500 signatures reached
To: Australian Government and University Management
Powered by SSAF, Run by Students
For Commonwealth Government:
1. Restore Universal Student Unionism
2. Until Universal Student Unionism is achieved, legislate that all SSAF funds must go directly to democratically elected student unions.
3. Remove restrictions that dictate what SSAF can be spent on, allowing the money to be used not only for basic service provision, but also student activism and community-building work.
For University Management
1. Irrespective of legislation, direct all SSAF funds to democratically elected student unions.
2. Extend the length of student union funding agreements to a minimum of 5 years.
3. Publish in detail, all projects and services for which SSAF funds have been used since 2012.
Why is this important?
When properly funded, student unions can be both staunch advocates for young people and providers of essential services that many students depend on. As food insecurity continues to grow among young people, student unions can oversee subsidised canteens and free breakfasts. They can provide legal services, physical and mental health clinics, and support services. Since student unions are democratically run by students, they are also best placed to manage clubs and societies. They know university is about more than the classroom, and can deliver the student experience many of us have missed due to the pandemic. At the same time, student unions can continue their tradition of being an important political space, organising grassroots campaigns for things like climate justice, LGBT rights and free education. However, active and dynamic student unions are impossible without the proper funding, and across Australia, universities have been systematically underfunding student spaces for years.
In 2006, the Howard Government outlawed Universal Student Unionism (USU), where students were required to join their student union and pay a membership fee. This change decimated funding for student unions and caused many student organisations to fold. In 2012, the Federal Labor Government introduced the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) to mitigate the damage to student unions. SSAF is like USU in that students are forced to pay the fee, however importantly, this money no longer goes directly to student-controlled organisations. Instead, the university charges it and has no obligation to fund student unions. Today the vast majority of funding for student unions comes from SSAF revenue, however, universities have made it clear that they are fully prepared to reduce or fully withdraw funding on a whim. Without financial independence, their ability to fight for student interests is systematically undermined. Under threat of reduced funding, our organisations are told that a stable relationship between the student union and the university is vital. As in, don’t make trouble, don’t cause scenes, don’t do anything to ruin our relationship with management because we can’t afford it.
This system is an easy fix - the current legislation can be amended to mandate that all SSAF funds be directed to democratic student unions.
Students pay these fees. So students, not university management, should decide what they are spent on.