Grassroots upset Labor in Sydney University elections

Kyol Blakeney. Photo: Grassroots for Kyol/FB.

Aboriginal activist Kyol Blakeney has won the position of Student Representative Council (SRC) president at the University of Sydney.

The ticket that supported him, “Grassroots”, was backed by progressive Greens, independents and socialists. It beat the Labor ticket by a significant margin. University newspaper Honi Soit reported on September 25 that Blakeney had won every voting booth, with 61% of the vote.

The Grassroots ticket campaigned against the education cuts, more affordable student housing, free and expanded services on campus, more scholarships for disadvantaged students, and for a fossil-free university.

With the spectre of education deregulation — which started under the federal Labor government — progressive students are very excited that the tradition of Labor holding the position has ended after 14 years.

Both left and right Labor factions and Socialist Alternative supported Labor’s presidential candidate Amy Knox.

Blakeney is the SRC Indigenous Officer, and he was at the centre of the campaign to save the Koori Centre on campus. He also helped establish the Redfern Tent Embassy, has campaigned against the closure of women’s shelters and supported the rallies for Gaza earlier this year.

He’s the second Indigenous president of the SRC, the first was Heidi Norman in 1994.

Honi Soit reported that there were 3851 valid votes out of 4326 votes cast, compared to 5400 in last year’s election.

A referendum — initiated and supported by Grassroots activists — demanding the university to divest from fossil fuels was held alongside the SRC elections. At the time of this article the results of the referendum have not come in, but predictions are that it will pass.

Student activists are keen to pursue the campaign against education deregulation — especially in the light of VC Spence’s support for them.

Jemma Nott, postgraduate political science student and member of Resistance at Sydney University said: ‘'It bodes well to have a left-wing activist at the helm. We need more activist SRCs to help campaigns against Abbott’s attacks on education, the environment, women rights and his war-mongering.

“There are so many fronts we have to fight this government on. Its a great step forward, and Resistance will help as much as we are able turn the SRC into site of struggle.”

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