Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 3. March 18, 1953
Report on Goodwill Trip — President Writes on Australia
Report on Goodwill Trip
President Writes on Australia
I Was somewhat doubtful of the wisdom of accepting the Editor's invitation to give some impressions of my recent visit to Australia lest anything I said be taken by my readers as gospel on any aspect of Australian student life. My main impression on returning to New Zealand was that one cannot gain a true impression of a city the size of Sydney let alone a country the size of Australia after a fortnight's stay. So what I have to say would perhaps be taken with so many grains of sodium chloride.
The main object of my trip was to represent the New Zealand University Students' Association at the Annual Conference of the National Union of Australian University Students. In fact, I had the honour to represent the members of this Association and of all the Students' Associations is New Zealand at a Conference where the representatives of all the Australian Universities were present. This was by no means a novel step in N.Z.U.S.A. policy as delegates have been sent from this country in nearly every year since the war and we have entertained Australian student leaders here in some of those years. The idea is that the two national student bodies can work closer together and get a better idea of each other's problems. Much practical good has come of these meetings in past years when such schemes as travel and exchange were hammered out. At the present, such trips are more in the nature of goodwill ventures but there is reason to believe there is room for the development of a common policy in a number of matters affecting the student bodies of both countries.
Readers [unclear: will] probably not be very interested in the procedure of the N.U.A.U.S. Council and the ways In which it differs from our own. Perhaps all I need say is that the Australian meeting lasted for 6 days. (It was scheduled to last for 8 days.) Our council meetings of course never last more than 4 days at the outside but it is to be remembered that the Australians have only one meeting a year to our two and they travel vast distances to get there.
Little Sports Talks
The most striking impression of the Council itself was the similarities between New Zealand and Australian students. It was an interesting exercise during a not very interesting debate to look round the table and imagine that you were at a meeting In New Zealand, because you could see' different people adopting the same approaches and having the same characteristics as their opposite [unclear: members] in New Zealand. This fact was also noticeable outside the Council table where one found it very easy to become friendly with the Australian students and to associate with them in the same way (and in the same places!) as one would in New Zealand.
Another feature of the actual meeting was the absence of any discussion on sporting problems. Sport was mentioned only Incidentally when reference was made to the merit or otherwise of Sports Unions in particular universities. The sporting administration in Australia is completely different from that in New Zealand but, to my mind, it does not provide a pattern which we in New Zealand should readily follow. It would take a whole article to expand that statement but as it is not of general interest. I will leave the expansion to my official report.
By this time, you are probably wondering what was discussed at this particular Conference and whether or not you as members of the New Zealand University Students' Association received value for the money that was spent in sending me to Australia. I will answer the first question as best I can and leave you to draw your own conclusions as to the answer that should be given to the second question. From the point of view of New Zealand interest the most important matter discussed, apart from travel and exchange, was the International Students' situation. This discussion paid little attention to I.U.S. and organisations of a similar suspect nature because it was felt, and I think rightly so that the Australians have sincerely wasted enough time and money on I.U.S. for no return other than the abuse that they, in common with the other "Western Unions" have had to suffer in recent years. The Australians eventually decided that they would" not send anyone to any I.U.S. Conference in the future unless that Conference was held in England. The idea of this motion was that a Conference held in England would not cost anyone anything. The holding of a Conference In England is so unlikely that the effect of this unanimous decision of the Council is that Australia has completed the break with I.U.S.
Asia Information Service
The Australians last year joined the International Co-ordinating Secretariat with headquarters at Leiden in Holland. This Secretariat has affiliated to it many of the Unions that have either left or been driven out of the I.U.S. over recent years. It is not a hide-bound organisation such as the I.U.S. but represents rather a coming together of as many nations as possible for the purpose of practical co-operation in the international field. The main activity of I.C.S. is to hold Annual Conferences at which various programmers are decided on and then assigned to individual national unions to put into effect. In the last couple of years, much good work has been done through this type of scheme, particularly in the field of student health. New Zealand has not yet joined the I.C.S, mainly because we have feared that it might become just another organisation that would be used as a sounding board for various political views. I think that such a fear has been proved to be false and that the time has come when we should Join I.C.S. and participate in its activities. I say this for two reasons. Firstly, because it is an organisation which is doing something that is of benefit to the student world and it is doing this without going through the profitless hysteria and propaganda that was associated with I.U.S. Secondly, the ICS has assigned to Australia the task of forming a South-East Asia Information Centre. This is the kind of task which New Zealand would be allocated and if we Joined, there would be a ready-made project in which we, with our Australian friends, could interest ourselves.
This brings me to the next point—the South-East Asia section of the debate on international affairs. This was regarded as such an important debate that a commentator from the A.B.C. was present specially to listen to it. The debate took almost a whole afternoon. Before saying much about this aspect of International student relations, let me give readers some idea of the background to the interest of Australian students in South-East Asia. In the first place, there is a growing awareness among the Australian people, or so we are told, of what is vaguely described as the "problem" of South-East Asia and Australia's near north. What this problem really is varies from the approach you take to it so far as I can see. Anyway. Australians generally are worried, whether it be from the point of view of national defence, or from the unselfish attitude that one should help one's neighbour who is In a poorer situation. This was borne out by the variety of questions that were asked on this general subject during the afternoon when I was in the Federal House of Representatives at Canberra.
Secondly, there is a very large number of students from South-East Asia at Australian Universities. Many of these are in Australia under the Colombo Plan but these students by no means form a majority. Australia is also host to many students who have come under the technical assistance programme, while others have been sent by their own governmental and educational authorities. I was told by an Asian student that there are over 2000 students from the South-East Asian area in Australia at present. This represents something a little under 10 per cent. of the total University student population of Australia. You cannot help noticing these people around the University and you consequently cannot help feeling that something should be done by the individual to see that their lot Is a happy one and that they will return home with a high opinion of Australia.
Thirdly, a number of the student leaders in Australia have an intimate knowledge of conditions in those countries and of the people who come from them. Retiring President Greg Bartels of Sydney could not attend much of the Council meeting because he is now employed by the technical assistance programme to meet people coming from other countries to study in Australia, and he is introducing Asians to Australia by the hundreds. Retiring Vice-President Bob Hawke. West Australian Rhodes Scholar, was in India last year as an Australian representative at a conference of Christian youth. Melbourne S.R.C. representative Jim Webb was not at the Council meeting because he was busily engaged at a meeting of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East which was taking place contemporaneously in Manila. I think. He had a brief to visit about 20 universities in the South-East Asian area to make contacts for the future.
From what I have written of the background, you can see that the interest of Australian students in this area is easily aroused. This interest is cultivated even more by the high quality of the students who are going to study in Australia. This is, of course, is equally true of the many fine Asian and Pacific students in this country. At the Council, one of the people present in the capacity of an observer from the Adelaide University was Malayan economics [unclear: tu-dent] Chek Juan Choo. This in itself was evidence of the part that these students are playing in Australian student life and is also evidence of the way that they and Australian students generally are mixing together.
This mixing together is encouraged in some of the Australian universities through the formation of what are known as Australia-Overseas Clubs. The purpose of these clubs is to bring overseas and Australian students together not only socially, but also for the purpose of hearing lectures, visiting factories and institutions and so on. In West Australia, the Club flourishes on the basis that there must be not more than 50 per cent. Australian or 50 per cent. Asian membership. A similar club, although not with this provision, also exists in Melbourne where an International House Appeal is at present being carried on. It was momentarily surprising to walk along Swanston Street in Melbourne and see a poster on the Town Hall advertising the fact that an overseas artist was to give a recital shortly in aid of the Melbourne University International House Appeal.
Delegate to Hawaii
So you can see that Asia loomed large in the minds of Council members even before the debate started. The main issues that were discussed were the ways in which the students of these countries could best be contacted so that we in Australia and New Zealand could help them and they could help us. This is not as easy as it sounds because in many of the countries of this area only patchy national student unions exist and, in some cases, they are not nationally representative at all. However. It was felt that when Webb returned some more useful information would come to hand. It was also suggested that steps should be taken through the Australian Overseas Clubs to contact Individual Asian students and to have them as messengers of goodwill and advocates of closer co-operation when they returned to their homelands. This. I think, is a very sound scheme. In addition, the Council decided to send someone to the Pacific Conference being organised by the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii this Easter. The man selected, pending the completion of satisfactory arrangements for the use of cheap military transport, was International Affairs Officer Allan Barblett a West Australian lawyer. If Barblett goes to Hawaii, he may possibly return through New Zealand, especially if we give him some assistance towards his Journey. Unfortunately, N.Z.U.S.A. has not the wherewithal to send a representative to Hawaii. We will, however, be making some written contribution to the discussions that go on there.
It Is this section of the international field that I think we can learn most from the Australians. We must remember that this area is just as important to us as It is to Australians. It provides us with some activity near at hand in which we can show our willingness to cooperate in practical activities in the International field if out of all this discussion. New Zealand and Australians are able to help the students in the South-East Asian area then I feel that my trip to Australia and any future trips by other observers will have been worth while.
In this article, I have concentrated very much on the one issue. When I started to writs the article, I thought that I would probably be discussing a number of matters. However, I felt that it would be letter to give a comprehensive coverage of one aspect of the Conference rather than to give a little about too much. When the time comes for the report to be presented to N.Z.U.S.A. the Editor will then be able to select other Items that he may find interesting and, if he sees fit publish them.
My own feelings are that it is too soon to tell whether the trip was worthwhile from the point of view of the advantages that will accrue to N.Z.U.S.A. There is no doubt that it was a worthwhile experience for me but this is never sufficient to justify the expenditure of student funds. I think that it would be profitable for as many students as possible to travel to Australia, or further for that matter. In the case of Australia, there is the unique opportunity that exists under the travel and exchange scheme. This is one way of working your passage through Australia and being in close contact with students all the time. If the employment position improves this year, and there are signs that it will, I would advise all students who have been thinking about participating in the scheme, to do something about it. They will find that they will meet a most, hospitable group of students, that they will see institutions that are Universities in every sense of the word, and that they will return to New Zealand the better for their having travelled.
M. J. O'Brien.