As an organisation run by a combination of student executive and professional staff, the UQ Union aims to empower and support students during their time at University. Never has this been more relevant than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here at the UQ Union, we shifted our operations as a result of COVID-19 in order to best provide for students. Over the course of 2020, we delivered more than 20,000 free plates of food to students, and provided students with more than 350 bags of fresh fruit and vegetables when they needed them most. Our Student Advocacy & Support team provided more than $11,000 in individual financial support to students, and helped students with more than 2,700 cases of individual welfare, academic, visa and legal issues. We also lead the charge on important campaigns, fighting ProctorU and adjusting policies at UQ so that 301 students were able to receive well deserved Dean’s commendations retrospectively. Furthermore, the 109th UQ Union Council worked to represent student and their views, passing a number of important motions on topics such as Black Lives Matter, climate action, international student work rights and university staff exploitation.
Semester two saw a return to on campus activities with flexible learning options in place. With students on campus, the Union and its staff worked hard to positively impact the student experience whilst also continuing to assist with COVID-19 related hardships. We partnered with the Queensland Police, Surf Lifesaving and a native wildlife specialist to provide advice to students on how to stay safe in Australia. Our Interfaculty Sport department facilitated more than 400 hours of sport for 12,000 players, and our 222 Clubs and Societies worked tirelessly to provide professional development and social opportunities for their 29,000 members. To further the ability of the UQ Union to assist students, we created ‘Reach Out’, a page that can be found on the UQU website that encourages all students to get in touch regarding any ideas or issues they may want to address. We also secured and refurbished a large area in the Morrison Hall at the UQ Gatton campus for the Women’s and Queer Collectives, providing Gatton students with safe spaces to spend time and meet likeminded people. Additionally, through the UQU Rewards program, we were able to assist students in saving over $33,000 at UQ Union outlets amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whilst these facts and figures represent our impact this year, they do not make evident the passion and dedication shown by our student executive and professional staff. I would like to thank all of the invaluable UQ Union staff for their efforts in 2020, without which, none of the Union operations would be possible. You make more of a positive impact than you know.
With the year almost over, I would also like to congratulate all students on their resilience in facing COVID-19 and 2020 as a whole. Despite a difficult year, it has been incredible to see students come together in support of their peers, and continue to fight for what is right. UQ students are not only the purpose of the Union, but also the inspiration, and we look forward to continuing to work alongside you in the years to come to fight for student rights and representation.
By Rebekah Thornton, Secretary