The Institute (WAIT) Board of Management recognised there was a lack of community amongst the students and made the steps towards establishing a student union. At 6:45pm on 11th February 1969, the first Student Guild took office, comprising of a Guild Council and associated activities council and sports council. This was not without unanticipated obstacles, including the lack of legislative provision in the WAIT Act as well as Sir Charles Court’s State Government strongly objecting to compulsory Guild membership.
The Student Guild’s voice reached a level of formality in 1971 when amendments were made to the WAIT Act to allow student representation on Council and some boards. This has allowed the student representatives to have input into the planning and running of courses and WAIT activities, later changed to Curtin University of Technology, and now Curtin University as we know it.
Peter Quinn on conscription (Vice-President and then President of the Student Guild in the early 1970s. )
Since its inception in 1969, the Guild’s portfolio and responsibilities have expanded to include such services as student housing, childcare, and Student Assist. A newly built Guild House was opened in 1977, which provided low-cost accommodation to 150 students and was closely followed by the first student referendum on amenities fees and campaigns against parking fees. During the late 1970’s the Government tried to make advances towards enforcing voluntary student unionism (VSU) to subdue student’s voices in higher education. In 1979, the Guild President took an extraordinary measure of halting all Guild operations. This led to students becoming more aware of the Guild’s significant role in services and a unified group of 1,000 students protested at the Government’s attempt to restrict student organisations. During this time, the Guild took up campaigns related to Vietnam, police brutality, the Palestine Liberation Organization, apartheid, and gay rights. The Guild also staged a protest occupation of Robertson library when students were promised extended opening hours but the administration rescinded these promises.
Threats to changes in student fees are nothing new to the Guild, having proudly represented and fought to maintain a clear and fair structure of fees for both local and international students.
In the 1990’s the Guild was involved the infamous ‘Fight up-front fees’ campaign in which approximately twenty calm students scared the Vice-Chancellor into organising police patrols on campus.
In the following decade, reviews of Higher Education were conducted by the Federal Government and the Guild was heavily involved in campaigning against increased HECS fees and domestic full fee paying places. Although the legislation was passed in favour of increasing student fees, campaigns at Curtin helped lead the university to a positive decision for students, by keeping the status quo for 2005. The issue of fees raised its ugly head again in 2017 when the Federal Government proposed cuts to Higher Education Funding, which the Guild openly opposed led by the current Guild President, Liam O’Neill.
The Guild has a colourful history with the University with regards to increase with fee hikes and changing parking regulations. Perhaps the most entertaining demonstration against parking changes was the parking protests of 1971-2 which saw every parking sign on campus ripped up and ceremoniously dumped into the lake.
In more recent years, the Guild succeeded in influencing the University to leave the exam weeks as free parking on campus; including a petition as well as multiple meetings with Curtin University on the matter. After a lengthy campaign referring to the parking fees during these weeks as a ‘study tax’, the University conceded and removed the fees in only in exam weeks. The Guild had another win in 2016 succeeding in stifling the Universities attempt to increase parking fees for 2017.
Due to the actions of the Student Guild, the WAIT Council provided a grant to establish the Council Child-care facilities in1974. In 1980, a protest group occupied the Administration Building due to concerns about the inadequate provision of childcare on campus, specifically relating to restrictions around access and services at the centre.
Originally operated by the University, the management of the Centre was transferred to the Guild in 1985 for a leased period; but even before being responsible for the Childcare Centre operations, the Guild was advocating for the extension of Childcare hours (see attached pic from Grok). After the Guild took responsibility for the Childcare Centre the University agreed to provide in-kind support stating that it was: “the University commitment to facilitate the provision of child care facilities on Bentley Campus for students and staff. This commitment is in line with the University’s objectives”. This commitment aligned with the renovations of Building 002, allowing the amount of places at the Child Care Centre to increase. Unfortunately, due to ongoing costs and an increase in the lease agreement in 2008, the Childcare centre was returned to the University. The Guild does continue to support Childcare through the SSAF funded Childcare Assistance Grant which is designed to assist Curtin students who experience an occasional and unexpected childcare need. The grant allows these students to place their children in care while attending class, practicums, exams, or supervisor meetings.
The Guild’s Retail outlets have continued to expand since the early 2000s. The initial offerings from the Guild followed the trends of the era such as “The Sports Store” which quickly became one of the most frequented shops on campus as well as “Megazone” the gaming and pool arcade (see pic – the Megazone building now houses the Guild’s staff, both Governance and Student Executive), as well as previous operations including a Tool Library and a Guild Emporium. The Second Hand Bookshop, later to be renamed Bookends has also been a staple for almost thirty years, while Copy and Design have provided on campus photocopying and printing services since the 90’s. The year 2007 saw a shakeup of retail offerings as “Curtin Concept” replaced the Sports Store & “The Spot” took the space formerly occupied by Copy and Design as they replaced “Megazone”, and IT Works was added in 2008 taking up a former club space. The Spot has since become famous for its extensive Lolly Wall which is a hit with both staff and students.
In 2010 to meet shifting student needs and space constraints, IT Works & Curtin Concept amalgamated in their present location, while the Concept store was taken over by “Concept Cafe”. The premium location of Curtin Concept and Bookends now forms the backbone of the Guild’s retail future aka the "G-Mart" ushering in a streamlined and new look and one stop shop for Guild commercial offerings.
The Tavern has, of course, played an enormous role at the Guild in terms of creating meaningful and memorable student experiences as the intellectual and cultural hub of the university. With a strong focus on supporting local artists, the Tavern staged has been graced by acts such as The Novocaines, Eskimo Joe and Something with Numbers.
Two of the largest events of the calendar year are Mid-Semester Bash and End of Semester Bash of which the former has been renamed and reimagined as “Grasslands”. The Grasslands festival features a showcase of both local and national talent carefully curated by the Activities Vice President and facilitated by the Tavern; having become a widely celebrated milestone each year.
More recently, the student experience has been supported by smaller and more intimate events run in collaboration with the individual divisions within the Guild (Queer Department, Women’s Department, and Indigenous Department etc.)
A long standing partnership with the University is the Guild’s ongoing contribution and support to the annual Orientation Week celebrations including logistics support and the famous O-Day featuring Guild clubs and representatives as well as the Student Assist team. One incredibly memorable event was the 2014 Rollerama which saw a temporary roller-skating rink installed in the Guild courtyard for the whole Curtin Community to enjoy.
When the Student Services and Amenities fees were introduced in 2010, the Guild argued that students having to pay the compulsory fee alongside Guild membership would negatively impact the uptake of services that the Guild offered and the numbers of Guild members it serves to represent. The University now has a long standing agreement with The Curtin Student Guild to provide 50% of the SSAF to the organisation. For that reason, Guild membership has been free for students since 2015.
In early 2017, the Guild adopted a new logo and branding theme to bring together the different aspects of the Guild under a common theme. The equity departments include the Women’s Department, Queer Department, International Student Committee, Postgraduate Student Committee, and the Indigenous Department. Just as they always have since the Guild’s establishment, elected student representatives who make up the Guild Council sit on advisory committees to the University and are involved in key decision making processes across all faculties.
Though almost 50 years have passed since the establishment of the Guild, the vision, values, and objectives remain the same. Student representation will always be a core focus of the Guild, continuing to provide support through Student Assist, and offering affordably priced food and beverage at the Guild’s commercial outlets.
 White, Michael. 1996. WAIT to Curtin : a history of the Western Australian Institute of Technology. Perth: Paradigm Books.