In 2017, the Curtin Student Guild wrote to the University requesting a mandatory online consent and appropriate behaviour training module in response to ‘Respect.Now.Always’ – a national campaign to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault across the university sector. Former Education Vice President, Nicola Gulvin said that changing attitudes was always challenging but it was important to develop a culture where everyone understood that sexual harassment was not tolerated and that sexual assault was a crime. During 2018, the Guild’s student representatives formed a working party to create the content for the “Respectful Relationships” module to raise awareness of respectful relationships, sexual consent and bystander interventions. Starting Semester 2, 2019, the one-hour program will be compulsory for all students and available through Curtin’s online learning platform with interactive modules that can be completed individually or in groups. Guild President Finlay Nolan said she is hopeful that the consent module will help to clarify and ensure that everyone in the Curtin community is on the same page about consent and respect.
In 2019, the Guild started a “First-Year Committee” where first years from each Faculty are appointed to gather feedback on what incoming Curtin students want to know and how the Guild can work to improve their first-year experience. Initiatives that have already been rolled out include a “First-Year Handbook/Checklist” provided for Semester 2 O-Day in both digital and print versions.
2019 was the first year that the Guild successfully attained Curtin Extra recognition for both paid and unpaid Guild Representatives. Eligible representatives can now complete the modules and program hours to have their contribution to the Guild acknowledged on their transcript upon graduation.
In Semester 2, 2019, the Guild will host the first-ever clubs conference which will bring together all Guild affiliated clubs for one day to provide training to club committees on the following topics:
• Collaborating with stakeholders
• Giving back to the wider community.
• Developing valuable products and services for members;
• Building and motivating a high-performing team;
• Diversifying a portfolio of partnerships;
• Increasing membership and event engagement;
• Executing effective fundraising/volunteering/mentoring;
• Crafting a personal brand and setting a leadership vision
In semester 1, 2019, the Curtin Guild participated in the international movement of school students who skipped classes and instead took part in demonstrations to call for political action on climate change. Striking students closed St Georges Terrace as part of a climate change protest before marching towards Elizabeth Quay. Traffic was blocked on St Georges Terrace in both directions from Barrack to Pier Streets. The students also staged a sit-in on the corner of the Esplanade and Williams Street. Another climate protest has been planned for semester 2 as part of the National Union of Students National Day of Action, taking place on August 9th.
On August 9th, 2019 the Curtin Guild participated in the NUS’ National Day of Action which culminated in a University Climate Walkout where university students walked off their campuses in protest against the government’s inaction on climate change. Hundreds of students gathered at Forrest Place at noon and marched down St George's Terrace towards the QV1 building, the headquarters of oil and gas giant Chevron. At QV1, students chanting anti-Adani and anti-fracking slogans were met with a heavy police presence, including officers on foot, bikes and horses, and the Regional Operations Group. The group called on the government to invest into renewable energy sources, create sustainable jobs for a green economy and ban fracking and nuclear projects in WA. The Curtin Guild was successful in mobilising students but also making sure that those missing classes for the rally would not be penalised, with Curtin University issuing and OCC to all students regarding the actions taking place and the concessions being made for students to allow them to attend.
Student Voice is a collaboration between 10 tertiary education institutions across Australia that aims to encourage and enhance genuine and authentic student partnership. The Guild’s involvement in creating stronger relationships to improve student partnerships with the University is taking shape with an Institutional Analysis Workshop taking place in August. This workshop will provide an in-depth look at Curtin’s current practices of student partnership and investigate ways Curtin can improve in this respect.
In Semester 1, 2019 the Guild ran a campaign during the federal election regarding issues that affect students and young people. The objectives of the campaign were:
• To engage more young people in politics and get them informed about the policies affecting their lives, as well as engaging the broader community with issues that will affect young people;
• To demand that the political parties adopt adequate policies on a number of areas
• Communicate to our target audiences which policies are likely to have positive impacts on students and young people, and
• To hold the elected government to account The Guild ran a social media and on-campus campaign to demand that political action was taken on issues that affect young people and students.
The demands were:
• Urgent action on climate change
• The establishment of a National Taskforce into Sexual Assault and Harassment on university campuses
• Tangible steps to improve the welfare of students and young people
• A fully funded, equitable, and accessible higher education system
Actions included encouraging students to enrol to vote, phone-banking, a push for students to attend the School Strike 4 Climate, a candidate’s forum, and a petition outlining the demands of students and young people.
The Curtin Student Guild has designed a Phase 1 Pilot for a Course Representation system to be trialled in the Faculty of Science and Engineering starting in semester 2, 2019. The ultimate goal of the project would be to expand the system across all Faculties and establish a wider network of student representatives to enhance the quality of the student experience at Curtin. The Course Representatives will act as an interface between students on a grassroots level and higher authorities in the Guild and within the Faculty. Their responsibilities will include communication with students in their course, relaying concerns to the relevant authority, and attending their appropriate Student Consultative Committee (SCC) Faculty meeting.
In March 2019, the Guild collaborated with the Muslim Students Association and Curtin Socialists to put together a speak-out in response to the Islamophobic terrorist attack in Christchurch. Participation from the Guild was important to demonstrate institutional support for Muslim students.
In February 2019, the Faculty of Science & Engineering at Curtin University released a change proposal which outlined new workplace staffing requirements in response to a decline in enrolments. It proposed a significant reduction in the staff numbers across the School, particularly affecting the Kalgoorlie campus. Numerous students enrolled in the WA School of Mines contacted Curtin Student Guild with concerns about their units. These concerns included difficulties and delays in accessing learning materials, lack of supervision, and a lack of feedback for submitted assessments. A Student Assist Officer visited the Kalgoorlie campus to speak to students and staff to determine how the change process had impacted students. A report on the findings at the campus was prepared and submitted to key University staff. Finlay Nolan - Guild President and other Representatives met with the Provost, the Head of School, and Dean of Learning and Teaching in the faculty who were willing to work on the recommendations provided by the Guild. While the implementation process of the change was not ideal or positive, the Guild President was satisfied that the University’s response to the Guild’s recommendations would work towards resolving many of the issues that had impacted students negatively.
In keeping with the Guild’s policy on Australia Day, the Guild launched another campaign in 2019 boycotting the 26th of January. For the last 2 years, the Guild’s office-based staff and Executive team have been invited to work on the Australia Day public holiday to demonstrate the Guild will not support a public holiday that is needlessly and blatantly disrespectful. The Curtin Student Guild was the first student union in the country to do so. The Guild also organised a contingent of Guild representatives to attend the Invasion Day rally that was held in the city. The Guild also petitioned the Town of Victoria Park to no longer celebrate Australia Day on the 26th of January, and to instead consider following the footsteps of Councils like the City of Fremantle Council in developing a different day of celebration for the community.
In Semester 2, 2019 the Guild’s Faculty Representatives began their annual review of unit outlines across their faculties. They will be responsible for auditing unit outlines to ensure that they adhere to the new assessment policies and no students are unfairly disadvantaged by any prohibited requirements. They will then provide feedback to their faculty on the adherence to policy and the quality of the unit outlines provided.
Aiming to start in 2020, this year’s Guild Representatives are in the process of establishing a Student Housing Advisory Committee to provide an opportunity for the Guild to consult with Curtin’s student housing students. The Committee will meet twice per semester and will provide a forum for students who live on campus to give feedback to the Guild on the welfare of housing students in order for the Guild to advocate on their behalf, while also providing information for these students on how to access the Guild’s services. An annual survey will be distributed to obtain feedback from housing students regarding any issues or concerns they may have.
In April 2019, the Curtin Student Guild had the opportunity to provide a submission to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Mental Health, with a specific focus on how mental health issues affect student populations in the higher education sector. Alongside other student representative organisations like CAPA, the Guild’s response focused on the need for a full-system response - one that universities and the government must work together collaboratively to achieve. Students need affordable housing, increased income support, better funding for education, less debt after university, improved employment outcomes, lower repayment thresholds, and accessible and fair access to education. Ultimately, the prevalence of mental health issues amongst students will continue to limit their academic success and stifle their potential until these issues are addressed.
In 2019, the Guild endeavoured to undertake an analysis of its events and activities on campus. In an attempt to improve student consultation, the Guild has issued a number of post-event/activity surveys to find out how events and activities on campus can be improved and what feedback or insight students can provide in order to expand the offerings of events and activities on campus.
Celebrating the Guild’s 50th year of representing students, 2019 has been the year of commemorating the achievements and successes of the Guild in the time since its establishment. A number of celebratory initiatives have already taken place across the year including:
• A Guild President’s Reunion
• Donut giveaways (Over 10,000+ free donuts given away!)
• First 50 Freebies in Guild Cafes and outlets
• Former Guild President interviews
• Guild historical photos in Concept Café
• The 50 Year Club Mega Challenge
• Free birthday cake and cupcakes
• The Guild’s 50th Birthday Party themed Tav event
Motivated by student concerns about environmental sustainability, the Curtin Student Guild has swapped close to 100% of its food packaging to biodegradable and compostable products. Over the past 12 months, the Guild has replaced plastic takeaway containers with carbon-neutral packages made from sugarcane pulp, a renewable by-product of sugar refining, and has introduced eco-friendly coffee cups and cutlery. At the same time, the Guild has introduced bioplastic cups for cold drinks, sustainable straws, recyclable cardboard trays for student favourites such as burgers and compostable and recyclable containers for sushi which is made and packaged on-site every day.
In the first half of 2019, Equality Australia launched a community statement in support of religious discrimination freedoms which was signed by the Curtin University Centre for Human Rights Education. Curtin’s Queer Department fully supports the right to freedom from religious discrimination, however, the Department took the stance that it was not an appropriate time the University to participating in a debate in the wake of events relating to Israel Folau and the resulting public push for greater protections of queerphobic rhetoric under the guise of religious freedom. In response, the Queer Department drafted and distributed an open letter to express its concern for the Curtin University Centre for Human Rights Education’s co-signing of Equality Australia’s community statement in support of religious discrimination protections.
In Semester 1, 2019 several Illustration Unit students got in touch with the Guild over some confusion regarding their artwork being used on construction scaffolding, new developments on campus and also inside buildings without permission, recognition or notification. Upon investigation, this was a clear breach of Curtin’s IP Policy, as these assignments were not considered a ‘University Project’ – which would grant anything created by the students as the property of Curtin University. The issue was pursued by the Guild’s Humanities Faculty Representative, Michael Farrell, who was successful in communicating with Curtin’s campus artwork teams to implement a more transparent model where students will now be better informed about how their artwork will be used and how their assignments will affect their personal artwork privacy.
In Semester 1, 2019, a student notified the Guild that a Journalism unit was starting to implement weekly grade-weighted quizzes which were not indicated on the unit outline issued at the beginning of the semester. The student described this as a disregard for student welfare as it was not fair to expect students to be able to attend every class if it had not previously been stipulated in the unit outline. The Guild’s Humanities Faculty Representative, Michael Farrell raised the issue with key Humanities Faculty staff who conducted an investigation into all schools to determine whether this practice was widespread. Unfortunately, semester one students were still subjected to the against-policy practise of weekly quizzes outside of their stipulated unit outline, but semester two students would be spared from having to undergo the same expectation. This further demonstrates a need for students to scrutinise their unit outlines and also provide feedback to the Guild and their faculty on assessments or requirements that are not reflected in their unit outline.
In Semester 2, 2019, the Guild launched its involvement with the RTRNA Reusable Cup Network which is a is a zero waste reusable cup network to fight coffee cup waste. The cup network allows students to pay a small deposit for a cup when ordering at a Guild café which allows them to take the cup home with them, bring the cup back next time to be reused, exchange it for a new cup or get a refund on their deposit.