Welcome to RMIT (if you’re new around these parts) and welcome to Catalyst! I’d normally start by introducing myself but that’ll have to wait, we have far more pressing things to discuss. I’m going to answer the questions you didn’t even know you’d asked.
What is a student union and why do I care?
Good question! Student unions are all about giving us, the students – the reason this whole university exists in the first place – a say in how our institution runs. Student unions are run by us the students; for us, the students (think “government by the people, for the people” – more commonly referred to as democracy). It’s about making sure that the quality of education provided to us is of the highest possible standard. After all, we worked incredibly hard to get good marks and it’s us building up huge debts to get educated! We put in the work, we deserve to be heard!
It’s the case for most of us that we can’t just change university, so it’s even more important that we get what we came for: a thorough education which prepares us for the real world. An education which is respected in the marketplace when we apply for a job. An education that allows us to grow and develop as people. An education which goes beyond the simply academic and teaches us the life skills we need for work and play. Uni’s about more than just cramming our heads full of facts (we don’t need to do high school again now do we?)
This is what student unions – and RMIT University Student Union – are all about: making sure we, the students, the people the whole show is for, get the best possible, most relevant education our institution can provide.
Who am I?
Call me Gabe. My official title is General Secretary of the RMIT University Student Union but that’s just a fancy name. What I do is what matters. I was elected from you, the students, by you, the students, to represent you in 2013 and make sure the University puts you first in everything they do. I am lucky enough to have – along with the rest of your fantastic team of elected student representatives – the support and resources of the RMIT University Student Union (RUSU) behind me to help me accomplish this and make sure you are item one, two and three on the University’s agenda. On a day to day basis, I chair the democratic meetings of the Student Union and keep track of what happens around the student union and the University; myself and the other student representatives are your eyes and ears on the ground!
How did I become General Secretary?
I arrived at RMIT University knowing that I wanted to ‘get involved.’ I had no idea in what, or how, but I kept my ear to the ground and took every opportunity I could find.
I joined a RUSU Club, filing the role of Assistant Marketing Manager and then Vice-President, I got involved with RUSU, volunteering at many of their events and eventually I was elected as your General Secretary. The experiences I’ve had on the path to becoming General Secretary have been some of the best and most valuable experiences of my life so far.
I’m absolutely passionate about quality education – check out Liz Coleman’s brilliant TED Talk on quality higher education if you can. I believe there are few things that change the world like higher education does. Everyone should have a chance to access high quality, broad-based tertiary education.
I truly believe in Article 26 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “…higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”, and I believe that this principle should be supported by this great institution of which we are a part. I believe in a fair go and I believe people should have a say in the decisions that affect them. I believe we, the students, deserve a voice in how our education is delivered.
As some of you may know, RMIT University will have been providing higher education for 126 years. In 2013 it is Australia’s largest tertiary education provider. It was founded by The Hon. Francis Ormond in 1887 and began its existence as the Working Men’s College of Melbourne. Following a major expansion after WWI, RMIT was renamed the Melbourne Technical College. In 1954 we were awarded Royal Patronage – being the first Australian tertiary education provider to receive this honour – by Queen Elizabeth II, for our services to the war effort during WWII. It wasn’t until 1960 that we officially became the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. By choosing to study at RMIT University we as students, are choosing to become part of this 126 year legacy. I think that’s pretty cool!
But getting back to student unions and your time here at university. RMIT University Student Union turns 69this year and we have a long and proud history of being the difference between your time at university being a bit ‘meh’ and being the best years of your life!
We challenge you: make your uni years your best years! Grab a RUSU membership and join one of our clubs or societies, volunteer with us or head to a proper, real deal, uni party – RUSU style. Whatever it is you choose, get involved! Throw yourself into life at university! I did, and I haven’t looked back!
Enjoy yourselves and I look forward to seeing you around campus, at parties, volunteering or doing whatever else gets you going in 2013!