Address at the 2018 Arc Dinner

Good evening, everyone. I too acknowledge the Bedegal people on whose land we meet.

My wife Chris and I were delighted to receive this coveted invitation to Arc’s night of nights. It’s always an absolute joy to visit the Roundhouse, but it feels especially fitting tonight to be back at this event in UNSW students’ spiritual home.

When I welcome incoming undergraduates, I tell them a few things about what to expect at university. First, I tell them they have opened the door to study at the highest level; that they’ve come to a place that will expand their minds, test their intellect, and allow them to explore the possibilities of exciting careers ahead.

Second, I tell them that university is about all of that and much more. University is a place of infinite opportunity; to try new things, make new friends, be part of a broader community, to have fun and learn about yourself. But perhaps most importantly, I also tell students what the university expects of them.
We expect them to work hard. We expect them to grasp every opportunity they are offered. We expect them to embrace the vibrant diversity of our student cohort.

And we expect them to treat each other with respect. We need our students to look out for each other in all contexts – on and off campus; in person and online. I know Arc takes this as seriously as I do, and I want to thank you for all you do to ensure that the student experience at UNSW is a positive and empowering one.

Over the last year alone, we’ve seen the massive impact that Arc and UNSW student leaders have had. On dealing with serious issues such as supporting students’ mental health, addressing bullying and discrimination, and preventing sexual assault. And across many areas of student advocacy.

The university has deeply appreciated your contributions to:
• advocating for improvements to the student health service;
• UNSW’s Financial Inclusion Action Plan; and
• building support networks for under-served groups, such as international students…and LGBTI students.

Supporting our LGBTI students during last year’s plebiscite – a very difficult time for many – stands out as some of your most important work in this regard.

I also want to highlight your work in setting up the International Student Forum, which I am very much looking forward to being a part of next semester. It’s hard to overstate how crucial your work is in supporting students throughout their journey here. That is why UNSW is so enormously proud of our relationship with Arc.

Our partnership agreement is one of the longest and largest funding arrangements between a student organisation and a university in Australian history. It enables Arc to serve its 30,000 members, oversee some 335 clubs and societies, and more than 30 volunteer programs engaging more than 4,500 UNSW student volunteers.

From preparing for exams, finding a place to live, or even knowing where on campus is the best place to take a nap… Level 3 of the Library, I now know… Arc can answer virtually any student question.

Student life would be unrecognisable without all the elements that Arc makes possible. Arc Sport – which I’m told had its most decorated year last year – has also made some great headway breaking down barriers. The She Can initiative – getting more female students involved in sport – is to be applauded.
And then there is Arc’s contribution to the PLuS Alliance – it’s terrific to see the three student organisations from UNSW, King’s College London and Arizona State University working so closely together. And, of course, there is this iconic Roundhouse, and our beloved Tharunka – a publication which has catapulted the careers of some Australian journalism greats – Richard Carleton, Richard Neville and Wendy Bacon to name a few.

A look back through Tharunka gives quite an insight into the big issues that have beset UNSW students over the years. In the 60s and 70s there seemed to be quite a concerted effort to change the food in the cafeteria which played out in letters to the editor or regular columns.

The travesty of pies being wrapped in, and I quote, ‘foul-smelling cellophane’; the fact the curry and the goulash both tasted like braised steak; the conspiracy theory about why croquettes disappeared from the menu.

As a footnote to that last point…the author’s theory was because the union suddenly realised it was providing a wholesome snack for a ridiculously cheap price of 15 cents for two.

Down the track the emphasis seemed to turn from food to alcohol with an article appearing titled ‘The art of on-campus drinking’ – complete with a photo of Vice-Chancellor John Niland, beer in hand, ‘setting the standard’.

The archives show UNSW students to be unrivalled for their creativity, ingenuity, and willingness to go above and beyond. From ‘Dress like an Arts student’ day…to Foundation Day pranks such as:
• UNSW ‘pirates’ commandeering the Mosman Ferry …
• The Sydney Morning Herald building elegantly renamed ‘The Sydney Morning Tharunka’
• And former Vice-Chancellor, Gordon Samuels, kidnapped by students, only to be later saved by the University Council when they stumped up the ransom.

I have even heard stories that an alligator mysteriously made its way here to the water-logged village green in 1964. I am more than relieved that no current UNSW students would even think of doing anything like that… I hope.

Edward, you’ve said that Arc’s vision is to create the best uni experience possible, while helping students fulfil their potential and feel supported along the way.

You have done a wonderful job as ARC President during the last year. Given that our ARC Presidents are elected from such an outstandingly talented student body it is not surprising that year after year we have Presidents who make an outstanding contribution to UNSW and then go on to glorious careers.

Even amongst the shining lights of your predecessors you have stood out. You will be missed during your exciting fellowship in South Africa and I know that you will have an enormous impact there. Please join me in thanking Ed and wishing him well on his next adventure. Ed, your vision is one I – and the university’s management board – wholeheartedly share.

I’m extraordinarily proud of UNSW students. And I think that our students feel genuinely proud to be part of the UNSW community too. My thanks to the entire Arc Board for all that you do to enhance the student experience here at UNSW.

I reiterate my appreciation to the other outgoing board members Kynan Newsman, Lucian Hiss, Audrey March, Joshua Sun, and Erin Bailey. You have done a superb job.

More than anything else I value your commitment to perpetuating an ethos amongst our UNSW community of service to others. To caring for and about others at UNSW during their time as students and to feeling a sense of responsibility to contribute to society during your future lives and careers.

I look forward to working with the incoming Chair, Nadhirah Daud and the new board members who I know are driven by these same values. Working together we can achieve great things for UNSW and our community. Enjoy the night.

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