Words by Leannza Chia
UPDATE (7/5): The Victorian government has announced it will allocate $8.5 million to the redevelopment. The announcement comes as part of the government’s budget and will be distributed in 2016-2017.
A $42.5 million renovation project will create a visual arts wing for university students and the public. The Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) will take over the Victorian Police Mounted Branch stables behind it.
The project is supported by the Victorian government, in an initiative to integrate the campus into the wider community.
Dean of the Faculty for the VCA and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM) Professor Barry Conyngham said the idea to have the stables transferred to the VCA has existed for 30 to 40 years.
“The faculty of the VCA and MCM has been planning and advocating strongly for this,” Professor Conyngham said.
While the project is the responsibility of the Vice-Chancellor and the University Council, Professor Conyngham will also give input.
“The faculty’s teaching needs, the desire to invite the public on to the Southbank Campus, and the preservation of the character and historical status of the buildings will all be part of the conversion of the stables to a VCA facility,” he explained.
In a press release, the university said the renovations would form a new entry point to the Southbank campus and “create public performance, event and exhibition spaces across the campus and surrounding streets, as well as a series of laneways, public thoroughfares and gardens”.
While VCA Campus Co-ordinator James Crafti welcomed the increase of space at VCA, he believed that the project does not truly address major concerns for VCA students, citing underpaid staff as a worry.
“The major issue students face is staff not being paid enough to give students proper feedback on their artwork and professional staff being overworked,” he said. “Great new buildings, without staff, achieve nothing.”
The project is expected to finish by 2016.
Words by Leannza Chia and Michelle See-Tho
Graduate students in need of support will now have to acquire it from a different source.
The Graduate Student Association (GSA) will no longer fund its advocacy service, as of 1 March this year. Instead, it will hand these services to the Student Union Advocacy Service (SUAS).
GSA President Jim Smith has defended the organisation’s continuing importance in graduate students’ lives. “The representation of graduates is the core purpose of our Association,” he said. “We have over 70 affiliated Graduate Student Groups, we regularly raise matters of importance with the university, run day events, organise a ball and other social and networking opportunities for students.”
According to Smith, in 2011, the University awarded SUAS the sole contract to provide advocacy to both graduate and undergraduate students, when the GSA chose not to submit a tender application at the time. He said that the following year, the GSA was not allowed to use the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) to fund their Advocacy service and had to self-fund advocacy from a small pool of funds, as well as compete with the university-supported SUAS service.
University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) General Manager Justin Baré said the changes will impact GSA more than UMSU. “Obviously we will have a role, which will be working with the GSA in ensuring that they get the information that the advocacy service generates, because there’s really important data that they will need in their student representative functions,” he said. “The student representatives from the GSA will be included in the UMSU student advisory group for Advocacy and Legal Services, so that they get to be a part of that process.”
Smith emphasized the importance of having one provider of the service to ensure a “consistency of approach”, but also said the GSA would assist SUAS with cases regarding graduate students.
“We will assist existing students accessing GSA services to gain alternative support,” he said. “Additionally, we will continue to assist and advise SUAS where possible to ensure that graduate students receive high quality advocacy services into the future.”