Aboriginal students protest against uni "restructure"
Students at the University of Western Sydney's Bankstown campus are in the second week of their sit-in protest over the stripping of the Goolanguillia Aboriginal education unit. Students complain that, with no consultation with them, the unit has been stripped of resources. Two thirds of the teaching staff have been relocated, and classes have been cancelled. Classes have been cancelled and marks not returned to students. The graduate degree component of the course deals with welfare and education, and normally takes four years to complete. Those who joined the course at the beginning of the year now face three more years of study at an impoverished campus, with few facilities and few staff. The changes were originally announced as a forerunner to establishment of a bigger and better campus at Blacktown. However, the University authorities have recently indicated that they intend to suspend the intake of students for the course at the beginning of next year. It appears that not only are the conditions of the course being seriously undermined, but also the course itself is under threat and may be cut altogether. A suspicion is growing in student circles that the events within the Goolangullia Unit may foreshadow closure and even sale of the Bankstown campus in its entirety. The Howard Government recently imposed a funding cut of $10 million on the University. Sale of the Bankstown campus, a potentially most valuable piece of real estate, would be consistent with the approach of the NSW Government, which is embroiled in a major struggle with education and community organisations over the planned closure and possible sale of primary and secondary schools. So far, the University Vice-Chancellor, Janice Reid, has refused to meet with the students to discuss their grievances. Student leaders are being demonised by the administration, which has frequently described them as "troublemakers". The President of the Bankstown Students' Association, John McGuire, commented that there are already enough major obstacles to Aboriginal people getting into tertiary courses, without the sort of difficulty which the Bankstown campus represents. "We went through all the proper channels to have this issue dealt with — meetings with deputy management, e-mails, faxes, phone calls. None of these has truly addressed the issues the students have. We were forced into this sit-in action as a last resort to try to get the University to listen to what we have to say!", he said. Aboriginal student representative Nicole Alexander commented: "...University management does not understand our needs and our culture, and does not even want to try! What makes matters worse is that the Vice Chancellor is not even prepared to sit down with us and discuss the issues. When will we, as Aboriginal people, and as students, be treated with respect by UWS?" Students report that their spirits are high and that they are determined to see their struggle through to a successful conclusion. The sit-in is getting support from other Uni campuses and from Aboriginal organisations.