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National Education and NOWSA Conference- tips and tricks for student campaigners

July 12, 2012

The National Union of Students held their annual Education Conference this week (4-6 July). The conferences saw debate and panelists including Lee Rhiannon and Doug Cameron and representatives from Amnesty, Jumbunna Idigenous House of Learning and the NSW Teacher’s Federation. As well as this there were a number of workshops run by student leaders from across the country. The following week i attended a conference held by the Network of Women Students Association (NOWSA). The following blog is my compilation of things i learnt, found, shared throughout these few days and i have written it over the time of the conferences. I did this in a hope to share important campaigning information with those who weren’t as lucky or privileged to get to experience the conference as i was able to.

Tip 1- LINNK YOUR FACEBOOK TO TWITTER

We all know how important social media is to a campaign, make life a little easier and link Facebook to your groups twitter. This means if twitter falls flat at least there will be some activity from what is posted on Facebook. This is something i leanrt so i am still getting a hang of how to use it but this is the app i found! http://www.facebook.com/faceboktwitter It worked really well and I have already started using it with the UOWYoungGreens twitter (follow us!).

Tip 2- TICKET YOUR EVENTS

If you have an event and want to advertise for it, why not have people ‘buy’ a ticket or if it’s a free event ‘obtain’ a ticket. This is a way to give people a tangible reminder that your event is on. Many websites will organise a ticket system for absolutely free and it just adds a layer to your advertising for an event. I haven’t trailed any websites yet but i’ve been told this one is good- http://www.greentix.com.au/

Interesting Debate- WHITE PRIVILEGE

White Privilege Checklist – the checklist on this blog was provided to students at the conference. I later attended a workshop called “Playing the Race Card” that discussed white privilege and a debate naturally arose. I think by the end it was agreed that there is privilege within certain groups. Personally, I found going through this checklist that a number of these things applied to myself and started to think what it would be like if i didn’t have this privilege. Now imagining I didn’t have the ability to do the things in the checklist i suddenly see how hard it might be to engage with student campaigns let alone live a happy and safe life. If you have the time take a look at the checklist and see what privilege you have and that others may not.

Observation- Lee Rhiannon v Doug Cameron

I was very excited to see a debate between Lee Rhiannon and Doug Cameron. I had seen Lee debate and speak on numerous occasions so i will be honest and say what i was most looking forward to was hearing Doug Cameron. I was very disappointed! I thought Lee spoke amazingly and not just because i am a greens tragic but Doug seemed to use all his time making digs at the Greens and criticising what Lee had said with nothing to back up his statements. I don’t want you to take away from this anything bad about Doug Cameron, you should make up your own mind I guess what it reminded me was that when you build people up it’s pretty disappointing when they turn out to be something else entirely! Maybe best to stop putting people on such high pedestals.

Women and social media-

I saw an incredibly eye-opening presentation at NOWSA by Nina Funnel, a truly inspiring woman, who spoke about social media. Here are some facts from that presentation-

  •  58% of twitter users are female, but only 13% of Wikipedia users. Important as Wikipedia is a reference to nearly everything and it is clearly skewed to a male interpretation
  • Girls today start dieting, on average, at ten years old
  • Dove who are so well-known for their campaigns about loving yourself no matter your body shape or size are owned by the same company as lynx who have possibly the most sexist advertising on television and print media today
  • there is no disney movie where the main female character has a female companion- they only have small animals as friends. Why? because adding another women would lead to competition

Cool findings-

I just adore this video, and hopefully it’s a nice end to my blog 🙂 hope you found something useful, if you had different experiences this conference season comment below and this can grow!

How to Destroy Regional NSW, Break Election Promises and Sell Your Environmental Conscience to the Highest Bidder

July 7, 2012

The following article was published in the second edition of the Tertangala, UOW’s student magazine, in early 2012.

A lot has happened in state politics since the coalition government was elected last year, particularly in regards to regional NSW. The following is a step-by-step guide inspired by the Liberal/National parties’ all-out assault on regional NSW.

Step 1- create a false sense of security

Firstly win their trust; lull them into believing that you will protect their livelihoods. For regional NSW this includes promising that productive farmland will be preserved from the ever-encroaching coal and coal seam gas industries. In the last state election the National Party released their strategic regional land-use policy and promised that if elected they would “[reform] mining and coal seam gas legislation to protect strategic agricultural land and associated water resources”.

Secondly, ignore all controversial issues that could lead to making promises that cannot be kept. Plan on reversing a 26-year-old moratorium on uranium mining in NSW? Make sure you tell the voters AFTER you are elected.

Step 2- Keep up the façade

Stick to your guns. If asked in question time about any of the controversial issues you have been ignoring during the election, it is best to straight out lie. Take for example John Robertson’s question for Premier Barry O’Farrell: was the government considering “repealing the long-standing ban on uranium mining and exploration in New South Wales?” Answer “no”, as Barry did. Don’t sat anything more; the public trusts you – make the most of it!

When the time comes to deliver on election commitments, pretend to hold a consultation process. This process needs to be long and arduous, ensuring that lobby groups from both sides of the debate, including the NSW Association of Mining Related Councils, Total Environment Centre, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and the NSW Minerals Council, feel like they are being listened to. Be careful the mining companies fund your campaigns and you can invite them to your fundraising cooking classes (Duncan Gay, the Minister for Roads and Ports, received thousands last election cycle for just that).

Step 3- Reverse your policies one step at a time

Do not immediately back-flip on a policy- that would be lunacy! Do it gradually and no-one will notice. Barry O’Farrell has mastered this technique. A 26-year-old moratorium on uranium mining is not easily overturned. That’s why the NSW government is getting rid of it in small steps starting with passing a bill on March 7 that allows for the exploration of uranium in NSW. That’s one small step for policy, and one giant leap for the mining industry. Radiometric data has already located uranium deposits at both Broken Hill and Toongi (near Dubbo) but exploration will allow for the chance to discover how much money can be made from mining uranium in NSW, while also giving time to work out the next stage of Barry’s plan to back-flip on this policy and allow mining. The next step: announce that if uranium is found a sensible discussion will take place about whether to exploit this resource while contaminating the local land and water. If people start doubting your bona fide concern for the state’s interests, this reframing of the discussion should help shut down their bleating.

Be vague regarding strategic land use plans, giving the appearance that something is being done to deter destructive mining practices. Rather than locking the gate to mining companies, as farmers, environmentalists and the people of regional NSW would like you to, simply leave it ajar. If someone wants access to the land, say a coal seam gas mining company like APEX, all they need to do is give the gate a little push.

Step 4- Hope for the best that no one finds out

As a wealthy elite you are burdened with a privileged upbringing that includes an extensive private school education. Swallow your elitist pride, don’t assume that regional NSW is full of fool sand unintelligent morons. In fact, they deserve more credit than the Liberal/National Parties give them, and are standing alongside environmental activists in a plot to thwart your plans to sell their food basins and water catchments to your greedy buddies in the mining industry.

While this piece is satirical, the threat of uranium, coal and coal seam gas mining turning regional NSW into one giant quarry is very real. If you want ot get involved in the campaign against this, here’s how:

Environment Collective

Meetings: 12:30 Wednesday, Duckpond Lawn

Facebook: UOW Enviro Collective

Young Greens

Contact: greens.uow@gmail.com

Facebook: UOW Young Greens

Stop CSG Illawarra

Contact: info@stop-csg-illawarra.org

Facebook: Stop CSG Illawarra

Students Say No to Coal Seam Gas

March 4, 2012

A new year has just began at the University of Wollongong and kicking it off was a week more important than any other, Week zero or as its more commonly known O-WEEK. O-Week is a chance for new students to discover the social side of the university that will consume at least the next 3 years of their life but also a chance for existing students to engage their community in a number of clubs and societies. The UOW Young Greens were among those clubs who spent the three days greeting new students, with a message more important than improving membership and that was the need to immediately place a moratorium on coal seam gas drilling and exploration. With a stall and banners around campus the UOW Young Greens began what will now be a continuing campaign in which students get their chance to tell the government and the coal seam gas companies what they expect as members of this democracy.

The concept of the ‘Students say no to coal seam gas’ campaign is to give students a chance to collectively express their views on coal seam gas. Rather than signing a petition young people take a photo with a chalkboard containing a message. These messages range from ‘Unfrack the world’ to messages that are more specific, even “UOW young labor say no to CSG”. The point of this campaign, while being run by young greens, is to unite students from every political background around the issue of stopping the toxic CSG drills soon to destroy the land and our future. You will see from the photos below that students from a range of collectives have been involved, including-

UOW Environment club

UOW Young Labor

UOW United Nations Club

Environment Sustainability Initiative Unit

As well as over 100 individuals including Cr Bede Crasnich (liberal) a student at the university. These photos were all uploaded to the UOW Young Greens facebook page that can be seen here http://www.facebook.com/uow.greens The photos have also been compilated into the following collage that will be made larger as the year progresses.

It was interesting to listen to students talk about Coal Seam Gas. It helped me realise two main things. 1. the campaign against coal seam gas is truly reaching a wide range of individuals, students from a range of faculties and political backgrounds approached us to discuss the issue, i think the great parts of the campaign against CSG are summed up in this blog by Justin Field (Lock the Gate and The Greens) http://justinfield.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/coal-seam-gas-a-community-campaign-like-never-before/ . 2. A lot of young people we approached still had no idea about coal seam gas, which is disappointing to hear at a university (even from a 2nd year geology student).  This campaign is still developing and input is very much appreciated! the main question at the moment is what to do with the photos? of course the most important thing is that they are tagged and shared on social media but the UOW young greens are also thinking it would be great to make a book out of smaller collages and send them to Barry O’Farrell. Comment below please if you have any ideas.

Coming up at UOW is a screening of the documentary Gasland held by the UOW Environment Collective tomorrow (tuesday) at 6:30 for more information have a look at the envirofilms facebook page http://www.facebook.com/EnviroFilms 

Now is a time more important than ever for young people to get involved and coal seam gas is an issue that requires this immediately. It is our future and it is our right to be consulted on how land is used in this country, it is about time young people stand up and say that the safety of water and land is not for fracking sale! Stay tuned as the campaign continues throughout 2012!

Don’t talk about us, without us!

February 20, 2012

If you were at UOW last year you would have had the pleasure of experiencing a student election. This meant you got to laugh at our genius banners, listen to enlightening student debate and log on to take part in true democracy (something like that at least). While we bared our souls and made small talk about upcoming exams we most certainly spoke to you about the Student Services and Amenities Fee and while many of you were outraged by the lack of funding received by the Wollongong Undergraduate Students Association, some of you who desperately wanted to listen to our SSAF spill, had a class you were rushing to try and catch. We all know how important being on time to a lecture is, especially when it’s WUSA election week. If you’re a first year, this is all just something you have to look forward to in second session. Regardless of what year you are in, you have one thing in common and that is that the University is about to start charging you $263 a year to improve student services. So, now that it is the start of session and there are no pressing assignments, you are in a perfect position to sit back with a latte and read about the $263 you are about to be charged and UOW’s great plan to ‘improve student services’- first step, a dodgy consultation process.

 What is SSAF? The Student Services Amenities Fee will come into effect this year after legislation was passed by the federal government in October 2011. The aim of this new fee is to improve student services across the country by charging students annually. I know many students think that this money will never actually enhance their participation on campus, and by the looks of the approach being taken by the UOW administration you might just be right.

 Before we look at what UOW wants to do with the $263, we will each be giving them next year lets have a look at the possibilities. These options were provided by the Department of Education for possible uses of money raised by the SSAF:

 

  • Enjoy cheap food? Or simply enjoy being able to afford food while struggling being a uni student? Well, the SSAF money can be used to subsidise food outlets or provide free barbeques, similar to those run by WUSA in O-week.

 

  • For those students interested in sport, the money could be used towards subsiding social sport as well as inter-university competitions including travel. This means if the University doesn’t unfairly limit students form attending Unigames (a whole other issue), those students selected to represent the university could be subsidized for their participation.

 

  • Mature age students, particularly women, often struggle with the price of childcare that they are required to pay to be able attend University. I think we can all agree, subsidizing these costs would be a great use of SSAF funding, funnily enough so does the department of education.

 

  • Other options include the funding of student magazine (are you enjoying your reading?) Or subsiding student accommodation, which is ridiculously high in the Illawarra.

 

Now, you’re possibly starting to think that this Fee might not be such a bad thing after all, but just wait because after you hear the UOW plan for your SSAF, you may be a little less excited.

 The government made sure students were consulted in decisions, and of course, being the law abiding institution that it is, UOW did just that. So, over the holidays, while we were all away enjoying our educational freedom and while your student association had little chance to talk to you, UOW ran their version of ‘consultation’. Hidden away on the University website right near SOLS, (you know that email we’ve all abandoned in hope of detaching ourselves from uni for the few months) is an online form asking you how you would like UOW to spend SSAF.  At a council meeting on Monday 30th January, Wollongong Undergraduate Students Association condemned the consultation process that lacked transparency and did not give students a real chance to decide how their money will be spent.

 Underneath this form is UOWS draft spending priorities and they are as follows-

SSA Fees should be spent on infrastructure, capital or other projects of a one-off nature”.

Beyond building new infrastructure, UOW has no plan to subsidise any of the above areas suggested by the Department of Education. While I’m sure the creation of a new “smart building” would be great for a handful of students, I know most students I spoke to during the election preferred the idea of subsidized food, parking, sport and childcare. This is exactly why the University has had such a hidden, and frankly pathetic, ‘consultation’ process, in case students actually expressed what they wanted and it did not fit into the pre-conceived UOW plan.

 

WUSA has operated in the past to assist in providing students with cheap food, events and student support. When funded in the past WUSA would regularly hold events, advocate on issues and link students to the University in a way that is no longer possible. UOW needs to take the time to listen to students and it needs to fund its students association so that student representation can exist at UOW the way it does at all other universities across the state, because uni is about more than just lectures and exams.

 

 

 

Uranium- leave it in the ground!

February 19, 2012

Uranium mining has a very dark history in Australia with one hope for New South Wales, the Uranium mining ban (Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Act 1986 No 194).  This act prohibits the exploration and mining of Uranium in New South Wales. As well as this it stops the construction or operation of nuclear power plants for power generation except for those run by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (Lucas Heights).  The legislation does allow for radiometric exploration. Radiometric data has already produced maps like this

 

This radiometric data has located a geological region rich in uranium and a rather large mineral deposit of Uranium at Toongi (25 km south of Dubbo) as well as smaller pockets of uranium mineral deposits North West of Grafton. The area of most interest is Dubbo. Dubbo is home to a large mineral deposit (found by radiometric exploration and when looking for other metals in the area). Just across the border in South Australia is Olympic dam – the world’s largest Uranium mine. The fact that Geoscience Australia has already provided information on the location of mineral deposits and uranium regions is important when looking at the changing rhetoric of the NSW Government.

 

The Barry O’Farrell Uranium Timeline

May, 2011- Federal resources minister Martin Ferguson announced his desire for New South Wales and Victoria to reverse their bans on uranium mining

Mid June, 2011- Chris Hartcher, NSW minister for Resources and Energy meets with chief executive of the Australian Uranium Association to discuss repealing the ban

August 2, 2011- Chris Hatcher is confronted about the Act and refuses to rule out overturning it

August 4, 2011- John Robertson, NSW Leader of the opposition, asks Barry O’Farrell in Question Time whether he would repeal the act to which Barry O’Farrell answered “NO”

August 5, 2011- Barry O’Farrell released a statement that the government is “not proposing to change the law on uranium mining in NSW”

December, 2011- Barry O’Farrell released a statement that the 25 year old ban “makes no sense” and insisted that Exploration should occur and that “cabinet will be considering [exploration] early in the new year”.

December, 2011- Barry O’Farrell emphasizes that decision to overturn ban would be for exploration purposes

February, 2012- Barry O’Farrell’s cabinet ticks off on the proposal to overturn the uranium ban

February 14, 2012- Chris Hartcher refutes calls that the NSW government back flipped on their uranium position and confirmed that if commercially viable uranium deposits were found they would consider mining

February 15, 2012- O’Farrell says that if uranium deposits are found there will be a “sensible discussion about utilising this resource”

 

The uranium mining ban is incredibly important for New South Wales. By looking at the impacts of other uranium mines around Australia we can see the incredibly toxic nature of uranium mining. Rum Jungle uranium mine is located in Northern Territory and has left a legacy of destruction to the Litchfield National Park. Problems with waste management of uranium tails as well as water contamination with radiological chemicals. Local waterways are yet to be rehabilitated and the Finnis River is still contaminated. In 2009 the federal government appointed an independent scientist to assess the damage of the Ranger uranium mine also located in Northern Territory. It was found that 10,000 liters of contaminated water was leaking from Ranger uranium mine on a daily basis. The federal government will spend $7 million over the next four years to determine how, if it is possible, we can rehabilitate local land, water and ecological communities of this mine.  The Ranger uranium mine was only recently closed down and anybody who believes that this industry can be regulated to maintain some level of environmental protection needs to note the 150 leaks, spills and license breaches made by the Ranger uranium mine that devastated the Kakadu National Park.

Olympic Dam uranium mine, the largest in the world, has been approved for expansion with a disposal strategy that spreads 70 million tones of waste across 44 square kilometers creating what has been described as a “radioactive waste dump”. A worker at the mine had measured polonium- 210 above acceptable health levels. Polonium- 210 is a toxic uranium by-product that is incredibly harmful to human health.

 

With these health, environmental, and economic factors it is laughable that the NSW government plans to open New South Wales to uranium mining. Barry O’Farrell’s backflip on the issue shows a complete lack of direction by the New South Wales government as it continues to back down to mining companies that are running rampant in New South Wales with Coal Seam Gas and coal mine expansions such as that at the Warkworth mine. The uranium prohibition act needs to stay in place or New South Wales is well on its way to becoming one giant quarry.