Students take to the streets
By Anthony Thirlwall
MELBOURNE — Around 750 students participated in the second National Day of Action on May 27, organised by the National Union of Students in response to the continuing attacks on education and Austudy.
The rally gathered at the city square, where students discussed the loans scheme which may be implemented alongside Austudy grants.
Speakers also expressed the need to make education accessible to wider sections of the community by increasing the number of places, the amount of funding and the level of Austudy grants.
Highlighting Blue Stocking Week, a week to celebrate women's entry and survival in tertiary education, women's officers from LaTrobe University and NUS spoke of the problems faced by women in the education system, particularly mature-aged students and those with family responsibilities. Demands were raised for extended child-care facilities for parents on campus.
Speakers also addressed the conditions faced by overseas students, including full up-front fees. Since most overseas students are from Third World countries, fees are a concrete example of exploitation of the Third World by the first world.
In Sydney, reports Nick Fredman, hundreds of students rallied on several campuses on May 27. Decreasing levels funding per student, creeping privatisation, growing fees and threats to further restrict Austudy grants and replace them with loans were condemned.
At Macquarie University, a general meeting of students and staff voted unanimously to replace Vice Chancellor Di Yerbury with "Rani the Wonder Dog". More than 150 students then occupied the administration building. Students are particularly incensed about a recent 79% pay rise for Yerbury, bringing her salary package to $170,000.
Students demanded discussions with the administration on accountability and democracy, but security guards and police were used to evict them on the Friday night.
Around 300 students rallied and marched in Brisbane on May 27 in support of two demands: "For free education" and "For a living income for all". The enthusiastic and vocal march went to the Commonwealth Government Centre and the Department of Education building and finished at the City Mall. Demonstrators also stopped outside Thai Airways offices to express their solidarity with the students and workers involved in the pro-democracy demonstrations in Bangkok.