Content Warning: Murder, Suicide, Transphobia, Homophobia, SOGICE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Change Efforts) a.k.a. ‘conversion therapy’.
Image description: A white background with large black text centered with the words “NUS. National Union of Students.”
AMENDMENT: Originally Pelican had stated that SSAF funds are used to send people to the conventions, but have been told this is false. The funding comes from the UWA Guild’s profit streams. However, it’s also noted that these streams rely on SSAF investment.
By Stirling Kain
You are required to pay over three-hundred dollars in SSAF (Student Service and Amenities Fees) every year. (1) Considering that half of this goes directly to the UWA Student Guild, you care about what the Guild does with your money.
And if you care about what the Guild does with your money, you need to care about the NUS (National Union of Students) and who the Guild sends to represent at this level.
The NUS describes itself as:
“…your peak representative body fighting for the rights of students across Australia. We make real changes to the lives of students by campaigning for an accessible and equitable education and welfare system for all.”
Here’s how NUS Natcon (National Convention) works:
- People from UWA are elected by the student body in the General Elections to be NUS delegates, and they head over to Victoria for Natcon.
- Delegates from affiliated universities around Australia vote on issues at NUS Natcon, with the purpose of providing a student voice to Australian media and government. According to the UWA Guild’s NUS Natcon policy (1), delegates need to vote “in line with UWA’s needs and priorities as elected representatives of UWA students.”
- UWA NUS delegates write a report on what happened and the way they voted, and submit this to the UWA Guild (2).
One UWA NUS delegate, (3) Anton Lukas, responded to motions at the 2019 NUS Natcon that Pelican believes most students on this campus would disagree with. Considering that Lukas was:
- Sent to NUS to represent UWA;
- Sent to NUS on ‘student money’ (all registration, flights, meals, and accommodation is paid for this way) (2); and
- Voted in as an NUS delegate in the 2019 UWA Guild General Elections,
Students should be made aware of his conduct.
Pelican has received the delegate report written by Anton Lukas after his attendance to NUS Natcon. He reported that he voted against the following NUS LGBTQIA+ motions: (3)
- LGBT Motion Thirty-Four: “2. NUS Natcon calls for justice for those killed at the hands of transphobia – including justice for Mhelody!”, and “3. NUS Queer officers will work closely with queer officers and Transgender students to provide resources around trans visibility and safety.”
TLDR: Killing people because they are transgender is wrong, and the UWA Guild should provide resources to support trans people.
Pelican notes that this motion includes the names of three hundred and thirty-one people who were murdered due to transphobic motivations, and outlines their causes of death. These commonly include shooting, asphyxiation, and being stoned.
- LGBT Motion Seven: “2. The NUS Queer Department will campaign with and assist relevant affiliate student unions to introduce or improve queer specific training for existing university councillors and develop improved policies against harassment and discrimination by counselling and university staff.”
TLDR: Implementing training and support for UWA Guild Councillors specific to LGBTQIA+ issues.
- LGBT Motion Nineteen: “4. Protection of young Australians from SOGICE [Sexual Orientation and Gender Change Efforts, also known as ‘conversion therapy’] and the ex-gay/ex-trans conversion movement’s practices and ideology,” and “6. Funding for LGBTQIA+ and mental health organisations to boost awareness and support survivors.”
TLDR: People shouldn’t be subject to gay conversion therapy; and services should exist to raise awareness/assist survivors.
Pelican reached out to Anton for comment. Here’s what he had to say:
“As an NUS Delegate, I’m there to represent the students that elected me. I happen to believe that those that elected me are the minority at UWA, and so there is all the more reason to represent them on the national level. I know that those UWA students would be proud of the way I voted.
I voted against and abstained for most of the motions at NUS. I think that this was appropriate. Ultimately however, I conclude that the NUS is so ineffective as an organisation that any decisions made at NUS have zero influence on student lives. This is a good thing, as the decisions made at NUS would be extremely harmful if followed through. I believe the NUS is simply there was a conduit to attack any and all aspects of European Western culture, tradition, heritage and achievement – and wants to dismantle “the system” in order to tear others down and prop themselves up. Such short-sighted and immature ideology of the NUS is very damaging and I am highly committed to having UWA disaffiliate from the NUS – students would benefit immensely from this decision as the money could be redirected back to them in a tangible way.
My voting record at the NUS represents the students who Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison would call the “Quiet Australians”. I was proud to represent these people at the national level.”
If you would like to read more about what transpired at the February 2020 Guild Council (including more quotes for Lukas, as well as the Council’s reaction), head to Pelican’s Twitter profile (@pelicanmagazine).
Pelican wants to make clear that we are neither affiliated with STAR or Launch – the two main political parties on the UWA campus – nor are we affiliated with any other party in or outside the campus.
Pelican’s motivation for writing this article is that we take the stance of broadly supporting LGBTQIA+ students and people, and causes that support these students.
LGBTQIA+ people, generally speaking, face more difficulties than other groups. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, “gay, lesbian, bisexual and intersex people are three times more likely to experience Depression,” and nine in ten LGBTQIA+ people experience “verbal homophobic abuse,” “physical homophobic abuse,” or “other types of homophobia.”
It follows that these people should be given support, considering there is evidence of a significant anti-LGBTQIA+ culture in Australia, and systemic alienation suffered by LGBTQIA+ people.
(1) If you’re a full-time student. Your SSAF is between zero-dollars and three-hundred and eight dollars annually. You’re probably aware of how much you’re paying, but if not, check out the UWA SSAF page.
(2) See article 10.7 of the November 2016 Council (webpage located in the hyperlink) for details on this. This wording has been changed from the original post. Originally Pelican had stated that SSAF funds are used to send people to the conventions, but have been told this is false. The funding comes from the UWA Guild’s profit streams. However, it’s also noted that these streams rely on SSAF investment.
(3) There are a total of seven NUS Natcon delegates sent by UWA every year. Please look at the front pages of the 2020 Guild Diary for the names of all these delegates.
(4) Note that these motions have not been included in full here for the sake of keeping to the point. Please contact Pelican if you’d like to read the full motions, and the other LGBTQIA+ -oriented motions Lukas voted against.