Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 2, No. 17. August 9, 1939
Hullo Aussie! — N.Z.U. Debaters' Successful Tour
N.Z.U. Debaters' Successful Tour
Here's all the dope from Jack Aimers, LL.B., who, with M. G. O'Callaghan (Otago), visited Australia as a debating team from N.Z.U. Students' Association. They had a great time, and worthily represented N.Z.U.
"How does Australia compare with New Zealand?" We always evaded tills stock question by replying. "It doesn't. The two countries are so different that there is no basis for comparison." But one thing we soon realised. Australia is a land of great distances. Travel 4,000 miles by rail in five weeks; travel 4,000 miles in carriages which are not heated and you will appreciate this problem of distances. For it is a problem. It even affects university life and student activities in Australia. Inter-university events do not seem to play such an important part as they do in New Zealand. There is nothing to equal the N.Z.U. Tournament, although inter-varsity contests are hold. There is not the co-operation between universities as we know it in New Zealand. For example, as far as I could gather, at the last conference of the National Union of Students, one of the most important matters discussed was whether a National Union was needed. Although it has now consolidated its position, the National Union is not nearly as strong as N.Z.U.S.A. Its greatest asset is the General Secretary (Chester Wilmot, Melbourne), a remarkably able chap oozing personality. He organised the tour, and effectively organised us as soon as we stepped off the train at Melbourne. We received a typical Wilmot welcome on our return from Tasmania. After spending a night on a boat that did everything but loop the loop, we were met by Wilmot—"Hullo, boys, have a good time in Tassle? Now, about this broadcast [unclear: script] we must . . ." The National [unclear: Union] boom if the universities respond to Wilmot's enthusiasm, but it is significant that Sydney, the largest university, did not participate officially in the tour. At every university, however, hospitality reached dizzy heights. Indeed, at one stage we wondered whether we could last the distance.
There were fourteen debates, most of which were non-decision, but the team won debates against Sydney. Melbourne and Adelaide Universities. Lectures and luncheon talks became a habit, and radio work was frequent. O'Callaghan gave two State network talks, and Aimers gave a National Network talk on the New Zealand Government. (Everywhere the question was asked: "What is your Government really doing?") There were several radio interviews, a radio discussion, and a talk on New Zealand Universities and student activities. In Hobart we told the listeners that their harbour was more beautiful than Sydney Harbour, although at that stage we had not even seen Hobart Harbour. The good old policy of giving the public what it likes—or what we thought it would like.
In Australia there are the two large universities—Melbourne and Sydney—with over 4,000 students each, Queensland and Adelaide with about the same number as V.U.C., Hobart with 300, and the University of Perth, which is a free university. We had no opportunity of gaining many impressions of Sydney University, but we decided that Melbourne is the outstanding university in Australia; certainly so far as student activities are concerned. They are well organised, and a large number of students take an active interest. We placed Adelaide next on the list.
Student Union Buildings.
It is [unclear: significant] that both these universities have excellent Student Union buildings. The Melbourne Students' Union building is magnificent (It cost about £80,000) and contains a theatre, two cafeterias, dining room, common rooms, numerous offices and club rooms, recreation, music, art and newspaper rooms, a suite for entertaining visitors, and many other facilities. The V.U.C. Gym would fit into one of the cafeterias. Student life centres round the Union, and this new building has stimulated interest in student activities.
The Melbourne Students' Union building, which turned Aimers green with envy!
Although most of the Australian Universities have better facilities than our Universities, very little assistance is given to students. Melbourne, with Its 4,000 students, has only a few entrance scholarships. Australian students were amazed at the extent of the New Zealand bursaries and scholarships, and demanded full particulars. The Melbourne students have already taken the matter up with the Minister of Education, but he treated the student deputation like school children, and told them that it was a good thing for young people to have a struggle, and that when he was a boy . . . The students have organised a public protest meeting, so you can expect the defeat of the Government any day!
A Great Experience.
The Australian National Union arranged an exceptionally fine tour, and the students made sure we enjoyed every moment of it. Every opportunity was given us to meet people inside and outside the universities, to meet interesting public men (and publicans), to obtain a general knowledge of Australian life, industry, politics, and conditions. It was a great experience. In the words of the Aussie National Anthem (which the average Australian has never heard)—"Advance, Orstralia Fair!"