Bankstown student occupation: Day 10


By Kylie Moon

BANKSTOWN — The student occupation at the Bankstown campus of the University of Western Sydney (Macarthur) has entered its 10th day, having already forced the university administration to agree to 23 of its 26 demands.

The university has agreed that no car parking fees will be introduced, that there will be no "late fines" for library borrowing, that timetables and other necessary materials will be posted to students free of charge and that there will be no charge for course outlines.

The administration has promised 24 hour access to computer labs, condom machines in both male and female toilets, tampon and pad machines in the female toilets and an increase of two security guards. Measures to increase student consultation in the functioning of the university have also been pledged.

The administration met with a delegation of students on November 3 and gave in to most of the students' demands. However, the administration has not agreed to three core demands, including a guarantee that there will be no staff cuts over summer and a cap on tutorial sizes. The students have decided to maintain their occupation, and will organise a student strike on November 11.

Activists from other campuses have participated in the occupation and given solidarity. The occupation sought to involve new activists in its organisation. A motion was passed early in the occupation which allowed only UWS Macarthur students to vote in meetings, to ensure that the occupation remained in the hands of the local activists.

Four student rallies have been held during the occupation, each time attracting more than 100 students.

On October 25 a rally of 200 students was held with speakers from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the National Tertiary Education Industry Union.

AMWU printers section organiser Amanda Perkins expressed her union's solidarity and recounted the solidarity students gave to the Visyboard picket lines in nearby Smithfield early this year. Perkins said it was a myth that workers weren't interested in the struggles by students to defend quality public education, adding that many workers dream of sending their children to university.

A two-hour student strike on October 26 was supported by the university staff union. Students' morale was significantly boosted when members of the AMWU metals division from a nearby factory came and gave their support, promising to bring hundreds more workers in future.

On October 27 students held a mock funeral for the death of quality, accessible public education, with pallbearers carrying a massive coffin to a graveyard on the university lawns, where a eulogy was presented.

Other trade union solidarity has been rolling in, including a motion of support from the NSW Labor Council and other unions and a threat by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union to place bans on construction works at both Bankstown and Campbelltown campuses.

Delegations of student occupiers have participated in a picket line, set up on October 27 by AMWU metals members at a machinery repair factory, Gough and Gilmore, in Granville. The dispute is over attempts to force workers to increase working hours for a minimal wage increase.

Since November 4, the occupation has decided to include other major demands, on the issues of international students, disabilities services and Aboriginal students. Next year's budget for disabilities services has been cut by around $40,000. This will have a major impact on disabled students' access to university, forcing them to have only six hours of peer note taking and five hours of translation services.

The occupation has also raised the lack of support and access to information for international students and has demanded a 24-hour support service for international students. The occupiers have alleged that the university treats international students as "cash cows" and does not consider their welfare and support needs.

The occupation is now building towards a National Union of Students day of action on November 9 at the Campbelltown campus. Solidarity messages to the occupation can be forwarded to Bankstown Student Association, fax 9774 3442 or phone 9772 6488.

[Kylie Moon is the western Sydney organiser of Resistance.]