The majority of UWA students either don’t like or don’t care for Guild Elections. That is a fact that comes not only from mountains of anecdotal evidence but from the turnout rate of 20% (even if it is one of the highest in the country). As a result, everyone involved in the election process, year after year, gets bundled together and thrown under the same bus. They are all “hacks”, “power-hungry”, “false”, “manipulative”, “Young Labor/Liberal/Greens”, and “annoying as f&%k”. The thing is that these terms are true…..for a very very small group of people that run in the elections. With 100s of candidates you’d be hard pressed to not have a fair amount of rotten apples, just like you would agree that not everyone doing the same unit as you is probably a saint. In fact you’re probably not a saint either. Going back to my Christian upbringing, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”
Remember there is no excuse for taking vindictive action intending to hurt, mess with or troll candidates. It has long been a convention for people connected to STAR and Launch to try and get talking with some of the opposition’s candidates to strategically waste their time, but that is wholly different from some people who go out and do this with no connection to any party running. It is wholly unfair to be treating every OGC candidate you come across with disdain before actually getting to know them, why they are personally involved, and what they think they can contribute to student life and campus culture.
Much has already been said about senior members of STAR and Launch utilising freshers and popular club personalities to help propel themselves and their ambitions. Indeed I’ve been party to many conversations where these senior members openly admit it. One time I was standing in a conversation with three former Guild Presidents openly talking about how OGC candidates are manipulated during Guild Elections. Another time I was chatting with people in Launch HQ about how their preferencing system worked on their How-To-Vote cards, to ensure the candidates the campaign team wanted would get elected to Council. The epitome of the numbers game is the sheer amount of paper candidates that both parties put up on the ballot, which in effect dilutes the chance for singular OGCs to be noticed and recognised.
Now one might say that this is just how politics works, but that is just not good enough. There are so many people who aren’t getting involved to be political, or to play the games that few senior members of the parties play with each other. These people have been enticed in by the recruitment pitches that they all have an equal opportunity to wield power and make a difference, when this can’t be the case due to a scarce amount of positions that exist and the fact that generally OGC elections are a popularity contest. It’s no wonder that disillusionment is rife within those who participate in the process, with many people jumping across parties in both directions or just leaving altogether with a bitter taste left in their mouth.
But this isn’t just your ordinary pyramid scheme, and it would be wrong to generalise the whole system as such. In fact I believe that the system is progressively getting better. There are senior people in both parties who are there for the right reasons, who came to be where they were through their commitment and passion to a chosen area. In fact these people are excellent mentors for the OGC candidates and generally try to find ways to get them involved even if they don’t have a position to offer them. We need more of these people, and that is just one part of the change that needs to occur within the current system. There are so many OGCs who need this mentorship and care because they have the potential to bring in some really great ideas and initiatives. This election I’ve already spoken to one OGC candidate who doesn’t understand why paper flyers exist at all, wondering who actually changes their mind based on a piece of coloured paper. It’s this sort of fresh perspective rising through the ranks that is probably needed in order to spice up the stock standard policy mix and to change people’s perceptions around Guild elections. I mean, in an election where voting is non-compulsory, arguably it’s the quality of the people running that wins more votes than the quality of the policy does, especially when there is a lot of policy crossover. Therefore, why not focus on different strategies to introduce the people wanting to get elected to the student population?
Another candidate talked about really enjoying the Sleepout for the Homeless that the Guild did a few years ago, and wanted to see if they could turn it into a regular fundraiser. That’s the other things to recognise. Before running, most OGCs have been participating in some kind of volunteering already at UWA or in their local communities. They have already been helping people, and see their involvement in Guild as a way to help a larger and broader group than they’ve probably had access to. And then there’s the candidate who’s just really passionate about getting Bubble Tea back on campus, because sometimes the simple things can just really make a lot of students happy.
Full disclosure, I was a former candidate in Guild elections, and unlike a lot of people held no qualms about being friends with people on both sides of the political divide. That’s because I can appreciate the passion and commitment that exists in candidates on both sides, even if I might disagree with their policy or approaches to student problems. Even having been out of the game, I still see that is the case. So leave your bashing of OGC candidates behind, attempt to get to know them better. You might find that they are actually someone worth voting for.
If this article has raised any issues for you, you can contact Thomas at [email protected]. We would also love to hear some great stories from ordinary students about their interactions so far this week!
Declaration: Thomas Coltrona ran with STAR in 2014 & 2015