A Fairly Comprehensive History of QUT Student Union Publications

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A basic Wikipedia article recording student publications from Australian universities includes a scant listing for the Queensland University of Technology, limited to Universe, CirQUTry, Utopia and Definite Article. Try as I might, I have not been able to find any information about Definite Article, so this is either a mix-up or a very obscure publication which has completely disappeared from any record of QUT history.   

According to the Queensland Institute of Technology Handbook of 1967, the Student Union was established in 1966 with two main aims in mind: the first to ensure student interests are fostered and student opinions are advanced, and the second to expand and co-ordinate all student activities. 

From its inception, the Union published a monthly newspaper called UNIT which provided “free expression of student and reader ideas as well as providing advertising and club information articles”. The 1999 book, A Class of Its Own, chronicled the University’s history since its establishment and described UNIT as a newspaper filled with discussions about social issues, pop-culture, and topics of student interest. 

“Bob Dylan’s music and his philosophy, the Vietnam issue, marijuana use, debates about more radical politics for QIT students, a case for student control of the new community building, student demonstrations, anarchism, concern about lecturer shortages and staff/student relations, looming autonomy as a CAE, fee rises, the need to engender pride in the new QIT and to stop comparing it unfavourably with the university, the restrictive regimentation of the Department of Education over QIT, homosexuality, racism, issues from the Sweeney and the Wiltshire Reports – all appeared as prominent student concerns in Unit.” 

In a 1976 edition, the editors talked about the difficult journey UNIT has faced. “Unit, the newspaper, magazine, circular, broadsheet has always had a tenuous existence. In its initial stages, like the institution that it hung on, it was overshadowed by the University [of Queensland] paper Semper Floreat. However, Unit quickly developed its own style, dare one say, reflecting the earthiness of QIT people…” 

The content was heavily focused on politics and university life; each edition included clubs’ news, letters to the editor, general university happenings, and articles about political issues impacting young people. The publication was also known for its satire, regularly featuring “John Bjelke baiting and questions of morality in particular the Roman Catholic Church”. According to a 1976 edition of UNIT, they once published an article about the Catholic Church that was so vile, their offices were raided by police. The cartoons and illustrations were often down-right dirty and would shock today’s university students. 

Next came PLANET, which was originally a collaboration between four different higher education institutions; QIT, Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education, North Brisbane College of Advanced Education, and Queensland Conservatorium of Music. The very first edition of the newspaper stated that this collaboration was due to the difficulty of producing a quality product with limited funds and manpower. All four institutions agreed to contribute money, time and resources into the creation of this new publication and to distribute papers to free on all campuses. This collaboration didn’t last long, and by 1983 PLANET was produced by QIT alone. 

While PLANET was definitely left leaning politically, the content was not as contentious as that of UNIT and was less focused on politics, clubs and campus events, and more focused on feature articles and student creativity. The newspaper predominantly published content about university and higher education issues, general political articles, and student journalism. It also included an advice column, guides to university life, reviews, and opinion pieces. 

One such opinion piece, titled Beware of the Stench, complained about the state of the union and called out the executives for not producing minutes in a timely manner, breaking election promises, and failing to understand (or even read) the Constitution. Another article, titled Calling All Cretins, spoke about students’ lack of engagement with student media on campus, with the editors literally calling readers cretins. The following edition included a spicy ‘Letters to the Editor’ page, publishing several letters from students responding to the article. I suppose the article achieved its purpose!

At the same time as PLANET, the union also published DeCAE. This was due to the separation of university campuses: DeCAE was the student paper from QUT Northen Campuses Student Guild and PLANET was the general QUT Student Guild publication. DeCAE was a more artistic publication, featuring full page art spreads and unique layout designs. In 1991, the Guild decided to join its separate factions and amalgamate to become one student guild for the entire institution. With this decision came the end for both PLANET and DeCAE.  

In a joint publication created by the editors of DeCAE and PLANET, the editors letter discussed what the future of the student guild publication will look like and hoped for readers to fondly remember their magazines. 

“The basic structure looks like something along the lines of one students’ newspaper servicing all four campuses, with this service supplemented by regular student newsletters dealing with all the campus-specific issues. The newspaper will be produced by a team of editors elected by Guild Council (the big one) after each team makes detailed submissions as to the content and other policies of the paper for the year.” 

“Sadly, though this probably means that 1990 will be the last year of PLANET, as such, which is a pity, because after 10 years it was just starting to build up a bit of history. Hopefully, people will hold onto their memories of PLANET longer than of its predecessor, Unit, which no-one really seems to know much about, with no copies still on file.” 

You can clearly see the artistic influence of DeCAE on its successor, Utopia. Utopia was a much more artistic publication than PLANET, it looked more polished and professional and more similar to a magazine than a newspaper. The editors of the publication describe it as “the noisy brat borne of the unlikely marriage between PLANET and DeCAE”.  

In terms of content, Utopia was very similar to the previous publications. Each issue featured an executive report from the Guild, clubs information and university guides, as well as feature articles about social issues. An ongoing feature of Utopia was the different design for each new cover. Every edition had a completely different art style, font choice and colour theme. Paging through old issues is really exciting because you never know what you’re going to get! 

In 2006, the Guild publication became CirQUTry. The editor’s letter in the very first issue described the magazine as a publication “designed to entertain, inform and amuse QUT students with Guild information, interesting interviews, fabulous frocks and unbelievably good giveaways”. This was an acute move away from what Utopia brought to campus culture, which was primarily activism, humour and left-wing ideals. The first edition of CirQUTry even included an obituary to Utopia, describing the publication as “vitriolic” and “radical”, and joking about the “angst-ridden views on university life” contained in the pages of the magazine.  

No physical copies of CirQUTry have been located, but digital copies of the magazine can be found on research website, Trove. The design was simple, stark, and clearly created digitally, with no student artwork included in the first issue. It’s clear that CirQUTry paved the way for future Guild publications, moving away from political articles and student journalism, and towards Guild promotion and entertainment. 

In the year 2000, the Guild produced a magazine called Judy which was described as “your annual queer magazine”, published on the first anniversary of the formation of the Queer department. In her editorial, the Female Queer Services Director Sofia Woods states “we’re here, queer and what the fuck are you going to do about it!”, which is a pretty apt introduction to the rest of the magazine. It’s a celebration of queer life as a young person and a student but doesn’t shy away from tough issues. The magazine is filled with articles about safe sex for those in same-sex couples, how to access financial assistance like Austudy as a queer person, and the importance of friendship. I have only been able to access the inaugural issue of Judy, and I’m unsure whether it continued. 

Next came the QUTE zine, a pocket-sized print publication. This is the smallest of any Guild magazine, but it was absolutely packed with information about the union, the university and student artwork. The very first issue included introductions to all the executives, an explanation of what the Guild does, and a Semester One activism calendar. Subsequent editions included micro fiction, features about social justice issues, and interviews with interesting people like the Vice Chancellor at the time, musicians and other creatives or people doing cool things. 

Universe started around 2007 and was originally a cross-institutional magazine, featuring stories from QUT, UQ, Griffith University, Gold Coast TAFE and Alexandra Hills TAFE. The design was very early 2000’s, with a lot of photos that looked like they were taken with silver digital cameras (if you know, you know).  

The magazine featured profiles on celebrities, interviews with students, fashion photoshoots (with very dated advice, like “The illusion of cuteness is not exploited enough: bright necklaces and a beanie, the innocent look is yours”), articles about student exchange, and other content like general issues affecting young people. Early editions included some funny articles like “Obscure things to study” with a list of random degrees, including my personal favourite – Russian, Ancient Greek and Latin from UQ.   

Around 2012, Universe became an exclusive QUT Student Guild magazine, and the design and content changed dramatically. Previously, the design was outdated but funky nonetheless, but it changed to be more of a university tips guide with a professional vibe. At the time it was the only student-run magazine at QUT. The content was heavily focused on university and campus life, and contained almost no political content, student journalism, or student art and creativity.  

This brings us to today, and to this very magazine you are reading right now. Glass was established in 2019 and was born out of the desire of QUT student writers to have a space to publish their work, build a portfolio, and promote student creativity and expression.  

Perhaps this magazine will go down in the history books and become one of QUT’s longest serving Guild publications, with students in decades to come eager to pick up the newest copy from the Garden’s Point library. Or maybe Glass will go the way of UNIT, DeCAE and Utopia, and quietly disappear from campus only to be remembered by those whose name appear in her pages. Only time will tell. 

Celeste Muller
Celeste Muller

Celeste (she/her) is a Meanjin/Brisbane based writer and Editor at Glass Media. She has a Bachelor's degree in Design (Interior Design) and is currently studying Journalism and Economics at QUT.

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