NUS Demands A Better Future

The National Union of Students (NUS) is Australia’s peak body that represents the interests and concerns of approximately 600,000 students in higher education. With a Federal election looming some time this year, NUS has been gearing up to mobilise tertiary students under the theme “Demand A Better Future’.

Hayley Conway is the newly appointed NUS Female Queer Officer. She explained to OUTinPerth that the central concepts in this theme were education, climate change and rights at work. “In essence, we are demanding a better future than what the Coalition Government has offered students over the last 11 years; they have attacked universal student unionism, they have created WorkChoices and they have consistently underfunded women’s services around the country. Climate change and clean energy, students’ rights at work and quality and accessible education, amongst others, are critical issues for all major parties to address during this election,’ she said. Ms Conway emphasised the fact that NUS has made clear demands to all political parties.

Students around the country will be encouraged by NUS to ‘Make Howard History’ by voting him out of office as NUS believes that higher education cannot afford another Howard Government. Ms Conway said, “Queer students have even more incentive to vote out a government that systematically violates our human rights by denying us the same access to relationship recognition, fertility assistance and Centrelink that is offered to our heterosexual counterparts’. Ms Conway elaborated that under the current social welfare system, queer students who are forced to leave home because of their parents reactions to their coming out cannot claim Centrelink as a someone who can no longer live at home, adding that homophobic violence is not recognised by Centrelink as a cause for leaving home.

When asked whether unions such as NUS were relevant to queer people, Ms Conway replied, “All unions are relevant to queer people, because queer people have jobs. Unions are relevant to people. NUS is the union for queer students. We fight for a voice for queer students within the NUS and on every campus. Queer people as students, and as workers, suffer disproportionate discrimination at home, in the workplace and during our education.’

In her new role as NUS National Queer Officer, Ms Conway’s aim is to create a network where all queer students have a forum for discussion, support and action. She told OUTinPerth, “The QAN (Queer Action Network) is the network formed in October last year to facilitate this and the NUS Queer Department will be working closely with them to facilitate a diverse, inclusive and self-sustaining network.’

In their campaign ‘Queers Demand A Better Future’ NUS Queer Departments will focus on the funding provided by the Federal and State Governments for organisations which offer services to ‘straighten’ queer teenagers. Through awareness raising of the issue, the campaign will also target business franchises and religious organisations who support ‘ex-gay’ organisations financially. Various actions are planned to encourage such businesses and organisations, particularly those that benefit from queer patronage to consider providing support for queer youth.

For more details of the NUS campaign, visit www.demandabetterfuture.com.au

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