Disunity in NSW Education Action Network

February 6, 2015

On January 30 a meeting of the New South Wales Education Action Network (EAN) was convened at the University of Technology, Sydney. The EAN is a cross campus collective of university students committed to fighting fee deregulation and for free education. It is open to all student activists.

Many of the students involved in the collective are National Union of Students office bearers or hold positions on student councils and student associations. Many EAN activists are also aligned to political groups, such as Labor Left (NLS), Labor Right (Unity), Socialist Alternative, Grassroots, Solidarity and Socialist Alliance.

One of the key agenda items for this meeting was to elect new co-conveners of the group. However, before the election was held decisions on the March 25 National Day of Action were forced through. The meeting was stacked by more than 25 Unity and NLS members, only 3 of whom had attended a meeting before.

In a statement put out by Socialist Alliance, Grassroots and Solidarity affiliated students, claims were made that the meeting was stacked in collaboration with Socialist Alternative, which sent six members to the meeting, ending their break from student activism in Sydney since October.

Due to the undemocratic nature of the meeting Socialist Alliance, Grassroots and Solidarity students, all of whom had been regular attendees of EAN meetings, walked out.

In their absence Socialist Alternative, Unity and NLS held the election for co-conveners, in which a member from each of the three political groups was elected.

Meanwhile those who had walked out continued with their own meeting and have since released a statement on the events, declaring the co-convener elections were “illegitimate and irrelevant”.

This came after what was, from all reports, a rather horrendous National Union of Students conference in Melbourne in December. Student activists who attended the conference reported that a number of controversial decisions were moved from the conference floor, including defunding the Indigenous Officer, the International Officer and the National Disability Officer positions.

This has since instigated a movement by Blacademy, a national collective of First Nations students, to publicly call for disaffiliation and condemnation of the National Union of Students.

All this bodes for a difficult year ahead, with Education Minister Christopher Pyne still trying to push through his fee deregulation bill by March. Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance members will continue to organise on campuses across the country to support and build grassroots democratic student movements — the only way forward to stop Pyne’s bill from being passed.

[Mia Saunders and Sarah Hathway are members of Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance.]

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