For the first time in our university’s history, there is now only one student association that represents all students at the University of Newcastle. As of the 1st of July 2020, the three existing student associations (NUSA, NUSPA & Yourimbah) dissolved and reformed as UNSA (The University of Newcastle Students’ Association). This is not a merger of three associations, but instead the establishment of a larger and more diverse representative structure.

This new association has been in the works since 2016 and will offer the same support and resources as before but has also implemented positions that represent the 4000 Cloud Campus students as well as the Port Macquarie and Sydney campuses.

Why do we have a student association?

Student unions and associations are representative bodies for students. UNSA President Luka Harrison says that they exist to provide services for students, advocate for students on relevant issues and help facilitate student activism.

Student unions and associations exist in universities all around Australia but Luka also says that UNSA is quite unique due to its representation of such a large cohort of students, “UNSA is for all student enrolled at the University of Newcastle, whether they be postgraduate, undergraduate, international, domestic, or anything in between at any campus.”

What you can expect from UNSA

Luka says that students can expect UNSA to be “a strong voice for students that is dedicated to standing up and fighting for them.” He also says that UNSA will continue the “proud histories of NUSA, NUPSA, and Yourimbah” by providing essential services to students such as free food, pill testing, and the facilitation of clubs.

Postgraduate students still have a lot of support

Aaron Matthews, the Postgraduate Student Senate Representative for UNSA says that postgraduate students can expect more diverse representation within UNSA, “There will be many more postgraduate student voices within this student association.”

The transition between associations hasn’t been as smooth as hoped for, so whilst students may notice a lack of support currently, Aaron is keen to begin supporting postgraduate students as soon as possible, “we will endeavour to offer the same services and support that all postgraduate students are accustomed to as soon as possible. UNSA will eventually be able to offer more than NUPSA currently can.”

If you are a postgraduate student keen to be involved in UNSA there will be plenty of opportunities once UNSA begins to grow. Aaron envisions an organisation that features postgraduate representation across all areas, “I am hopeful that in the coming years there can be representatives from each faculty, if not school too…UNSA is large and it presents a fantastic opportunity for students to become involved in leadership.”

As for what facets of NUPSA are remaining in the restructure, Aaron says that the Postgraduate Student Senate will mimic the NUPSA we know, “I think things will seem familiar from the beginning. It is our job over the next six months to define the Postgraduate Student Senate [and] I anticipate that the Postgraduate Student Senate’s ethos will be much the same as NUPSA’s.”

Central Coast students to have a greater range of support and services

The shift from Ourimbah having its own representative association to existing within a whole students association may cause some hesitation amongst Central Coast campus students, however, the Central Coast Campus Convener Matthew Knight believes that the Ourimbah campus has been well considered in the restructure, “My perspective has been that the Ourimbah campus has been considered as much as any other campus has. I’ve felt a great deal of support from the UNSA board in benefit of the Ourimbah campus.”

In terms of what Yourimbah services we can expect to see remaining in UNSA, Matthew is sure that UNSA will provide Ourimbah with the same advocacy and services that are offered to all campuses, “the events and activities may change but the only difference UNSA hopes students notice is a greater range of support and services that are accessible.”

If you study at Ourimbah and would like to get involved at UNSA Matthew is keen for you to reach out, “I have to assemble a committee of students that represent the needs and values of the Ourimbah campus. I urge any students who are interested, need change, or want to be more engaged with their campus to be involved.” Any student seeking advice can contact UNSA via email and if their query specifically relates to the Ourimbah campus it will be passed on to Matt for follow up.

Matthew is working alongside Alexander Snape, the Cloud Campus Convener to create a physical space for online students by inviting them to events and activities at Ourimbah and is also hoping to work alongside the collective conveners to establish Ourimbah bases for the collectives, should there be demand for them.

You can get involved!

Getting involved in your student association is an important aspect of uni life. You will have the chance to have your voice heard and speak on matters that are important to you. Luka also says it’s a chance for students to build skills, network, and engage with an existing new organisation. 

There are plenty of positions currently vacant within UNSA.  All the Committees and Senates are recruiting for student representatives.  For information on specific roles contact the Convenor for more information.

For a full list of representatives visit https://www.newcastle.edu.au/current-students/uni-life/campus/campus-amenities/student-associations

You can follow UNSA on socials here and their new website is (growing) here. You can also opt-in to the UNSA email list by emailing unsa@newcastle.edu.au.

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