Students across the country held protest rallies against the federal government’s proposed cuts to higher education on August 20.
The cuts were announced by former prime minister Julia Gillard, but have been supported by PM Kevin Rudd, his new education minister Kim Carr and the Liberal opposition. With bipartisan support, these cuts will not be defeated without a fightback.
To try to defeat these attacks on education the National Union of Students called for a national day of action with protests in all capital cities and some regional centres. These protests follow a successful day of action on May 14.
In Melbourne, despite poor weather, more than 600 students joined the protest. The action was addressed by National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) president Jeannie Rae, who told the crowd: "When Labor first came in, there was the Bradley review of higher education, and one of the recommendations said a 10% increase in funding was needed, which the government cut anyway."
The protest also included a small contingent from Geelong. The Geelong group seems destined for further protest, as rumours continue of cuts at the city’s TAFE.
In Sydney, about 250 students and staff joined the central demonstration at the University of Technology Sydney.
The rally was led by a 25-metre “super-banner” that had been prepared by student activists across various campuses. Speakers at the rally included Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and Socialist Alliance member and University of Western Sydney student union vice-president Marlene Carrasco.
A 50-strong contingent from University of Western Sydney Bankstown campus organised a bus to and from the rally. These students also organised a successful speak-out on campus the day before the protest, which was addressed by NTEU branch president Jan Falloon and Resistance members Alison Pennington and Zaynab Youssef, as well as others.
In Adelaide, 150 people joined the protest held at the University of Adelaide, but students from other universities mobilised in support. The protesters marched through the university against proposed cuts to tutorials, and briefly occupied the central student hub and the vice-chancellor’s office.
In Perth, 250 people from various universities came together to protest the cuts. The action was ultimately quite successful despite pressure on activists as security at Murdoch University threatened to call police on student activists building the campaign.
In Brisbane, 60 people turned out to protest. Organising was undermined by Liberal students on some campuses, but it did not stop Queenslanders from coming out against the cuts.