak is doing nothing to support me through the inadequacy I am feeling sitting on Manning Verandah next to an amalgamation of the Literary Society and Arts Review talking indepth about Opera Australia’s adaptation of Don Giovanni (apparently it was shit.)


Kirin Ume - $11 N/A - $9.30 A

Kade – I’m not quite sure where my pants went but something tells me that this Kirin drink removed them for me with its deliciously smooth tones. Kirin is nearly so smooth that I missed how the alcoholic punch is mysteriously absent and I probably couldn’t tell the difference between this cider and a watered down bottle of generic apple juice. I’m deeply unsure about what Umi is and why it’s been included in this drink, but I’m thankful that I can’t taste this apparent Japanese apricot. It’s probably (and by probably I mean definitely) not worth the $11 I just spent on this drink. Yes I was too drunk at the bar to remember to use my access card but whatever, don’t judge me.

Alisha – Okay Kade spelt Umi wrong it’s Ume pls. Before I tasted Kirin, like any good cider connoisseur I swirled and enjoyed it’s perfume.  The Japanese apricot smelt super delish.  Kirin has taken my cider experience to the nek level. You know how people talk about parties in mouths? Kirin is SUBSKI. Get amongst it.

I’ve delegated the task of rating to Patrick Morrow (President of SUDS, Expert on Stonefruit) and he rates Kirin a 4.3/5


Kirin Mandarin - $11 N/A - $9.30 A

Kade – At first sniff the Mandarin version of the very smooth Kirin has distinct fragrances of a vodka cruiser. The taste of vodka is an exciting prospect after so much cider. Turns out it wasn’t vodka.

Alisha – I don’t like it. What are you doing a mandarin and a cider what are you doing maehelkjas;\

The end result


If you would like to take part in the process of this review, please contact Kade and Alisha via email - k.denton@usu.edu.au / a.aitken-radburn@usu.edu.au

The University of Sydney Union encourages the responsible consumption of alcohol.

10 August 2014

THE CLOSURE OF WOM*N ONLY SERVICES


In recent weeks, the Board has been contemplating the values we will hold throughout our 2014-2015 term. Given the constitutional commitment of the USU to welfare, particular attention was paid to valuing justice, safety and inclusivity. These principles, amongst others, will guide our decision-making to ensure the relevance of the Union in an increasingly diverse community.

It is in this context that we consider the recent NSW Government’s ‘Going Home, Staying Home’ reforms, which may come to jeopardise the safety of wom*n-identifying members of the USU community. We do not purport to be your source of information on policy and politics – but when our community is threatened, we hope to give them a voice.

In March, tender packages for homelessness services were released for inner Sydney, with only $1.1 million specified for wom*n experiencing domestic and family violence. The overall reduction of $6 million for Sydney, with the view to redistributing it across the State, leaves no specific funding for services catering to wom*n who are ‘homeless or at risk of homelessness, who have experienced childhood sexual assault, abuse or neglect, mental health and/or drug and alcohol issues, or for women leaving custody’, SOS Women’s Services reports. For wom*n fleeing domestic violence, discrimination or hardship, these services are of vital assistance.

Photo credit: Student's for Wom*n's Only Services

Sussan, a current student, notes that ‘without those wom*n-only services, I would probably be homeless, not in uni and probably starving’. She also attributes her success in her HSC year to the care and support of the wom*n in her Erskineville refuge. ‘They taught us how to budget, and now I have my own household… They always, always encouraged me to study, they helped me apply for scholarships – they got me into Sydney Uni.’

Summer, having received support from both mixed and wom*n’s-only refuges, compares her experiences and notes that in the latter, the wom*n receiving help knew ‘what they were worth’ and ‘what the possibilities could be’ in situations of pregnancy, violence, mental illness and substance abuse.

‘[They] taught me to always believe in the ability to make choices for you, and that’s what these refuges are about – that they can make their own choices and ones that fit for them. That’s the long-term goal.’

For the shelters that do remain open, many will be altered in nature and composition. Elsie’s, the first wom*n’s-only refuge and established by University of Sydney students, is being subsumed by St Vincent de Paul and will no longer be able to guarantee that all service providers are wom*n. Sussan commented that all-female support was of crucial importance ‘because all the males in my life had let me down’.

Like Elsie’s, many shelters across Sydney will be put under the control and administration of religious institutions such as Mission Australia. For those who flee homes of a particular religion, ‘it is threatening if the only place of potential safety is preaching the same message as their parents’, says Summer.

The planned shift of these services away from inner Sydney may also prove demotivating, isolating and alienating. The movement away from high-quality physical and mental health services, transport hubs, good schools and universities ‘will make their wom*n who struggle to find inspiration ten times harder’, says Summer. ‘It perpetuates the cycle. It’s all about the location’.

‘For us to open up about these things is so difficult.’

Students for Wom*n’s Only Services (SWOS), a group of students fighting against the reforms at the University, are encouraging students ‘to be at the forefront of the wom*n’s refuge movement by fighting for their independence’.

For more information on the reforms and how to assist the campaign against them, contact SWOS at https://www.facebook.com/swossydney?fref=ts, SOS Women’s Services at http://www.soswomensservices.com, or Kate Bullen (USU Wom*n's Portfolio Holder) k.bullen@usu.edu.au. 

If you are experiencing abuse or hardship, the University’s Counselling and Psychological Services can be contacted on (02) 8627 8433. Alternatively, the Board are always available to put you in contact with the relevant resources and service providers.


LIV RONAN
BOARD DIRECTOR