July Report - David Mailler, UNE Student Association President
A Big Year Firstly, if the news is slow in reaching you, it is with sadness I report that Chancellor John Watkins has resigned as the head of UNE. Our big ‘Kahoona’ was well liked by students, always approachable and seemingly more concerned about the welfare of students and the UNE reputation as the premier external and collegiate university in Australia. At a recent dinner I was fortunate to hear John describe his halcyon days as a university student, filled will tutorial experiences that inspired and is still inspiring a life full of value. For me, in the time I have known John Watkins he demonstrated a deep intellect and integrity, providing me with sage advice that as I write these words I smile as I reflect on that advice. Selfishly, my regret is that John would have been that one person I would like to have, if I am lucky enough to graduate, hand me the ‘Holy Grail’.
I think and believe UNE will miss the steady hand and integrity that our Chancellor John Watkins brought to his time at UNE. I know that the decision to resign as chancellor was personally difficult and I would like to wish John well and thank him for the positive influence he has had on the future for UNE. He took on the job at a difficult time and has employed his integrity and energy to steady the good ship UNE.
To other business, there are a number of challenges facing tertiary students in the coming years as the coalition budget rolls over UNE students like a dark storm. It was heartening to hear our Vice Chancellor so succinctly sum up the special challenges in the budget for UNE students last month. Annabelle Duncan has demonstrated why her leadership is consistent with the purpose of any university. She has on a number of occasions expressed the need for student experience and welfare to be at the heart of UNE success. I have said a number of times, in a number of forums, that universities have a huge responsibility in shaping the next generation of problem solvers and leaders. The fate of future generations of tertiary students will be sealed and shaped by politicians; something our federal leaders have forgotten in their single minded destruction of future equity as they battle the imaginary endless series of menacing hobgoblins.
For UNESA, my wish is that the incoming board can continue working with UNE academic and administration staff to ensure a sustainable and vibrant student association. There is some work to do and I continually marvel at how poorly the vision, values and purpose of the UNE Student Association is understood. The one thing students, and the student collective, have demonstrated over the past two years is solutions to problems. My pearl of wisdom and something I have learnt is that if I invest people in the problem, they find the solutions. If I don’t, they become part of the issue. Leadership is complex, although it is made a lot less complex with demonstrating respect for differences and finding points of convergence.
As this is my last report as the UNESA inaugural board president, I would like to especially thank the student members and UNE staff who have encouraged and supported UNESA in its first year. Without them none of what has been achieved in the past twelve months would have been possible. There have been some extraordinarily dark hours in the past year and without your support the student voice might have still been lost.
30 June 2014