The Guardian 4 May, 2005

Adelaide universities make noise over VSU

The students associations of Adelaide University, Flinders University and University of SA held a joint day of protest last week against the federal government’s plansto impose "voluntary student unionism" (VSU) on the state’s unis. The "make some noise" events were part of a National Union of Students day of protest against the changes slated to occur when the Coalition seizes control of the Senate in July.

The lawns of Adelaide University were circled with information, food and other stalls, including a popular one where passers-by were free to kick a soccer ball at a target featuring images of Prime Minister John Howard and Education Minister Brendan Nelson.

Adelaide Uni Students Asso­ciation president David Pearson opened the program featuring bands and comedians with a strong reminder of the dangers of VSU for students already living 37 per cent below the poverty line. He said that services to students — including the employment service at Adelaide Uni — were already struggling at the current rate of funding. Costs have gone through the roof for students; course readers that recently used to cost $5 now carry a charge of $40. He added that, contrary to Coalition spin, services at universities in WA have suffered a marked deterioration since the state government inflicted VSU on their students in 1994.

Lunchtime crowds in the city saw hundreds of very vocal students march down the stretch of North Terrace between the university and State Parliament. There they were addressed by Democrats Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja who said that many backbenchers in the federal government — themselves the past beneficiaries of free tertiary education and union funded services — were feeling very uneasy about the Howard/Nelson plan. Student associations and the NUS will be targeting these parliamentarians in the weeks to come.

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