Students march on parliament
By Kerryn Williams
and Natalie Zirngast
CANBERRA — Four hundred students from the Australian National University and the University of Canberra marched on Parliament House on May 11 in a vocal and energetic protest against up-front fees for university courses and other attacks on education.
Students began the demonstrations at their respective campuses and met in Civic to begin the long march to Parliament House. Despite attempts by the police to lead the march around the back way, it continued directly up the main road chanting "Education for all, not just the rich!"
At Parliament House the rally was addressed by speakers, including Dee Margetts from the WA Greens, Bronwyn Taylor from the Community and Public Sector Union, John Graham from the National Union of Students and Terasita Carpio, a trade union activist from the Philippines.
Margetts condemned the latest government attacks in the budget, pointing out the planned cuts to education funding over the next few years. She attacked the withdrawal of Austudy and changes to HECS for non-citizens, describing it as an attempt to encourage "hip-pocket nationalism".
Taylor stressed the importance of building links between students and the trade union movement to defeat government attacks. She told the rally, "The only way we can win is through solidarity".
No Fees Campaign activist and Democratic Socialist Party member Tony Iltis spoke of the student struggle in Indonesia. His message of the importance of international solidarity was furthered by an inspiring speech from Terasita Carpio. She told the cheering crowd, "What you are fighting for right now is not only for the students of Australia, but also for students around the world".
Sarah Stephen, general secretary of the ANU students' association and member of the socialist youth organisation Resistance, chaired the rally. She stressed the importance of continuing the campaign and trying to involve the broadest layer of students possible. "We need to push this campaign to the point where we're in a position to win back some of the gains we've lost over the past 10 years."
The burning of the coffin of Free Education was a dramatic end to the demonstration, but students loudly proclaimed that they would continue to fight until free education rose from the ashes.