It’s election week for NUSA Council executive 2018 this week. We’ve had many students across locations at Callaghan and City voting already. Our Media Officer, Luci, sat down on Wednesday Morning with Presidential candidates, Christy Mullen and Hayden Nichols.

Opus: You’re running for NUSA President, why are you running for this position?

Christy: Because I think I’m the best person for the job. I’ve spent the last year learning how to do the job as vice president under the guidance of the current president, learning from their mistakes learning from my own qualities. I think I have an actual realistic vision for NUSA and ways to improve NUSA, have our services and just increase our services to more students and to go beyond just a group of students who just yell at the university and the government for things they’re never going to achieve, to actually making tangible change within the university community. I don’t see anyone else being able to do that, so that’s why I’m running.

Hayden: Okay, yeah so, obviously I’ve been involved with NUSA in the past. I was this year’s queer convenor at the beginning of the year. I mean we’ve seen some great things from Stand Up presidents, we’re wanting to continue that great tradition of Stand Up presidents. Um, as I said in my candidate statement, I’m running to ensure that NUSA remains, you know, an inclusive place, a place that is representative of all students. I’m wanting to ensure that we’re always consulting students, we’re talking to students all the time. We’re increasing the amount of surveys we’re doing to make sure that what NUSA’s doing is in line with what the students want us to do.

Opus: NUSA is already a point of advocacy for students, how will you ensure this continues, should you win?

Christy: I’ll ensure that the advocacy continues, predominantly through our collectives. So, like the Education and Welfare Collectives, Wom*n’s Collective, Queer Collective, Indigenous Collective, International Students, all that – so that way you’ve got people who are passionate about the issue working together, and building those communities and those groups to continue to be advocacy instead of just like three elected reps just writing angry emails, that we have a grassroots movement autonomous issues by autonomous people when it needs to be. And with people working together and having more people involved. Advocacy, as we’ve seen, doesn’t really work when it’s just a small amount of people. We have to grow and expand, and that’s what I’d do as president. I’d empower all the convenors on the skills that I know about organising and network building – from even just like my previous experience in clubs. Help them and ensure them that they’re threading those skills down and across their collectives to increase the aim of the collectives to be a horizontal flat grassroots structure.

Hayden: I mean I’ve always been an advocate for students in my past roles. In my past roles I have been, well I’ve been a staunch advocate for students, especially in the queer community, fighting for things like gender neutral bathrooms with the transgender and gender diverse convenor, advocating for shifting the university’s views on gender identification through exams.

Opus: What tangible experience do you have that makes you fit for the role?

Christy: So, this year, I was Vice President of NUSA. I have relationships with all the staff, a lot of the key university members. I wrote the SSAF proposals this year. So, I think that one’s a big no-brainer, but um I’m also president of the Goonion, which is the largest club on campus, I was Vice President, like a Giblet (read: volunteer) the year before. So, I have the qualities, and I persevere through things that I’ve been doing. I haven’t been a quitter and I also have just always been involved. I’ve been event volunteering and event planning for ten years so even just that, I don’t see any other candidate across the board with the amount of experience I have with community organisation and event volunteering.

Hayden: Tangible experience… well I mean my experience with NUSA in the past has been – I mean I keep going back to it but I have been involved with NUSA for – I think this is my second year involved with NUSA, um, I don’t think I did an awful job. And that I suppose speaks for itself. My role within the community, I’ve sort of taken a leadership role with Marriage Equality campaign here in Newcastle. It’s going really well, we’re getting great turnout. My roles in the union here. I’m a member of the Community and Public Service Union, quite an active member, fighting for workers’ rights.

Opus: What are three things you value most in a leader?

Christy: Honesty

Being consultative – like democracy

The ability to make the hard decisions when their needed, but it has to be based on evidence and not own personal biases.

Ooohh can I add a fourth one? Someone who is able to remove their own personal biases, like an impartial leader.

Hayden: Transparency – making sure all of your actions are out there and everyone knows what’s going on with the leadership.

I think that’s linked with accountability – you know, making sure you’re accountable, and I suppose in this role you need to make sure, not only are you accountable to the council, but you’re accountable to the students, um and making sure that values that are upheld within the union – or the association – are aligned with what students are wanting you to do, and really for this year, or for next year, what students are voting for you to do on council, so ensuring our policies are upheld.

And I think the third one, and I think this goes with whatever role you’re in, in any sort of organisation, always being honest, as well.

Opus: How would you adapt your style in order to work effectively with those who you might not ordinarily get along with?

Christy: It’s not so much not getting along with people, it’s about knowing people’s active levels. So, some people you need to be a persuasive leader to, and like sell them the job and the task that they need to do. Other people you have to be an empowering leader where you actually give them the skills, you’re like ‘hey this is how you make a Facebook event, this is how you run a meeting’ so then they can have those skills. So, they may have the confidence to do those things, but they don’t actually have the skills yet and other people you have to do a combination of both or give some people autonomy and authority to just run off on their own and do their own thing.

But I think the question is more geared towards how I’m going to deal with political differences. It’s no secret that I’m a progressive, obviously. But I’m not a part of any faction, so I think that gives me a benefit to be in a good position to lead the council, as I’m not going to be bound by a caucus. I’m going to be making fair impartial decisions that’s for the best of NUSA Council, and I’m just going to continue to frame it that way throughout the year. It’s going to be like “Hey guys, this isn’t like a caucus thing, this is a campus thing.” I always focus on everyone’s similarities. Say we had conservative on council, it would be like: “Yeah, I understand we have very different views on the government, but we’re all here at the end of the day to get stuff done for NUSA. You wouldn’t be on council if you didn’t care.” So, I’d mostly focus on that to get things done.

Hayden: I think the strength in – like obviously there has been some, you know there are people who may not get along. There’s always going to be people who aren’t getting along – we saw that this year. I think the good thing in that though is that though, is everyone is, regardless of whether they’re sitting within party politics or whatever, everyone is left wing, and wanting to – I think – work together in that sense to ensure that NUSA is remaining a left-wing organisation. I know we’re definitely in line with that. How would I adapt? I think it goes back to what I’m saying here. Like if we’re consulting with students and ensuring that they’re, you know, we’re representing them. We can also ensure that we’re talking to everyone on council. As president, it is the role of that president to ensure that communication is kept between all members of the council. And ensure that everyone is getting on with the job, making sure everyone’s feeling supported, feeling comfortable in what they’re doing, and I suppose in doing that you’re going to get to know how people are working, what people’s interests are. We’ve already started talking to some of the other candidates to say “look, this is our policies, this is your policies, how are we going to make sure that everyone’s getting their policies, you know, up.”

Opus: What are some of your personal tools for dealing with adversity?

Christy: So, I have really good coping mechanisms. At the start of the year, I went through a domestic violence incident which left me homeless and I still managed to remain a really active VP, and with all my other club stuff. So, the things that I utilise is all my NUSA, extracurricular stuff – that’s kind of an escape for me from anything else that’s going on in my life, and so I keep it like that. I don’t think of it as a drama. I’ve always been someone deescalates dramas. My other coping mechanisms are: a cup of tea, hot shower, walk the dogs, hang with friends, just a real practical focus on my mental health is really important.

Hayden: One thing that I think in the past, when faced with adversity, NUSA’s done probably not great, is shut down, or not so much shut down, but cut off. Like we’ve seen less and less NUSA’s talking to the University. Obviously, there’s always opposition from the university, we need to ensure that those communications are kept up. So, I suppose again, what we’re running on in Stand Up is to ensure that consultation is put up. We’re talking and we’re constantly keeping up lines of communication.

In my personal life, in facing adversity is quite different. Obviously, I have faced – especially in recent weeks – a little bit of um – had some interesting conversations with people. In my work place, an even bigger shine is put on [marriage equality] because I’ve got people ringing up wanting to express their concerns to me, and um, I suppose how I’m coping with that, is ensuring that I keep calm – there’s obviously a million things I want to say. But ensuring we keep calm, and we’re delivering the message of equality and stuff. So, I think that is a big thing. Making sure you keep calm, you’re delivering the messages, and you’re getting on with the job.

Opus: How could you fail as President? And how can you learn from past mistakes to ensure this doesn’t happen?

Christy: The only way I’d really fail as president is if I fail to inspire the council to work together and remain motivated, I see that as my main job. That’s not so much as a reflection of a failure of me, but of individuals running, who shouldn’t have. But that’s okay, because people can quit, and we can get new people in. Another way I could fail is by not effectively overcoming many of the internal crises that NUSA already has. But I don’t think I’m going to fail because I’ve overcome multiple this year by just thinking things through clearly, writing it out looking at it logically and consulting with other people to gain their different perspectives.

Hayden: I don’t want to think about failing, we have to stay positive! Look, how I could fail. First, a very easy one is, ah, we’re not able to get up any of the policies that we’re advocating, and then the student body is: “what’s going on, why did we vote for you?”  That is definitely a way. I think how I could fail is the um, whether or not past things that have popped up come back – in terms of the circumstances upon me leaving NUSA in the first place, whether that’s rehashed, ‘cause it did throw me around a bit. I’m honest about that. So, that is definitely, definitely a way that I could fail. I don’t like to think about failure, I’m trying to stay positive. This whole campaign is about me trying to stay positive, um, that is a way. How can I learn from past mistakes, well I need to be more open and honest with the people around me, and ensure that I know I’ve got support groups, ensuring that I’m tapping into those and staying safe as well. But I think the big thing that I want to do is getting on with the job, working with everyone, ensuring that things are getting done.

Opus: How will you engage with students and ensure they get involved in NUSA?

Christy: The collectives are a really good platform for that. It can just start as social events, and you bring people in and be like: “hey you wanna do more events, I need your help to volunteer and organise.” You make it more accessible and make it less of a Labor Party conspiracy, and you increase communication. So, I’d assist the media officer in putting out more Opus’s, we’d have a fortnightly, weekly newsletter to our email list so everyone knows what free food is on, what events are on. It’s also through the clubs. A few of my friends have nominated for NUSA Council from people I’ve met from the Goonian and the Business and Commerce association. It’s just about building connections and inspiring people about the purpose and the power of NUSA.

Hayden: Yeah, I keep banging on about it. Consultation. My plan for NUSA in that is like – obviously we have our surveys with NUSA. We really only see them online. I’d like NUSA to – yes, online is great and it does get engagement with um students – what I’d like to see is us getting out there, and um going to Auchmuty, going to Huxley library and saying to students: “look, this is the survey we wanna know what you’re doing.” We need to ramp up that. I’d also love to see us advertising a bit more – I mean all this is still happening, we just need to do more I think. And that’s what we’re running on, ensuring that we’re doing these surveys constantly to ensure that we’re representing students and student interests.

Opus: Can you give me some examples of how you have helped create change in a position of leadership in the past?

Christy: I always struggle with this one as someone who’s very horizontal and teamwork-focussed to take ownership for the changes that have occurred. I always struggle to distinguish changes from events and initiatives. With events and initiatives, I was some of the idea force and the organising force behind Girls Night Out for the Wom*n’s Collective, Productive Procrastination with NUSA and the Pet Cuddling day, and the cooking classes at NUSA. But it’s hard to distinguish that as change. I think I’ve definitely done a big step this year within NUSA with removing the Stupol from it, and reassuring people that, like, it’s not all connected and it doesn’t need to be. Um, but also in a practical sense. I’ve greatly improved the governance of the Goonian and the forward planning. Like, it’s been around for ten years next year and so a lot of that framework was already there, it was just improved and enhanced. That’s the type of stuff I like. In my first year as a student I wrote a heap of policies for the Wom*n’s Collective, that are no longer around – but that’s a different story. And just like the practical little things that are hard to acknowledge as change, personally, but other people are like: “nice.”

Hayden: My answers are quite similar in that like looking at my role in the Queer Collective as the convenor, we saw a complete restructure of how our collective operates, you know. After talking to members, members were quite happy with those changes and I think, I mean if members external to the collective, um, who aren’t members of the collective aren’t particularly happy with the restructure, I mean members of the collective and members of that community have the final say. Members were quite happy. We saw a more inclusive collective come about. We were representative of more than just – a huge criticism we heard all the time last year and the year before was that the collective was just for a bunch of gay men, cisgendered men. This year we saw a huge increase in female members, we saw – almost for the first time, I think members of the transgender and gender diverse community come on board. We were able to get representatives for that. So, I think this is a change – I think – for the good. The collective seemed to think it was for the good. I think it’s great, next year’s convenor, Ollie is going to be amazing. Very happy that they’ve put their hand up.

Opus: Why should the student body vote for you?

Christy: Because I have actual plans that I’ll help make the union more transparent and consultative. They’ll have more meetings outside of the night time hours for everyone to attend, and increase consulation hours also at NeWSpace. I’d be empowering the autonomous collectives, I’d be improving communication, as I said before through the newsletters, and I’ll have the NUSA building open longer hours so you can get more free food, more safe spaces, more comfort. I’ll bring food, events and sexual health products to NeWSpace. There’ll be more discounted employment courses, and one of the big things that really sets me a part is my focus on clubs. So, I’ll have more equipment and storage and assistance for clubs who affiliate with NUSA

Hayden: Well, I’ve got great policies. The student body should be voting, not just for me, but for the Stand Up ticket because we have that proven track record of introducing great policies for students. One big popular one that we’ve seen is the introduction of cheat sheets for exams – everyone loves them. That was brought in by one of our former presidents. I think, you know, we want to continue on with that great tradition of Stand Up policies.

Friday is the last day to vote, so head to the NUSA building between 10am and 3pm. Talk to the candidates, and make an informed decision.