Words || Cameron Colwell
MQU Labor President Lizzie Green’s involvement in politics was predestined: with unionist parents and a great-grandfather who was a Labor member, Green is a woman who is endlessly passionate about penalty rates, Indigenous land rights, and education.
Green initially joined Labor on campus in response to parental advice: “I originally thought I was joining a club for Labor supporters and then I was joining the party and everything after that. Yeah, that’s kind of why I joined and it’s turned out really great”.
Her highlights as a member have included organising a forum on domestic violence featuring Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek, Federal Shadow Minister for Women Sophie Cotsis, and Manager of the Leichhardt Women’s Centre Roxanne McMurray. “It was around the time of the ‘Going Home, Staying Home’ report, that New South Wales Liberals brought in. So we wanted to bring attention to such a huge issue in our society and how the Liberals are dismissing it as nothing. I think that was one of our proudest moments, we were able to get a huge crowd there.”
Before Green, Labor at Macquarie had never had a woman president, something that motivated Green to run for Presidency: “I thought it was about time MQ Labor had a female President. I think it’s so important to see women in leadership roles and that’s why I put my hand up … Before
I joined, there was six men around that table at Ubar, that was the club. When I joined a couple of other women did too. That was when we
put our foot down and said we needed to be encouraging more women to get involved”. The club has since implemented affirmative action on
the leadership team, and the top four positions are equal in terms of gender representation.
When asked about Labor’s purpose on campus, Green responds:“I think the Labor club is there firstly to give people a platform to talk about issues or politics that they’re passionate about. We’re very passionate to get anyone to come along and talk about policy, particularly if it’s Labor policy … And I think another thing is to show people that there’s a group on campus that is left wing. It’s not just the two Liberal clubs. I think there’s a view Macquarie is not as left-wing as other universities in NSW, so having a presence from Labor is important”.
As for implementing change on campus that’s in line with Labor values, Green’s Presidency leaves much to be desired. The meeting minutes from Labor’s weekly Ubar hangs demonstrates that they’re hardly a time and place for serious policy discussions. “Well, I guess, like any club, we have jokes, a little bit of fun. We don’t want to talk about politics for a whole two hours so we’ll have a little bit of fun as well … Obviously we don’t want to make joke motions for the whole time, but sometimes we have very serious policy discussions.” While she concedes that “I’m trying to stop continuous jokes”, she assures me that serious issues are discussed in these meetings: “Things like NUS [National Union of Students], unionising the campus, stuff like that”.
While Green identifies Labor as the only left-wing presence on campus, the MQ Progressives, a group of left-wing Labor members who split from MQU Labor last year, have presented a great disruption to Green’s ideal. Green doesn’t seem to be able to account for the fracture: “The thing with them was we’d encouraged them to come to meetings but they really refused to … There were a couple of people in senior positions in the club who have always been in Central Unity in the party, so they thought it was a right-wing club. They refused to come … I don’t know exactly why they felt like they weren’t having their voice heard because we’ve always let them talk at AGMs and I think it was more of a personal thing with NSW Young Labor Left”.
As for Green’s hopes for in the future of the club, she is clear that: “we’ll continue to be that presence of left-wing politics. And I think continuing that legacy of putting [women] in leadership positions as well, I hope that once I step down we don’t forget about the women in the club in leadership positions”.
Student Unionism remains high on the club’s agenda since the dissolution of Macquarie’s Union in 2007, but Green isn’t confident she’ll see any structural changes during her time at Macquarie.
“It’s very hard to tell, particularly now, I guess … If you look at other uni SRCs it’s very much party-aligned but if you look at Macquarie’s it’s got a few of Labor, a few of the Liberals, [as well as] people who are just students who are passionate about the university. So, I guess, when you don’t have as many political people on your SRC it’s harder to fight for […] having a union on campus.”
If you’re enjoying Grapeshot Online, come meet us irl February 27, at the launch party of our next issue, Daddy! It’s at Ubar at 4:30pm, and there will be drink vouchers, temporary tats, and bangers.