University of Sydney staff, student groups and alumni voiced their opposition to the government’s proposed education reforms at a Sydney Town Hall meeting on August 25.
Twenty-six speakers addressed the proposed fee deregulation. University of Sydney Union board director Edward McMahon put forward an informal motion calling on all university bodies to campaign against deregulation.
“These cuts and reforms are being inflicted, ironically, upon my generation by the people who benefited from the more enlightened education policies of yesteryear,” McMahon said.
Alumni and executive director of UN Women Australia Julie McKay said the reforms would hit women hardest. She proposed an equality fund to counteract the negative effects the reforms could have on female university students.
“I urge the university to invest in the education of women as a mechanism to drive economic growth and social equality,” McKay said.
Members of the audience at the meeting did not shy away from voicing their opinions and several members from the groups Bust the Budget and Education Action Group continuously interrupted speakers to say that the meeting was not a legitimate form of consultation.
Student Representative Council education officer Eleanor Morley refused to stop interrupting the vice-chancellor demanding to know why she wasn’t allowed to speak at the event.
The only speaker on the night to openly support the reforms was Young Liberal member Alex Dore, who said “this meeting has been organised as a partisan attack on the [Tony] Abbott government”.
Senators Andrew West, Verity Firth, Catriona Menzies-Pike and Patrick Massaranu have been petitioning for a meeting of Sydney University’s alumni community in the hope of mobilising the graduate community to challenge the deregulation.
Sydney university student newspaper Honi Soit said the meeting was held as a compromise between the senators and the chancellor and vice-chancellor who did not want the meeting.
Vice-chancellor Michael Spence travelled to Canberra the next day to join a group of vice-chancellors to lobby the government to pursue its plans.