Disclaimer: Unimelb Adventures is not affiliated with UMSU, however a number of the blogging team are involved in the upcoming elections. We have tried to be as impartial where possible in our presentation of the elections, but understand that the views expressed in this article are that of the author’s.
From September 5-9 you’ll notice that you won’t be able to walk between lectures without ending up with a handful of unwanted fliers and a lot of enthusiastic campaigners trying to have a chat with you. Yes, that’s right – the dreaded election week is coming up, and you’re already thinking of alternative routes to your classes. You just don’t have time to vote, you don’t understand how it all works, you can’t be bothered learning what each party stands for or you just don’t care. We get it, and we’ve heard it all before. Each year roughly 10% of the student body votes, which means there are a lot of people who don’t really get what elections are all about, so we’re here to make a bit more sense of everything.
WHAT EVEN IS UMSU, ANYWAY?
UMSU represents all students at the university, and provides funding to a heap of different clubs, societies and departments that generally focus on making life at university easier and a whole lot more fun. UMSU basically makes sure that the university itself doesn’t completely control how things are run, and that students are provided with support and a platform for our voices to be heard.
If you’ve ever checked out a band on North Court with a free sausage in hand, de-stressed at free yoga, or grabbed some free contraception from the Wom*n’s Room or Info Desk before a big night out, you have your union to thank. All of this stuff directly benefits you, and is designed to ensure that you can have an exciting social life on campus and get some free stuff while you’re at it. Some of the parties running in the election have policies specifically regarding the social side of uni, giving you the chance to vote for the things you’d like to see more of.
UMSU also deals with bigger issues
Maybe you could give or take the social events, but UMSU also has a considerable amount of control over a lot of things that will impact your time at uni whether you’re getting involved or not. UMSU often represents the voice of the student body in larger issues, such as protesting against fee deregulation.
UMSU ensures you’ll always get the help you need
Even if you’ve never had much involvement with UMSU before and don’t really care what happens outside your classes, they also have a lot to do with the academic side of uni. We wouldn’t even have lecture recordings if it weren’t for UMSU. Can you imagine actually having to attend lectures?! Totally ridiculous.
All jokes aside, there’s every chance you might unexpectedly find yourself one day in dire need of the mental health services, legal aid or financial assistance that UMSU provides – without which you would be facing huge obstacles that could prevent you from completing your degree.
WHAT ARE THE ELECTIONS?
The UMSU elections are just like any other election – you get to vote for the candidates and parties that you think will properly represent your voice and do the best work within UMSU. If you vote, you’ll have to state your preferences for a lot of different positions.
First off, you’ll get to vote for Office Bearer positions. This includes things like President, General Secretary, Wom*n’s Officers, Queer Officers, Education Officers and so on. Office Bearers are in charge of whole departments and are the ones who provide services (such as safe spaces) and organise events (e.g. Wellness Week and Women in Higher Education Week).
As well as OB positions, you’ll also be voting for committee positions. Each department has a committee of seven students that help out the office bearer/s with things like making sure they’re using their funding in the best way possible. UMSU also has its own committee called Students’ Council, who approve all of the union’s spending, policies and events.
You’ll also get the chance to vote for NUS delegates. The National Union of Students represents all students within Australia, and each year seven delegates are voted on to represent The University of Melbourne.
How to vote
Campaigners aren’t lying when they tell you voting will only take a few minutes. You’ll have to fill out a slip that will probably look a bit like this for office bearer positions:
And something like this for committee positions:
You can either vote for individual candidates below the line, or just put a (1) in the box of your preferred party above the line – just make sure you don’t do both. As long as you know who you’ll be voting for before you get to the polling stations the whole process should only take a few minutes!
Your student representatives will be immensely grateful
There are students who are so passionate about getting the chance to represent your voice that they will willingly stand in the cold and the rain for five days straight, desperately trying time and time again to convince people who are pretending to not be able to hear or see them to stop and have a chat for a couple of minutes.
Maybe you’re not all that interested in student politics or you just don’t care what the union does, and that’s totally fine, but you can make a campaigner’s whole day simply by taking a few minutes to vote. If you want to know more about the candidates running in this year’s elections, you can grab a copy of Farrago, which has candidate statements and some more information about how everything works.
That being said, a lot of parties have political ties and campaigners are obviously only going to fill you in on the positive things their party has done for UMSU, so it’s always worth being a little critical, asking a lot of questions and doing your own research if you’re looking to vote.
Every vote truly does count, and if nothing else it gives you an automatic license to take a little bit of credit when UMSU does something great, as well as complain when you’re not happy with the way things are going. So consider taking a few minutes out of your week to head to a polling station, and have a say in making your time at uni as enjoyable and stress-free as possible (with some free food on the side).
Polling stations can be found at the Baillieu Library foyer, Union House lounge and FBE Building Southern Precinct at the Parkville campus, as well as the VCA Southbank campus cafeteria and the Burnley campus student lounge.