Education Officer’s Report – Week 5, Sem 1, 2016

Liam Carrigan and Dylan Griffiths

On the 6th of April, Education Action Group members staged a peaceful protest at the Howard Cup upon discovering that Higher Education Minister Simon Birmingham would be in attendance. Previously, Birmingham had confirmed that after being placed on hold fee deregulation remained government policy alongside media reports that a 20% cut to federal funding, a 10% spike in HECS interest, lowering the HECS repayment threshold and collecting the debt of dead students could all also feature in the upcoming budget.
As students, we do not want to let these attacks go unnoticed or stand back silently and let accessible, quality education be destroyed in this country. We converged outside the event at Fisher in solidarity with the marginalized and working class students who would be locked out of education should these horrific policies pass.
Upon being refused entry, we began to chant peacefully and affirmed that while we would not resist anyone entering we believed it essential that we protest the event as is within our rights. Unfortunately the organizers or riot cops – called preemptively to our arrival – did not agree. Within fifteen minutes we were violently removed from the scene by police. Multiple students were pushed, shoved, trampled, lifted by all fours and treated with excessive and cruel force. We had the right to be in our library on our terms and we have the right to mobilize for our rights. It’s pretty telling that the state will go to any length to silence students in their fight for a better future.
Maybe it’s because we have won before – students united have never been defeated. On our campus we won the fight against the cutting of 300 jobs, stood with staff during the strikes and are currently waging a campaign against the neoliberal restructuring of our University. Nationally, in 2014 and 2015 we beat back fee deregulation through a united student movement and strong leadership from the left that saw thousands mobilize and similar stunts to our protest at Fisher last night.
We have similar fights ahead, that will require a reenergized and militant student movement. The University recently released its 2016-2020 Strategic Plan. Once the bullshit has been waded through it presents itself as little more then a framework for the corporatization and neoliberalisation of our campus and its community over the next four years. There are indications of staff and course cuts, a willingness to allow the private sector to fund our University and degree restructuring that will increase student debt significantly. On a national scale we need similar mobilizations to those seen in 2014. On April 13th NSW will be partaking in the National Day of Action with a student speak out at Fisher Library in anticipation for and to support building a mass student mobilization against the budget in May.
It’s never been a better or more essential time to get involved in the fight back against attacks on education. Join the Education Action Group at 2pm on the New Law Lawns – we have proven we can still make a scene!

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