Hijack The Streets: What will protesting uni cuts achieve?

May 25, 2014
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Every generation holds select dates close to their heart. For Gen Y, one such date might end up being May 21, 2014 – a riotous afternoon when students across the country charged through their cities in protest of the controversial education policies outlined in the Abbott Government’s divisive budget.

You may have been one of those angry students who held a cheeky anti-Abbott placard and screamed “no cuts”. Or you may recall the day as just another Wednesday arvo spent burrowed away in a library cubicle.

Hijack the Streets headed to the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney in the middle of Wednesday’s madness to ask student protestors – and a few onlookers – why they were there, what they want from the government and whether these protests hold a candle to the rallies of yore.

Chris Papadopoulous, 22, City Planning student at the University of Sydney

HJCKD: What will today’s protest achieve?

I think it will send a message that this is not okay, this budget is not okay, and it’s going to hurt a lot of people – particularly the most vulnerable.

Have students been going overboard with the protests in the last month?

I think it is laughable, and I get so offended when I hear people like [the Education Minister] Christopher Pyne say that protests like this or voicing your opinion on Q&A is an affront to democracy. This is the real democracy. This is grassroots democracy. This is what the people want.

Ella Fraser, 18, Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Sydney

HJCKD: What will today’s protest achieve?

It’s going to emphasise the point that this is an issue that’s going to affect everyone, not just one group in society. 

HJCKD: Have students been going overboard with the protests in the last month?

It’s really building up the momentum. More people are joining the cause with each protest.

David Silver, 24, Anthropology student at the University of Sydney

HCKD: What will today’s protest achieve?

I guess what I hope it will achieve is more students will realise that this is an opportunity to face something that is really real. It’s an opportunity to be a part of all the things we learn about. I hope it has an effect on the student consciousness. In terms of policy, I don’t know, but I think it’s great to be here.

Why are you here supporting this protest?

It’s an opportunity to say I’m just not okay with everything that goes on – and that’s what these kind of things are for. I want to be part of that voice that says no, that’s not okay.

Hannah Karjalainen, 18, Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Sydney

HJCKD: What will today’s protest achieve?

It doesn’t matter where you’re from. I’m from a middle class background, but I don’t want lower class people to be hurt by these cuts. Your income shouldn’t decide whether you go to uni or not.

HJCKD: Have students been going overboard with the protests in the last month?

No, I think it’s a student’s right to do that – it’s personally targeting us. We have a right to do what we want to do. If we want to protest against it, we have a right to do that. Nurses protest when they get pay cuts, teachers do, so students should also be able to.

There used to be a lot of people who wouldn’t necessarily be a part of protests. This is my first time going to these protests!

Wendy Xin, 19, Arts student at the University of Sydney

HJCKD: What will today’s protest achieve?

I think it’s [about] getting attention from the government and the public, and expressing our dissatisfaction with the current situation. I don’t expect too many things beside that attention. It’s really unfair if education is only the right of the rich people.

For international students it’s really expensive. Although I don’t belong here, I’m angry towards the situation, because we shouldn’t pay so much for our education, and there’s no way that education should only be the right of the rich.

As a Chinese student, why are you protesting against a government that technically isn’t your own?

The fact that I don’t belong to the citizenry [doesn’t affect] my dissatisfaction or anger towards the government. I understand the people here. So it’s the same.

My friends are struggling with the situation because they don’t have money for the housing – it’s really expensive already. If they keep the policy they’ll have to pay more, so students in the future might struggle even more than my friends! It’s really, really sad to see them struggle.

Fatima Hamdi, 18, Nutrition & Dietetics student at the University of Sydney (Asked for no picture taken)

HJCKD: What will today’s protest achieve?

It’s for people to voice their opinions. The government is planning to cut [education] and I think it’s the right of the students to stand up for that and support education.

Are you participating today?

I was a passerby and I saw it. I didn’t know what was going on. I saw it and stood for a bit to see what was going on.

Have students been going overboard with the protests in the last month?

They do have a right to protest for their education, but at the same time the government does actually need to save money because apparently we were in debt. In a way they have to cut, that’s just how it is. Labor will come in, they’ll just spend the money, Liberal will come back in and save more money – that’s their way, they’re cutting from the budget. No one is ever going to be happy with anything.

Leki Filihia, 22, Health Science student at the University of Sydney

HJCKD: What will today’s protest achieve?

Honestly, I don’t think it’ll achieve anything, but I think it’s important to get out there.

Have students been going overboard with the protests in the last month?

Definitely not. I think we need to do more. The message is not getting through to Abbott. We need to do more; we need to fight it more.

Do you think protest is as effective today as it was in the 1970s?

Yeah, definitely. I think there’s a feel to the atmosphere – a lot of people are talking. This is the students’ forte. They need to do it.

Russ Taylor, 19, Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Sydney

HJCKD: What will today’s protest achieve?

To be honest: not a whole lot. It could, but I don’t think they’re going to take that much notice of it. This sort of thing happens often, there are always students protesting things.

Do you think protest is as effective today as it was in the 1970s?

I don’t know! I don’t know much about the protests in the 60s or 70s. I’m not sure.

Kristen Daly

Kristen Daly is a staff writer at Hijacked.

Images: Kristen Daly

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