For those of you who have read my previous blogs Maintaining My Rage and Controlled Chaos you will know already that I am passionate about leaving the World better than when I found it. I am also passionate about legacy and passing on knowledge to the next generation hence the reason why I am a Scout Leader. But I am also a strong advocate for students at CQUniversity, of both the TAFE and Higher Education persuasion. I believe that all students should have a voice in the way their school is run, what services it provides and ensuring the school (even the local high school) keeps its focus on its students and not the press. That’s why I volunteer my time on the Student Representative Council (SRC) and Student Participation and Retention Committee (SPARC). So to that end I believe that a students voice should be comprised of three things; Advocacy, Reformation and Honesty.
Advocacy, in all of its forms, is the simple act of providing a voice, and subsequent defence, for someone who does not have one, or cannot be heard. I know this sounds like something from the Oxford Dictionary but it is true. As a nursing student we are taught from day one that we are the advocate for our patients, we are there to stand up for them to other medical staff and to defend them if we believe that a treatment plan for them is inappropriate or unwanted. My belief in advocacy is no different. On the SRC and SPARC my role is to ensure that issues of the student body in relation to campus life, retention, support, tutoring, mentoring, access to equipment, safety, or any other facet of student life is heard, and heard well. Thankfully both the SRC and SPARC either have the ear of members of staff who can effect change or are the body that makes up the majority of the committee. We have been empowered by the University to question, raise concern, hold to account and disagree with the decisions made by the University and propose better solutions for the students. This in turn brings around good change for the students, not just change for change sake, and that is why Advocacy is such an important part of the student voice.
Reformation isn’t just something that the Church went through in the 16th Century after a gentleman nailed his ideas to his bosses door, it is the idea that change, real change, can be made by those who are willing to stand for what is right and true. The idea that women can vote, that those of colour should be born and allowed to be free, that divorce is a thing, same sex couples are not evil, and that a New South Wales supporter doesn’t have two heads, are all reformative ideas. They all took, with the exception of NSW, someone to stand up and voice the concerns for the people, to say This isn’t right! The student voice is no different, and I am glad that CQUniversity have given such a reformative voice to the SRC. One of my ideas that developed into a project, that is currently going through the costing and budgetary stage, was the idea of students supporting students to pass through the course, the idea of you have to collaborate to graduate. It sounds simple enough, it even sounds like an idea that already exists, but not an idea that is formally supported by Universities, and certainly not in the TAFE sphere. So I pitched it to the SRC. It was met with a wondrous curiosity, that led to many meetings and discussions with many of the staff regarding the who, what, where and how. After these discussions CQUniversity have finally decided on a model which works for them and are now, as previously mentioned, going through the costing and budgetary phase to conduct a two year trial program in the Diploma of Nursing. A student voice that effected reformation.
The student voice does have an obligation to be honest, this does mean that if a particular choice is the best for the student long term, even if not the popular choice, it should be the one chosen. The message to the student body then has to be equally honest. I have been engaging in discussions with a dear friend of mine over the seeming lacking financial support for over 30 year old students. It would appear that if you are under 25, live in a remote or regional area, are of Aboriginal or Tourist Straits descent, or are studying Engineering then the World is your oyster. As for anyone else, you are on your own. After doing some research into unemployment and education statistics it would seem that the support for the aforementioned is well placed and therefore not that unbalanced. Youth unemployment in Australia is at 12.8%, compared to the National Unemployment of 5.5%, and that number has been steadily increasing since its all time low of 7.8% in 2008. This coupled with the increased cost of living, on average 10.84% higher than that of the US not including rent, has meant that more and more support is needed for these groups. But what about the over 30s? According to Australian social research firm McCrindle the over 30s average Australian is 37 years old, employed and earning about $60,330 per year, exercising 3 times per week and sleeping 7 hours a night. So from a statistical point of view not someone who needs a lot of support. And this is where it becomes tricky for anyone who is a position to be heard. You want to support those who have asked for it, or who you perceive to need the assistance, but the reality is, the battles need to be picked or the voice will fall on deaf ears if there isn’t enough data, facts or truth behind the words. So though Honesty may not be the most glamorous or politically beneficial portion of the Student voice it is the most important.
I hope this either helps people understand the Student Voice a little more and what I strive to do every time I enter a meeting, I also hope this spurs others to step up and use their collective voice for real change. If you have a voice, no matter how small you think it is, or want to share something that you feel needs to be heard, write it in the comments below, alternatively email me on the connect page and lets chat.
Maintain the Rage,