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An open letter to Andrew Bolt- Re: Higher Education Cuts and student rally

Dear Andrew,

We don’t know each other personally, but seeing as you are extremely concerned that I’m trying to “grab more of your money” to fund my tertiary education I thought we should acquaint ourselves- like a world vision child and their sponsor, right?

I should introduce myself, it would only be rude not to; I am an ‘angry’, ‘ungrateful’, ‘childish’ university student. Apart from being angry, ungrateful etc. other name is Louise and I’m in my 3rd year of a Health promotion and Public Health degree at Monash University. I am a member of the Victorian Education Action Network and have been working solidly over the past year to defend students from 3 billion dollars worth of cuts to higher education and more recently Pyne’s plan to decimate student unions, cap university places and ensure students from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot make it to university.

Like all angry University students, on Wednesday I attended the public demonstration in the Melbourne CBD against Pyne and Abbott’s inquiry into higher education. But I think you know that as you borrowed my Facebook conversation and photo for your “Students menace Hockey to grab more of your money” (30/10) article yesterday- no worries mate. Wednesday’s demonstration quickly fell out of hand, as the police officers incited violence among protesters, many of whom were passively chanting in the background or filming the event on their mobile phones. It was upsetting and utterly distressing to see friends of mine be tackled to the ground, face in the concrete and forbidden from receiving medical attention when rendered unconscious. The violence was unnecessary and I hope to never witness a similar scene ever again.

I mentioned before that I was angry and like a kettle needing to blow off some steam I’m about to spout. I’m angry at members of society, like you Andrew, who are labelling young people of today ‘ungrateful’, ‘selfish’, ‘dole-bludgers’ and any other profanity that is deemed suitable for a Fu*k Tony Abbott T-shirt. Our right to an affordable tertiary education is in serious jeopardy, the last time an inquiry by the Liberals was launched into Higher Education HECS increased twice. I’m angry because many Australians complain they dislike their tax going towards welfare and public utilities like Centrelink, Medicare and various benefits. The link between welfare dependence, health outcomes and low-levels of education are extremely clear. Investing in higher education ensures all Australian’s can receive an adequate education and are less likely to be reliant on these public services in the future.

I am angry because I’m sick of being told that my peers and I are ungrateful for what we already have and should ‘go and get a job’ or ‘experience the real world’. I have two part-time jobs, maintain a distinction average at University and volunteer at detention centre, a local Lions club, the Victorian Education Action Network and work in children’s cancer wards as a fairy. My mother and father are extremely proud of me. My parents and many of my tutors at University never had a student debt and received a range of commonwealth assistance throughout their degrees. The Whitlam era ensured people like my mother, who grew up in working class Footscray could rise out of relative poverty and attend University. Pyne’s plan to drop targets for disadvantaged Australian’s to attend universities and cutting of start-up scholarships is only propagating a cycle of systemic, relative poverty.

I have been told to ‘shut up and stop complaining’, ‘things aren’t that bad’. Well if we don’t make noise, write letters or attend protests the state of Australia’s higher education will quickly deteriorate. I care about my education and so should you.

Louise

This piece originally appeared on ‘Loopy-Lou’,  for more see here.

Louise Mapleston

The author Louise Mapleston

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