Puppies, pancakes and ending unpaid placements

Voting is now open for the Guild elections. So what are Guild Election candidates promising students this year?

Reform – much of the same as this year, still no clarity on what “Reform” actually means 

Reform is running their ticket with a range of campus based initiatives as their election promises. They have made 19 unique election promises which would be a beast to pull off (as you would have thought they had learned from this year, with most incumbents being former Grow candidates).

They’re promising to fight for the Guild to get 50% SSAF, greater transparency and accessibility for the Guild and better visibility for the Collectives. They also have a range of other policies, some of which (like clubs funding reform, period products in QUT bathrooms, exam support stalls) the Guild seems to already do or has implemented already this year.

There are also some 2021 initiatives that have been exhumed: Binder drive, Adulting 101, fighting the 0% policy, STI testing, and tax help. New policies are few and far between but include action on deadnaming, postgrad stipends and bathroom accessibility.

Notably, the promise to get 50% SSAF for the Guild has been made by successively incumbent led tickets every Guild election since 2021.

Reform is a ticket led by current Post Grad Officer Aaron Bui and current President Aamna Asif. It also has a range of other incumbents running on the ticket like Treasurer Usama Shafiq, Secretary Deepika Sharma, Queer Officer Eli Spencer, International Officer Moin Rahman, Health Councillor Tegan O’Connor and Business & Law Councillor Gia Callaghan.

With so many incumbents, and lots of the same or similar policies as many of them got elected on last year, there is a rather large elephant in the room – why were most of these initiatives not achieved this year? Why should students trust that they will get the job done this time round?

The other big question hanging over the Reform campaign is what their name actually means, and the structural change they are planning to enact on the student union.

Reform candidate Aaron Bui was among many Guild execs this year who openly criticised the Guild’s Board, and the rest of the incumbents on his team voted to support the Board’s abolition at the August Council meeting. This is probably the best indication for students about what Reform candidates will be actually be working towards achieving next year, apart from puppies and pancakes. 

Left Action also supports the abolition of the Board, but have openly opposed it since it was first introduced in 2018. 

Bui told Glass before campaign week that Reform would be detailing for students their plans for restructuring the Guild once election season fully kicked off, but that never happened. Instead, Bui told Glass the following yesterday:

“Many students don’t feel like their student union represents them or does enough if anything to actually help them.

But obviously, we already have a student union, the Guild. Given those shortcomings, Reform wants to “re-form” the Guild making it a union of students for students.

It needs to become a body of advocacy for students again which is why we will introduce town hall meetings, an easy and accessible way for students to tell us what they want & need.

Guild events should be conducted in a way that would attract larger and broader cohorts of students. Events should no longer be unilaterally organized by Guild staff and/or execs but rather with the more than 100 clubs & societies we have.

The structures within the Guild need to be adjusted in a way that reflects the student body’s power to voice their issues and to make changes.

A student union led by students for students…This is the way forward to get student engagement and participation up again.”

When asked to provide more specificity on how Reform plans to “adjust” the structure of the Guild, Bui said he wasn’t able to provide more detail.

“Well, I can’t [give students more detail]. I will be needing to talk to all the stakeholders within the Guild.

This is not something the SRC or I can do by myself nor do we want to. I want to make sure we consult with everyone within the Guild to bring everyone on board so we can tackle the big issue of declining student engagement as a team.”

The last time structural change was implemented at the Guild was in 2021, which took years to get off the ground and included the introduction of the Guild Board of Directors.

Left Action – big scale policy, no surprises from the socialists 

Left Action’s policies are in many ways exactly what we’ve come to expect from our resident campus socialists. They are chasing after the big ticket, big name items like using the union to fight to end unpaid placements, end higher fees for international students, and fight for free education.

Crucially, Left Action isn’t promising that they’ll actually be able to pull any of these achievements off, but they are promising to fight for them. This aligns with what we’ve seen from Left Action candidates all year, protesting a range of issues including climate change, transphobia, student housing crises, and wage theft.

In many ways, Left Action’s policies hark back to another age in student unionism where the Guild more frequently campaigned for bigger picture policy reform for students’ interests. This has seldom been done in the Guild’s recent history with the exception of a campaign to end HECS indexation this year.

The biggest hurdle for Left Action is selling their policies to students who genuinely want initiatives like puppies and pancakes, and might even prefer it to the larger scale activism Left Action is going after.

Do QUT students want a services focused union or an activist union? Or a bit of both? We’ll find out at the polls…

Independents – fresh ideas! 

It’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s the freshest faced independent candidates who have the freshest election promises this election season. Here’s what they’re putting on the table:

Milani Rawlinson (running for Enviro Officer) – “Developing a functioning QUT Community Garden to improve student wellbeing on campus, assist the food bank, and bring green living to students and members of the community. Another action I believe would help the environment would be to educate the QUT community about the importance nature has on the wellbeing of people. This would be achieved by placing signs throughout the campus that display information on the native species at QUT and their importance, and small messages about mental health to take a moment to reflect.”

Muhammad Umair Amir (running for Post Grad Officer)

  1. Tailored Integration Support: I will develop specialized programs to help international students seamlessly integrate into both academic and social aspects of university life. Through targeted assistance, we’ll ensure that every student, regardless of their background, feels welcome and empowered to excel. 
  2. Global Perspective in Professional Development: I will organize workshops and events designed to enhance professional skills and provide insights into navigating international careers. This will equip postgraduate students with the tools they need to thrive in a global job market. 
  3. Promoting Cultural Exchange: I will foster cultural exchange programs and events to enrich the experience of international students and offer local students the chance to broaden their horizons. This dialogue will create a more inclusive and harmonious academic environment. 
  4. Prioritizing Mental Health and Well-being: Recognizing that the pressures of academia can sometimes be exacerbated for international students, who may be far from their support networks, I will advocate for expanded mental health resources and support systems. These resources will be tailored to cater to the unique needs of international students, ensuring that everyone has access to the assistance they may require. 
  5. Empowering Through Language and Financial Support: Recognizing the significance of language proficiency in academic success, I will advocate for enhanced language support services. These services will be designed to assist international students in improving their language skills and confidence. Additionally, leveraging my finance background and commitment to achieving the CFA qualification, I’ll actively seek financial resources like scholarships and grants to ease academic pressures and enable focused studies. 

Joan Njoku (running for International Students Officer) – “Strengthen the academic and social communications between international students and local students, developing a functioning and active community of international students, establishing a beneficial relationship where the university can have a comprehensive understanding of international students and organize a better management system which is in line with the interests of the students.”

Jasper Bennett (running for Business & Law Councillor) – “If you vote for me, I will make sure to put your needs first, above any political affiliation or ideology. I will represent you and bring your voice forward to the student representative council and together we can make QUT a better place.

Who will you be voting for this election? Voting is open NOW and closes at 23:59 on Thursday 26 October 2023.

Ciaran Greig
Ciaran Greig

Ciaran (she/her) is a Meanjin/Brisbane-based writer and an editor at Glass Magazine. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Creative Writing)/Bachelor of Laws.

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