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The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) yesterday announced that their members, the staff at the University of Melbourne, will be going on strike next Wednesday May 9 from 9am-1pm. The NTEU has decided to stop work and strike as a result of stalled negotiations on the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA), which details the pay, hours of work, breaks, and other working conditions for all university staff, including teachers.

Some of the main issues that the NTEU are fighting for include maintaining staff-to-student ratios in classes and maintaining a commitment to intellectual freedom for staff. These issues don’t only affect staff, the outcome of these negotiations will affect how you are taught at university. The NTEU is committed to fighting to maintain these standards so that class sizes will not increase and face-to-face time with tutors is not lost.

This strike has been called as a final resort for the NTEU in proceeding with the stalled negations. This industrial action is a way to pressure the University to make concession to ensure that protections within the EBA leave staff and students better off.

UMSU encourages all students to stand in solidarity with the NTEU. You can support our staff and teachers by joining our contingent with NTEU members to the Change the Rules rally on Wednesday 9 May, and not coming to classes from 9am-1pm that day.

Desiree Cai
UMSU President

Get involved:

Sign the petition in support of the NTEU

Join the rally via this Facebook event: UMSU Supports the NTEU Strike – Contingent to Change the Rules.

For further updates follow the UMSU Education Facebook page

 

UMSU Stands with CAPA and NUS in Bury the Bill Campaign

The National Union of Students (NUS) and the Council of Postgraduate Students (CAPA) recently launched their Bury the Bill campaign to fight proposed changes to student loan legislation.

The Bury the Bill campaign encourages students, graduates and future students to contact their Senators and highlight the consequences of this legislation, which will compromise access to higher education in Australia. UMSU supports this campaign wholeheartedly and encourages all to get involved.

The proposed Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (Student Loan Sustainability) Bill 2018 would see the HECS/HELP repayment threshold for student debt lowered from the current $54,000 to $45,000. This disproportionately impacts low income earners, especially women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates. The legislation also includes the creation of a lifetime student loan cap of $104k.

The lifetime loan cap particularly affects University of Melbourne students, as the Melbourne Model presumes that students do a broad undergraduate degree with the expectation to continue their studies in postgrad. In many cases, the cost of a postgraduate degree, in addition to a previously completed undergrad would exceed the proposed loan cap. This opens up the door for students having to pay up front or take out a separate personal loan to complete their university degrees, severely limiting accessibility for students wanting to gain further qualifications.

NUS and CAPA have spoken out against the bill.

Natasha Abrahams, CAPA National President says:

“We need to fight to retain the HECS-HELP system that enables more Australians to access a university education and the opportunities that come from this. Under the proposed changes, highly regarded degrees which lead to lucrative careers will only be accessible to those who can afford colossal upfront payments.”

Mark Pace, NUS National President says:

“Simon Birmingham, the Scrooge of Australian Parliament, gifted universities with $2.2 Bn in cuts last December. Now he’s seeking further budget repairs from those barely earning above minimum wage.”

“The number of graduates earning below the current repayment threshold reflects a failure of this government in providing a quality education. The solution is to adequately fund universities, not burden low income Australians with this Governments failures in higher education”.

It is unacceptable that these proposed changes unfairly target those who are most disadvantaged and already have the hardest time accessing university education. I urge all students to get involved in the campaign, sign the #BuryTheBill petition and contact a crossbench Senator.

Desiree Cai
UMSU President

What can I do?

Following the unfortunate hospitalisations at Electric Parade this past weekend, the University of Melbourne Student Union would like to once again affirm its commitment to drug harm reduction.

This incident, along with a number of other high profile tragedies over the last few months have highlighted the need for a broad approach to harm reduction that includes not only the provision of rudimentary pill testing kits, but also information relating to contraindications and safer practices surrounding the consumption of drugs.

Australians are some of the highest users of illegal drugs, with 41.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over using illicit drugs in their lifetime. Drugs consumed in Australia are among the most dangerous in the world due to huge variances in purity and a high incidence of toxic adulterants.

These issues disproportionately affect young people, with people aged 20-29 being more likely to have used illicit drugs than other age group.

UMSU passed a motion in 2016 supporting the implementation of a pill testing scheme because zero tolerance approaches have been ineffective and harmful. Instead of treating drug use as a complex health issue with societal and structural factors, Victoria Police and the Andrews government have reduced it to a criminal issue that can only be dealt with by suppression and force. Zero-tolerance policies cause active harm to individuals and communities in a way that is unhelpful and potentially devastating. Access to high quality methods of testing and information about safer drug-taking practices empowers Australians to make informed choices about their health and behaviour.

Our pill testing scheme is taking longer to roll out than we had expected to accommodate for this measured and evidence-based approach to reducing drug harm. We will be expanding the program to include education on steps that can be taken to ensure that you and your friends are as safe as possible. Our information sessions and publications will be available to you free of cost, and will include information on a wide variety of substances including alcohol, ‘party drugs’, psychedelics, and the broad class of stimulants used as ‘study drugs’. We will also be lobbying for high-level reforms in drug policy to allow for more accurate and reliable testing methods to be available to the public.

It’s no longer acceptable for Australians to expect that there will be drug-related hospitalisations and deaths every summer as if they are a permanent fixture of our festival and party scene. Through increased and improved drug education, the provision of high-quality testing services and policy reform, we can move towards a safer Australia for our young people.

 

Yan Zhuang
UMSU President

Words by Rémy Chadwick

Kerith Manderson-Galvin really hates the tendency to read meaning into language. “Why can’t a word just be a word?,” she laments.

Kerith is a playwright.

She acknowledges the contradiction here; it’s perhaps fitting that theatre is her chosen medium, given that it exists because of interpretation. In theatre, a creative team interprets words on the page (or in the mind), translating them into the language of the stage. An audience in turn deciphers this. A playwright’s job is to ensure that the spectator experience is as rich as what was originally envisioned, even though the two worlds may differ completely.

The disjunction between word and meaning fascinates Kerith, and it lies at the heart of her new work, don’t bring lulu. When asked about an important line from the play, Kerith starts talking about the ubiquitous expression “I love you”, which carries so much unspoken baggage. In many instances it is conditional, outlining certain boundaries and declaring specific actions. But it can also be read in ways it was not intended; it can mean different things for different people, even when in the same situation.

The play is an enigma because of Kerith’s contrarieties. On the one hand, she holds doubts about theatre’s ability to change the world—she is happy for it to “just exist”. On the other hand, she affirms theatre’s obligation to be politically and socially aware.

don’t bring lulu is thus a result of her obsession with femininity, relationships and violence. She would, however, prefer that the audience constructed their own sense of the piece—while finding it as funny, sexy, sad, and scary as she does.

A large amount of Kerith’s personality seems to have found its way into her characters and she is quick to justify this. “I am the only point of reference I have,” she says. Exploring herself in her own work gives her the opportunity to understand and say new things; writing somebody else’s perspective might not.

However, Kerith admits not fully trusting her own experiences of the world. “I don’t actually know if anything [in don’t bring lulu] is true, least of all my own memories,” she says. In one sense, this is empowering for an artist. For Kerith, it gives her permission to use her memories as she wishes, which is perhaps why she finds playwriting therapeutic.

Kerith is confident the show will look good and boast strong production values, and is clear about her visual inspiration. ,“I take from popular culture because I can see the stuff I’m interested in exists all around me,” she says.

Kerith offers special thanks to Union House Theatre director Tom Gutteridge, who she says has been very supportive of her work. Ironically, she specifically lauds his ability to find elements in the text that she didn’t know were there—in other words, his ability to interpret the play.

don’t bring lulu is appearing 22-24, 28-31 May 2014, 7:30pm
Union Theatre, ground floor, Union House,  University of Melbourne
Tickets available www.trybooking.com/EQXO

Words by Yuzuha Oka

Yining Ong is an international student from Singapore. She is in the third year of the Bachelor of Arts majoring psychology and sociology. After finishing her honours year, she wants to get a job in Australia She is also the president of UMSU International.

“I like the working environment in Australia. It is more relaxed than in Asian countries and people are really nice. Also, there are more varieties in types of occupation for Arts students [here] than in Singapore.”

However, she is worried because getting a job as an international student can be very difficult. “Many companies require graduates to have Permanent Residency (PR). International students cannot even apply for a job in those cases.” Even getting an internship was tough for her; she says that companies often don’t reply to her applications, while she knows of local students getting a reply and even a placement.

“It’s a dilemma. In order to get a job, PR is often required. However, you need working experience to get PR. As a result you can get neither of them and end up leaving the country,” Ms Ong says.

To work after graduation, international students must have an appropriate visa. If they cannot get one, they must leave.

Not many international graduates get a visa that allows them work. In 2013, only 15.3 per cent of former student visa holders were granted Temporary Graduate Visas (subclass 485). It’s the most popular visa option for international graduates wanting to work in Australia. With it, students can stay temporarily to look for a job without previous work experience, regardless of their field.

It can be harder to get other working visas. According to the Student Visa Program Quarterly Report released in December, 3.2 per cent of former student visa holders received the Skilled-Independent Visa (subclass 189) , and 0.5 per cent the Employer Nomination Scheme Visa.

Reasons for not being eligible for the 485 Visa can vary, but include that an applicant’s course was less than two years long, or that the applicant applied for a student visa before 5 November 2011 and is not on the Skilled Occupation List.

“Students who are not eligible for the 485 will have very limited visa options,” Diana Hemmingway, senior ESOS and Visa Support Officer at the university says. “The migration law is really complex, and students need to refer to experts.”

Supports system exist for international students, provided both by the university and by student-run organisations. The University of Melbourne ESOS and Visa Support Service holds fortnightly information sessions about post-graduation visa options.

Students can access one-on-one appointments (in person, via email, or via Skype) and attend career events on campus. The service is available to students while enrolled and for up to one year after graduating.

Students@Work sources employment opportunities on campus for all students.

UMSU International also provides support. One example is the Student Experience Fair, where students can explore services the university and the state of Victoria provide. “UMSU International works as a bridge between the university and students organising scattered information for students and giving feedback to uni,” Ms Ong says.

Most international students (27.9 per cent, the largest proportion) proceeded to Tourist Visas in 2013 after graduating, according to the Department of Immigration. People carrying a Tourist Visa are not allowed to work.

However, some become permanent residents. Nam Kim, Advocacy Officer of Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS) used to be an international student at the University of New South Wales. He now has a permanent residency and helping international students through AFIS.

Mr Kim says that the important thing is to find a mentor. He suggests international students from the same country can provide useful information if they have been in similar situations before. He found his own mentor in the Korean Society at university,. He points out that networking is the key. “Volunteer at the related field and get connected with the people,” he says. “You must be proactive and prepare.”

Words by Colleen Chen

Heated debate is continuing over the University of Melbourne’s internship programs, after an American university announced students would no longer receive academic credit for internships.

Columbia University, New York will limit student exposure to unpaid university-managed work placements. The decision comes after pressure from American student group Intern Labor Rights, which “aims to raise awareness to the exploitation of unpaid laborers,” according it its website.

Timothy Lynch, Director of the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, says the university will not follow Columbia’s move. He describes the decision as “highly retrograde”.

“The idea that the University of Melbourne would discontinue one of its most successful engagements with the outside world—one of the key reasons why the students come to us—would undermine what we do as a public institution,” he said.

The last few years have seen an educational movement towards Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) programs such as managed internships. This has been met with growing ethical concerns from students over being charged tuition fees to do productive work for an organisation without remuneration.

On average, an internship subject at the University of Melbourne involves 80 to 110 hours of work with an external organisation and costs the student $3000 to $7000 per semester.

Many students are dissatisfied because they believe the university is using fewer resources for their work placement outside of class time.

“I worked for free for three months, found the internship myself, and the university charged me $7000-plus for the experience. Open theft,” says Executive Master of Arts student, Lauren*.

However, Lynch says internship subject fees should not be lowered. He argues that it is fair for students to pay similar amounts for every course component.

“We provide space for students to reach their potential. They have to fill that space, whether in a classroom setting or in the workplace,” he says.

What the law says

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), unpaid work placement arrangements are permitted only if they are a mandatory part of an education or training course. They must be authorised by a state or federal statutory body or under delegated powers to peak bodies such as the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) or Universities Australia.

Under the Act, unpaid internships outside of coursework are technically illegal.

The university’s internship subjects fit this to an extent. If the subject is compulsory for the course, it’s legal. However, if it is an elective, it’s in a grey area according to the Act. For example, a compulsory internship tied in with a medical degree is permitted but an elective subject as part of an arts degree is not.

Currently, most internship subjects at the University of Melbourne are offered as an option for a final year capstone subject. Students in many faculties are not required to do an internship, but must choose a capstone subject of which an internship is an option.

An alternative model

Other parts of the university are doing things differently.

Tin Alley Beta, a summer internship program for IT students led by Miguel Wood, reflects a different approach taken by the Melbourne School of Information. The school launched their start-up internship program last year, aiming to grow technical talent in the Melbourne start-up environment.

The application process to the Tin Alley Beta program is competitive for both students and host organisations. Host organisations are selected based on their ability to remunerate students and to attract applicants during a pitch night held on campus. Students are selected via an online application process and an interview before a selection panel.

Interns participating in Tin Alley Beta are paid by their host organisations. The internship is also not considered a part of the academic curriculum.

“If you want to explore entrepreneurship, you should do it independent of your studies. Start-ups are about survival. If you’re doing it as an assignment, you see the driver as finishing the subject or assignment,” Wood says.

*Name has been changed.

Secret documents obtained by Farrago reveal that administrators of The University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have agreed to an official merger.

The backroom deal is believed to have taken place in early March 2014, and will see the two Melbourne-based universities combine to become The Melbourne City University by the start of 2016. This agreement was supposed to remain secret until 1 July 2014, but was leaked to Farrago by an anonymous source .

“Both the University of Melbourne and the RMIT have strong academic reputations. Rather than competing with one another for students and research, it makes practical sense for these two institutions to become united,” the executive summary of the report reveals.

“With our powers combined, the Melbourne City University will be one of the world’s most prestigious tertiary education bodies,” the report continues.

“Comparisons to Monash will no longer be relevant,” one of the footnotes reads.

Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, and his wife Margaret Gardner, Vice-Chancellor of RMIT, declined to comment to Farrago. It is believed that discussions pertaining to the future of these two universities have been going on behind closed doors for years.

The Parkville campus of the University of Melbourne and the city campus of RMIT have been encroaching on each other for the past few years, with Melbourne shifting south and RMIT shifting north. It is believed that planning disputes between the two academic bodies was a key reasons behind the merger decision.

More to come…

Words and pictures by Ashleigh Bonica

There’s nothing a great knit can’t fix. When you have to battle an overcast morning that turns into a sunny afternoon here in Melbourne, layering knits and coats over summer pieces is the best way to create a practical trans-seasonal look. This edition’s Posing a Thread stars nailed it with their eclectic mix of colour, print and texture.

MEDIA_char_1080x1747Charlotte

4th year – Global Media and Communications

How would you describe your personal style?
I like to go for things that are comfortable, casual, but also soft and feminine. This changes when I’m dressing for an occasion though. For parties I like to go bling-bling.

What trend do you love?
I absolutely love the vintage trend, although it’s not always appropriate to wear for uni.

What’s your lust-have for autumn/winter?
I would love some more comfortable sweaters.

Who are your favourite designers?
I love this Chinese designer called Wei Wei Wang. She designs a lot of wedding gowns and is quite big in Hollywood—designing for awards shows and celebrities.

Where do you seek inspiration?
I love magazine spreads. I think they are something you can collect ideas from and they have this dream-like quality.

Do you have a go-to item in your wardrobe?
I have this small orange bag that’s quite simple but I always get compliments when I wear it. I love it because it makes me feel fashionable and confident.

MEDIA_laura_1048x1747Laura
1st year – Arts

How would you describe your personal style?

I often end up just mixing things like my gym gear with what I call ‘legit’ clothes. So most of the time I either go for the naked look, like today, or the I.D.G.A.F.—I don’t give a fuck—look.

What trend do you love?
I love the monochrome look, with a pop of colour in an accessory. I’ve been doing that a lot lately, just wearing my plain white tee with a bright hot pink necklace.

What’s your lust-have for autumn/winter?
I’d really love a good winter coat or maybe a fur coat. And I’m also just on my way to buy these awesome slouchy drop waist pants from Bassike. I’ve been lusting after them for a while.

Who are your favourite designers?
Gorman, Bassike.

Where do you seek inspiration?
Definitely Instragram and street style. Otherwise mags are good too. Lately I’ve been reading Elle and Peppermint.

Do you have a go-to item in your wardrobe?
I live in plain Bonds tees. They are literally all I wear.

MEDIA_liamandzoe_223x398

Liam and Zoe

How would you describe your personal style?
Liam: Cheap (laughs)
Zoe: I’m a pretty dishevelled, top of the laundry basket kind of dresser. I do try to have a bit of fun with it though, mix up prints and patterns.

What trend do you hate?
Z: Those stupid foot-glove shoes that have the individual toe sections. I hate them passionately.

What’s your lust-have for autumn/winter?

L: Grey sweatshirts.
Z: A nice warm wool jacket.

Who are your favourite designers?
Z: I don’t really have one. I’m neither here nor there about labels.
L: I love Kmart. I got this sweatshirt there yesterday for $9.
Z: And he hasn’t taken it off since.
L: I think I’m going to buy another one.

Where do you seek inspiration?
L: I just go with whatever the kids are wearing. Damn kids are trendy these days.
Z: I actually really love Japanese fashion at the moment and looking at the way they clash prints.

Do you have a go-to item in your wardrobe?
L: Grey sweatshirts.
Z: Love a comfy knit, and black jeans. Can’t go past a good pair of black jeans. They go with everything.

 

Words by Adeshola Ore

The University of Melbourne is launching a new program focusing on asylum seekers. The Melbourne Refugee Studies Program will include education programs and evidence-based discussions. The multidisciplinary initiative will also create an Australia refugee studies collection, including fact sheets, policy briefs, study guides and records of refugee policies. It will aim to engage the university community and wider public in discussions about  asylum seeker issues.

Associate Professor Harry Minas is involved with designing the program. He said the initiative would generate discussions about Australia’s asylum seeker policy.

Professor Minas, who works at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Heath, described the program as having an “initial very clear focus” on asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

He said the research program aims to move beyond the bickering of the differing opinions on asylum seekers and instead form a discussion based on evidence.

The idea for a refugee program was introduced after a roundtable discussion on the issues was held at the Parkville campus last year in October. Student interest in refugee issues also prompted discussion.

Enrolments in refugee-related subjects at the university experience high student numbers. The multidisciplinary breadth subject Human Rights and Global Justice, which examines refugee issues, regularly records hundreds of undergraduate enrolments. The Melbourne Law School also has high enrolment numbers in subjects about refugee law.

“There are a whole lot of initiatives that students are taking—there are various groupings that have formed around the issue of asylum seekers,” Professor Minas said.

Professor Minas said the research information can contribute to research interests for Masters and PhD students. For undergraduate students, a breadth subject will be developed to allow students to gain an awareness of refugee issues. Students will also have a chance to be a part of the program through involvement in policy direction and program events.

The Refugee Studies Program is still in the process of being developed.

Words by Gajan Thiyagarajah

Every year, university summer holidays leave the Parkville campus vacant for floods of VCE students.

The 2014 VCE Summer School (VCESS) took place from 6-17 January, run by over 150 university student volunteers from around the state.

Established in 1971 at the University of Melbourne, VCESS is an academic program for Year 11 and 12 students, to help prepare them for their VCE subjects. The students also participate in extra-curricular activities, including trivia, a scavenger hunt, and a beach day.

2014 VCE student Hayley Kebbell saw VCESS as an opportunity to meet like-minded students. “My favourite part about the program would be the balanced approach to education—we had the classes, and then we’d have workshops or activities, which I felt were a great way to break things up.”

Students from rural areas can apply for accommodation at the university’s residential colleges. One major focus of the program is to assist those from ‘under-represented schools’ with low annual enrolments at the University of Melbourne, or students that have otherwise faced disadvantage in their schooling, to ensure they have equal opportunity for tertiary admission.

The accessibility of the program was something that appealed to VCESS 2014 student Nicole Ng. “The other VCE programs I looked at were very expensive,” she said. VCESS starts from $190 for the two weeks.

For 2014 VCESS Director Cassie Futcher, who was employed alongside three co-directors, the challenges of a tight budget and working long hours on the program paid off. “I was motivated to be a director because I was keen to take on more responsibility for a program I deeply care about, and had been involved with for three years,” she said. “I wanted to do work with an altruistic focus but also to challenge myself to be involved in all aspects of a not-for-profit, from recruitment, to admin, to barbecues!”