Media releases

Students condemn the attack on student support by Senator Bernardi

18 Oct 17

Today the four peak national student representative bodies strongly condemn Senator Cory Bernardi’s attempt to attack student services and representation. The motion is to undermine the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) that funds a majority of support and services on Australian campuses. As the national student representative bodies, we support the SSAF as an essential mechanism for the funding of services not provided by universities.

 It has long been the position of the peak bodies that students associations should oversee how the student services and amenities is spent. Currently, students directly decide where their funds are spent through annual democratic elections. The only time students do not get a say is when universities keep the SSAF to themselves or student unions are shut down in place of an appointed board.

This is a clear attack on student unions across the country that already face serious financial pressure. Student unions use the SSAF to provide essential student support including counselling, employment and training programs, legal support, leadership development along with many other services.

CAPA, NUS, and NATSIPA condemns Senator Bernardi’s motion and calls upon the Senate to protect students and student unions.

CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says:

“Postgraduate students at universities across the country rely on the services provided by their student unions and associations, and without the SSAF these bodies would cease to function as we know them, with most if not all being forced to shut down or severely curtail their operations. This includes the meals, legal assistance and academic advocacy which for many students make the difference between continuing and excelling in their studies and being forced to drop out.”

 NUS National President Sophie Johnston says:

“SSAF is the only pool of funding that guarantees student support and services are well-funded and accessible within our universities. Education already seems to be at the bottom of the barrel for our politicians in a time of serious employment and wage uncertainty for young Australians. We’ve seen nothing but short-term, tinkering-at-the-edges policy from our parliament and attacking SSAF is just another illogical move with no real gains.”

 NATSIPA National President Sadie Heckenberg says:

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are already facing major hurdles that directly affect our ability to access and retain higher education. Cuts to HEPPP, proposed cuts to Away From Base funding, possible fees for pathways programs and severe slashing of vital services such as ITAS tutoring makes an alienating environment that much more overwhelming. SSAF allows student representative bodies to create safe spaces for students within this environment. SSAF gives our students lifesaving services. Gives our student unions and associations the ability to be there and support their fellow students. Why take away what little we have left? Why take away something that saves lives?”

CISA Vice-President Ahmed Ademoglu says:
“Student experience is an important aspect of international education in Australia. Many international students finish their degrees with great moments from the activities and support they receive from their institutions and SSAF funding is the major asset towards this experience.”

END

For Comment:

 CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire E: president@capa.edu.au P: 0435 047 817

NUS National President, Sophie Johnston E: president@nus.asn.au P: 0411 606 808

NATSIPA President, Sadie Heckenberg E: president@natsipa.edu.au P: 0422 945 837

CISA Vice-President, Ahmed Ademoglu E: vicepresident@cisa.edu.au