18 May 2015


First years: welcome to the USU Board Election period.

For everyone else: welcome back.

It’s understandable if you’re disillusioned, or if you’re fatigued by the latest round of coloured shirts filled with people promising big things. The 2014-15 Board is well aware of the flaws of the electoral system, and that’s why we’ve put in a lot of concerted effort to bring about good electoral reform. Amongst them, we have revisited the voting incentive, and replaced the age-old drink voucher with a $1 donation to the USU’s nominated charity partner.

In 2015, the USU Charity Program is supporting headspace Camperdown. Aran Kanagaratnam, the 2015 Charity Officer, is responsible for organising events to support and raise funds for the phenomenal work they do for youth mental health. To further this support, every vote cast in this year’s Board Election will make the USU donate $1 to headspace. I spoke with Aran to gain a better understanding of the Charity Office, and why supporting headspace is so important.

1. In your opinion, why is headspace such an important organisation for the USU to support?

Young people have the highest rates of mental illness (about 1 in 4) but are also the least likely to get help (only 40% do). This makes mental health account for more than half the disease burden among young people. Adolescence and early adulthood is often a fluid period in young people’s lives – they’re still trying to find their identity, and this is a period characterised by change, making it even more tough when these problems do occur.

Headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, were set up to oversee exactly this problem. They are a confidential early intervention and prevention service with psychiatrists, mental health nurses, doctors and psychologists, and they’re only ten minutes from campus. In addition they run support groups and clinics, and offer drug and alcohol counselling. Mental health problems affect every cross-section of the university community – it is very likely that either you, or someone close to you is suffering from a mental illness, and that’s why headspace is so important.

2. How have you worked with headspace thus far in your term as Charity Officer?

So far, we’ve worked with headspace and had a stall at O-week, where people could book consultations, get freebies or just have a friendly chat with one of the headspace professionals. We also ran a screenprinting workshop during Pride Week, where anyone could come and print a personalised message for free onto a t-shirt. This was a great success, with many unique designs and positive messages about individuality and diversity, and we ended up running out of t-shirts!

For Health and Wellbeing Day, we produced a joint headspace/USU publication on looking after your mental wellbeing. We also had experts from headspace give a workshop on how to help a friend who you think might be having a rough time, and we had a chill-out zone where people could relax, play games and get away for a couple of minutes (or hours!) from the general hustle and bustle of uni life.

3. What can we look forward to for the rest of the semester (or year)?

Looking further ahead, we’re partnering with the final Funch of the semester with a special “de-stress before exams” theme, and later in the year we’re hoping to have a big collaborative installation for Verge and National Mental Health Week.

4. What can USU members and the broader University community do to support headspace and aid its goals? 

Firstly, come along to the various events we’re running at the USU festivals, whether they are just to have a good time and relax, or to learn more about these issues, so we can reduce the pervasive stigma that surrounds mental health. People can also get involved directly with headspace, who do provide volunteering opportunities. Most importantly though, if you or a friend are going through a tough time, try to make the first step towards seeking help. This can be small, like listening to a friend talk about their problems or seeking online advice at eheadspace.org.au, or even going to or accompanying a friend to an appointment at headspace.

If election promises, campaign design or the principles of democracy aren’t enough to convince you to vote this coming Wednesday, consider headspace and make a difference.


If you are after some more information around headspace Camperdown services, visit www.headspace.org.au/camperdown or give them a call on (02) 9114 4100.

Find out more about the elections here.

04 May 2015


In Australia, it is easy to forget sometimes just how lucky we really are. Few times in our lives is this more noticeable than when you’re having a baby. We have access to excellent pre-natal care, with skilled midwives and obstetricians, ultra-sounds, (which are much more important than just getting cute photos) and if something does go wrong help isn’t more than a phone-call away.

Yet around the world, millions of women do not have access to this. As many as 385,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth each year; that’s around one woman every two minutes. The causes of maternal death are usually high blood pressure during pregnancy, complications during childbirth or severe bleeding and infections contracted during labour. 

In Australia there are around 7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. That puts us right down the bottom, with the Scandinavian countries.  To put that into perspective, in countries such as Ghana and Ethiopia that number climbs all the way to 350. Yet, in South Sudan that figure is a staggering 2054 deaths per 100,000 live births. [1]

Similarly, in Chad 1 in every 15 women will die from complications in pregnancy or delivery. [2]
The saddest thing is that nearly all of these deaths are preventable, with access to the right maternal healthcare. Together we can make a difference to the lives of these women. Organisations such as the Birthing Kit Foundation of Australia do amazing work providing education and birthing kits to women in developing countries; but they can’t do it without us!

So tomorrow, the Wom*n of the USU Program would like to invite you to join us in making birthing kits to send overseas to women in Africa, India, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea.  

The event will be from 1pm to 3pm in the Holme Common Room; please come along even if you can only make it for twenty minutes between classes. There will even be pizza provided at the end for our fantastic volunteers.  

To find out more about the event visit Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/885855994787100/

And to find out more about the great work of the Birthing Kit Foundation of Australia head to their website: https://www.bkfa.org.au/

Looking forward to seeing you there, 


[1] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2223rank.html

[2] https://www.bkfa.org.au/our-work/the-challenge-issues/

03 April 2015


Now that the mid-semester break is upon us, you might be thinking about running in the University of Sydney Union Board Elections, planning your campaign, and developing your policies - so the current Board wish to impart a bit of advice...

"Make sure you get in touch with your lecturers and tutors about any upcoming assessments and your class attendance! They can be incredibly supportive and helpful, and your best friends when it comes to balancing the campaign and your studies."
"TARA ON TOP" 2013

"Have fun! Be yourself, ignore the haters, and run on policies that you are passionate about. Also, invest in a couple of good bottles of red wine (not $4 Bowlers Run) to help you wind down at the end of a long day of campaigning."

"Remember to take care of yourself! Have a core team of 5 or 6 people that you can rely upon for two weeks to run you red bulls and sandwiches. That will keep up your energy so you talk to as many students as possible."

"Two pieces of advice. First (and most important) pick a good psych up song for those early mornings. Secondly, talking to staff of the Union and current or former Board Directors is a great way to get an insight into how some of your ideas and policies could actually be implemented if you're elected - it's a great resource to challenge and refine your thinking before you have to 'sell' your policies to students."

"Save up now so that at any point during the campaign you can splash out on some self love & get a foot massage. Also make sure you break in whatever shoes you’re gonna wear before the campaign - you’re gonna want to be comfy!"


"Rolling a piece of PVC pipe over your legs after a long day of campaigning rocks. Also, stock up on lemon and honey."

"I think probably the most important thing in the election is to remember how amazingly brave you are being! You're putting your hand up for something, you're putting yourself out there - and it's terrifying and fun all at the same time. Find a song that makes you happy and every single morning put that song on and dance your way in to the day!"

If at any point you have any questions, feel free to contact Tara Waniganayaka via president@usu.edu.au and be sure to come along to the USU Board Elections Information Session - https://www.facebook.com/events/1573242026286561/