The latest round of demonstrations against cuts to university funding, on 20 August, brought out students and staff across the country. The biggest turnout was in Melbourne, where 1,000 people marched through the streets and delivered our message directly to the office of newly appointed education minister Kim Carr.
The cuts, which were introduced earlier this year by the Labor government, will cut off thousands of students’ much needed Centrelink payments and will cut some university budgets by more than $50 million. This will inevitably give universities an excuse to continue with their national agenda of cancelling courses, increasing class sizes and casualising and sacking staff.
For these reasons, the staff union, the NTEU, has been opposed to the government’s cuts since they were announced. But for the first time in the campaign, the NTEU called strike action on some campuses to coincide with the demonstrations, and in Melbourne it mobilised at least 400 staff to attend.
The demonstrations were an important intervention into the federal election, in which both major parties are committed to the cuts and to increasing privatisation of our education system. Both Labor and Liberal are also for diverting money from things like education in order to fund their cruel and barbaric policies towards refugees. Importantly, pro-refugee chants and speeches featured on the demonstrations.
It is now important to start to plan the next steps for the campaign against the cuts. Students cannot afford to allow the incoming government a honeymoon.
We need to organise another round of demonstrations and we need to continue to rebuild an activist culture within the student body and the student unions so that we can fight future attacks.