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The Clubs, The Societies & The Scandals

The Clubs, The Societies & The Scandals

Words by Alexi Barnstone

Welcome Week is in full swing. Thousands of new students from across the world will be walking through Eastern Ave trying to decide what clubs and societies they want to be a part of. There are hundreds of different societies on campus and it can be pretty overwhelming trying to figure out which ones are worth getting involved in.

If you feel like this, if you are one of these wide eyed freshman that hasn’t had their life ruined by University marks yet, then this is the article for you!

Unfortunately it would take about a year to really investigate this. So here is a quick series of listicles that give you an idea of some of the big players. Here are the biggest 5 clubs and societies that you should be aware of and the top 5 clubs and societies with scandalous histories.

First up; the biggest 5 clubs and societies on campus


The Dramatic Society at the University of Sydney is one of the biggest societies around! SUDS puts on plays throughout the year around campus, often using the Cellar Theatre which is a beautiful intimate space below the Holmes building. SUDS is also well known to be an inclusive society that engages with people from other campuses. If you are into acting, directing, producing, sound design or anything else that falls into this long list of things I am totally inept at, go join them! 


The University of Sydney Arts Students' Society (SASS) is the most established society for students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. SASS hosts events throughout the year that offer dynamic and engaging experiences for students. SASS offers a lot to their members, from social life in the fast lane to an opportunity to get published in their annual literary journal called ARNA.

Catholic Society

The Sydney University Catholic Society (CathSoc) one of the largest societies on campus. A place for students who want to learn more about God and the Catholic Faith.  People can enrol here if they want to grow their faith and make friends at the same time!  CathSoc provides places to pray, study, eat, play a game of table tennis, or just chill out. They have Daily Mass is 12:10pm, Monday to Friday during semester. Confession is also available before Mass at 11:30am, Monday - Friday during semester.

Chinese Development Society

The Chinese Development Society is the first stop for many of our international students and students of Chinese descent. This society provides an active space for students to learn about China and make friends!

The Evangelical Union

The Evangelical Union is, as they describe themselves to the Union, “a student-run an inter-denominational and Bible-based Christian group on the main campus of the University of Sydney that proclaims Jesus is Lord.” They are less political than CathSoc and a little more student centric. 

And now let us change gear, and focus on some of the controversy that has plagued some societies. Before going on, we should note that this information should not necessarily discredit the worth of the society, but if should be recognised for its spice!

1. CathSoc

Catholic society makes it into both groups and for good reason. CathSoc is not only one of the biggest societies on campus, it is also one of the most controversial. CathSoc has a long history of hosting controversial events that have created serious tension around campus. In 2018 CathSoc hosted an anti-abortion talk titled” Abortion: The Exploitation of Women.” In 2016 they hosted an event called “Men + Women = Made for each other?” which enrages the queer community on campus. In a progressive university context the catholic society has a habit of putting up a fight against progressive values, and occasionally that fight spills over into protests.

2. Subski

Subski is Australia’s biggest sports and recreation club. It works with universities all over Australia to organise big ski vacations for students. Finding ski buddies in a city where it never snows is not easy. Organising a trip is even harder. Subski gained massive popularity because it was a place where students could link up with other skiers and go on great adventures.

But in recent years Subski has been seen its reputation as a fun get away society diminish as more and more sexual harassment and bullying scandals have surfaced. In 2012 Sydney University Sport and Fitness dropped their affiliation with the club after a misdemeanor by some of the Subski representatives happened during their New Zealand trip. In 2018 Subski received a final warning from the Sydney of University Union for misconduct.

 3. Life choice

Life Choice, the anti- abortion and anti euthanasia society, has a history of controversy on campus. In 2018 the women's collective held a protest outside their welcome week stall. Similar to CathSoc Life Choice is definitely scandalous in their views about morality and women's rights. Life Choice attempted multiple times to become a recognised society before being accepted, because they failed to meet the requirements by the USU for enriching student life.

4. China development

The China development society has also taken its fair share of heat making it into both the most popular and most controversial category of this list. Sydney Morning Herald and other sources have revealed links between the society and the Chinese Communist Party. The society explains itself as an organisation “that strives to promote a global understanding of China.” That…. Is pretty obvious soft power right there.

5. Generation liberty

Generation Liberty is the final society to sneak onto this list. A right wing organisation funded by the big corporate cash cow IPA as was reported by Honi Soit in 2018. The IPA receives about half of its funding from Gina Rinehart. In a campus that prides itself on having societies that stand alone, against the backdrop of external influence and not catering to it, this society definitely deserves a mention. IPA promotes an anti-government free market ideology which it is sure to install in its minow Generation Liberty.

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