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Past presidents, future leaders?

Past presidents, future leaders?

Words by Louisa Bochner

As the battle for the SRC Presidency comes to a close for another year, it’s timely to consider what the position really means. And there’s no better way than to look to the past as an indicator for what the SRC President represents, and who the 2019 President may one day become.

Whether you hate student politics or love it, you can’t deny that past SRC Presidents have gone on to do some great – and not so great – things.

Notoriously, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott battled for the Presidency and lost in 1977, only to win in 1979. Joe Hockey, former Treasurer and current Ambassador to the United States,  claimed the presidency in 1987. The Hon Michael Kirby, former Justice of the High Court of Australia, held the post way back in the 60s.

In 2012, the Sydney Morning Herald went as far as to say that the SRC Presidency was a predictor of future success.

But what about in recent years? I chatted to some of SRC Presidents from the last five years to see what they’re doing now, their plans for the future, and ask for their advice to those running this year.  


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Isabella Brook (2017)

What are you up to these days?

I'm not up to too much these days. I'm finishing my last semester of uni and working part-time. I don't have any intention to run for politics in the future but plan to keep working in the political space, whether that’s in policy or political organising.

Advice to your past self or current candidates?

I think the advice I'd give my former self or anyone running today is not to take things too seriously and to take a step back and remember the bigger picture.

What was the biggest challenge of your presidency?

The biggest challenge was finding balance both politically and personally! Trying to make sure that I was balancing the interests of students with the interests of the council and the interests of the SRC as an organisation. As well as trying to find  personal balance between the job and having a life.


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Chloe Smith (2016)

What are you up to these days?

I’m currently working full-time at the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union as a Special Projects Officer. I’m pretty happy with my job at the moment and would love to stay involved with the union movement in some capacity into the future. I definitely have no plans to run for politics.

Advice to your past self or current candidates?

Despite what some people say, stupol isn’t all bad! I met some incredible comrades and made some of my closest friends through being involved in campaigns and with the SRC. If you find a cause that you’re really passionate about, embrace it and follow it, because you never know where it might lead you. Stupol can be a tough but invaluable learning experience – celebrate your wins, commiserate over losses, and don’t take everything too seriously. If you fuck up, it’s not the end of the world. Remember to have fun!

Also, know when to quit - if you’ve got more than four year’s worth of hack t-shirts, it’s definitely time to retire.

What was the biggest challenge of your presidency?

The biggest challenge to my presidency was a mix of learning how to manage personal, professional, and political issues between both the councillors and OBs (Office Bearers), and the permanent SRC staff (becoming CEO of an organisation in your early 20s is a steep learning curve), as well as learning how to navigate the dense university bureaucracy that the SRC has to work with and occasionally against.


Jennifer Light  (2014)

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What are you up to these days?

I have previously worked for members of federal parliament but at the moment I working on marginal campaigns to get Labor into Government at the next election.
I am currently studying a Masters in City Planning at UNSW and would like to be able to bring my political and government experience together with planning and try and create a more equitable city.

Advice to your past self or current candidates?
It is easy to get bogged down in the bubble of student politics and instead of spending your time worrying about how the 300 or so people who are active in that bubble see you focus on how we are actually going to get real action to benefit students. You get far more done by negotiating than screaming. There are approx. 33,000 undergraduate students and the SRC needs to advocate for them all, whether they are involved or not.

What was the biggest challenge of your presidency?

The biggest challenge of my Presidency was trying to balance what I was trying to achieve with a council in which I didn’t have the numbers. While I won Presidency certain repercussions of factional deals meant I neither had the numbers or the support within the SRC. In saying that, it was one of the best experiences of my life and I learnt a lot! I was able to get all lectures online and strongly advocated for more affordable housing for students (this was much harder to achieve).


So there you have it folks. Voting closes at 5pm, so if you’re interested in the future of your university, and maybe even the future of AUSTRALIA, get out there and vote.


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