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Arc @ UNSW Limited

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Arc @ UNSW Limited
File:ARC UNSW logo.png
UNSW Student Life
IndustryStudents' union
Founded 📆15 August 2006
Founder 👔
Headquarters 🏙️,
Number of locations
Area served 🗺️
University of New South Wales
Number of employees

Arc @ UNSW Limited is the student organisation at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and is a not-for-profit public company based in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

The organisation supports the activities of student clubs, student volunteer programs such as orientation week, student publications, two student galleries (Kudos Gallery and AD Space), and houses an elected student representative council. Arc operates the Roundhouse entertainment venue, The Whitehouse bar and café and the Graduation & Gift Store on UNSW's main campus in Kensington. Arc also operates a student support service, providing legal and academic advocacy. Arc@UNSW exists independently from UNSW.

Arc was established on 15 August 2006 and launched early the following year, taking over the functions of three existing student organisations.[1]

In 2007, membership of Arc was free for UNSW students, of whom 18,000 (out of 40,000) signed up. In 2008 voluntary paid membership was introduced and membership dropped to around 2,800 students as of day one, semester one, 2008.[2] However, in 2012, Arc membership became free as a result of the introduction of the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF).


The name Arc @ UNSW is derived from geometry, the shape of an umbrella being considered an apt metaphor for the organisation's role encompassing the spectrum of student life. The use of an asperand owes much to that symbol's ubiquity in computing, although it does not appear in the logo. UNSW has previously used the asperand to brand its association with the Australian Defence Force Academy, "UNSW@ADFA".


Arc has three constitutional student bodies:

  1. the Student Development Committee (SDC) - supporting clubs, volunteer programs, courses and activities[3]
  2. the Postgraduate Council (PGC) - representing the postgraduate community at UNSW[4] and
  3. an elected Student Representative Council (SRC)[5]

Arc's Kudos Gallery Management Committee runs the Kudos Gallery, an artist-run initiative gallery for College of Fine Arts students and Arc's branch at Art & Design runs AD Space.

The organisation runs a variety of volunteer programs, manages the university's annual orientation week, organises short courses and provides facilities for students such as a pottery studio, music rooms and a dance studio. Arc publishes an online guide to UNSW, Blitz, and a monthly student newspaper, Tharunka.

Arc operates The Roundhouse, an iconic entertainment venue and bar.


In 2016, the Members of Arc voted to repeal and replace Arc's Constitution and adopt affirmative action for Student Director positions. The new clause mandates that at least half of the Student Director positions on the Board must be filled by women. Each year, there are four Student Director positions up for election and at least two of these positions must be filled by women. The current composition of the Arc Board is:

  • Eight Student Directors (of which one Director is appointed to the position of SDC Convenor)
  • Two Ex-Officio Student Directors (Presidents of the Student Representative Council and Postgraduate Council)
  • Two Alumni Directors
  • Two UNSW Directors
  • One CEO of Arc@UNSW Limited


The first Chair of Arc was Kate Bartlett (2006/07 term); followed by Caitlin Hurley (2007/08 term), Simon Crawford-Ash (2008/09), Caroline Wallace (2009/10), Jessica Mobbs (2010/11), Natalie Karam (2011/12), Alex Peck (2012/13), Chris Mann (2013/14), Benjamin Heenan (2014/15), Tom Morrison (2015/16), Tina Zhou (2016/17), Edward Bartolo (2017/18). The current Chair is Nadhirah Daud.

In a major upheaval, May 2018 saw the resignation of Arc's CEO Brad Hannigan, after having served 11 years as CEO of the Organisation.

The current CEO of Arc is Shelley Valentine. The current SRC President is Zack Solomon.[6] The current PGC President is Sourabh Dhounchak.[7]

Notable former UNSW student politicians include activist David Madden and parliamentarians Kerry Nettle, Penny Sharpe, and David Coleman. Sharpe, along with Ken Fowlie, served as presidents of the National Union of Students of Australia. John Niland, who served as UNSW's vice-chancellor from 1992 until 2002, is a former UNSW Student Union president.


Arc produces a number of publications throughout the year. The two regular publications are Blitz, an online What's On guide, and Tharunka, a student written magazine focusing on political issues. A number of annual publications are produced in conjunction with volunteer programs run by the organisation, such as The International Cookbook, a compilation of student submitted recipes, UNSWeetened showcases written poetry and prose and Zing Tycoon was an artistic zine produced by Art & Design Students. Currently Art & Design publishes Framework a critical online arts journal quarterley, and pblishes a guide to UNSW Art & Design, Arcadia through the Blitz website.[8]


Blitz is a student publication, published online by Arc @ UNSW, based at the University of New South Wales.[9] Blitz under this name first appeared in session 2, 1988, but a similar "what's on" style publication had been issued by the then University Union since the early 1970s. Initially it consisted of a simple sheet or two of paper, but it evolved into a magazine style format in session two 1994[10] when a former editor from another student publication on campus, Tharunka, was hired to found a weekly "what's on" magazine. Blitz sometimes pays casual contributors for submitted articles and photographs, and employs a student online editor, a student designer, a student TV producer and a student radio producer.

Blitz typically covers the goings-on around campus and conducts interviews and publishes stories relating to current student activities. It widely publicises Arc services and activities on campus. Due to its non-partisan policy, it does not cover political issues, with the exception of voluntary student unionism. However, in 2004 an edition of Blitz was withdrawn by the student union because it contained a guide to rolling a joint. The editor Janet Duncan claimed there had been censorship of her editorial in the following issue.[11] Arc @ UNSW announced that the organisation would continue to publish the magazine after the introduction of voluntary student unionism in 2007.[12]


Tharunka, meaning "message stick" in the language of the Aboriginal people local to the area, is a student newspaper originally published by the UNSW Students Union from 1953 until 1992, when that body was replaced by the University of New South Wales Student Guild. The Guild published Tharunka from 1993 until 2006 and the successor student organisation, Arc @ UNSW Limited, continued the publication of Tharunka from 2007.

Tharunka is managed by a small editorial team and actively solicits contributions from the UNSW student body. Including staff wages, the publication's budget is under $50,000 per year.[13]

Student Representative Council[edit]

The SRC, formerly known as the Student Guild, is the peak representative body for students at UNSW. The role of the SRC is to advocate on behalf of students to the university, to Arc and to the wider public. It runs collectives for student groups, organises activities and campaigns and works within the university's governance structure to advocate for students' interests.

The SRC comprises office bearers and 12 councillors. The council's role is to direct the Office Bearers and hold them accountable for their performance. The office bearers are:

  • President
  • General Secretary
  • Education Officer
  • Welfare Officer
  • Women's Officer
  • International Students Officer
  • Indigenous Officer
  • Environment Officer
  • Ethnocultural Officer
  • 2 Queer Officers (one non-cis-male-identifying)
  • Students with Disabilities Officer

Elections for all positions are held in second session.

The SRC is affiliated to the National Union of Students.

Arc clubs and societies[edit]

Arc clubs and societies are overseen by the Student Development Committee, which is composed of three Clubs Representatives, two Volunteer Program Representatives, and the CoFA Grants Committee Convenor along with the ex officio positions (SRC President, PGC President, Chair of the Board). Currently, there are approximately 300 clubs and societies affiliated with Arc.[14] Arc Student Development facilities the clubs and societies at Kensington and UNSW Art & Design.[14]

UNSW Revues provide some of the major theatrical comedy productions on campus each year.


University of New South Wales Student Guild[edit]

Students' Union[edit]

The first student organisation at the university was the Students' Union (SU), established at the then New South Wales University of Technology on 8 September 1952 by the University Council.[15] The SU was replaced by the Student Guild of Undergraduates and Postgraduates at the end of 1992. The last president of the SU was Jo Kaar of the National Organisation of Labor Students.

UNSW Student Guild[edit]

The University of New South Wales Student Guild of Undergraduates and Postgraduates (commonly referred to as the UNSW Student Guild) was the principal student union at the University of New South Wales. The Guild replaced the University of New South Wales Students' Union and the Postgraduate Representative Association on 1 January 1993.[15] The Guild represented students at all faculties of the university save for the College of Fine Arts and the Australian Defence Force Academy. It had a constituent board for postgraduate students called the Postgraduate Board. The Guild's first President was Penny Sharpe, and its last was Jesse Young. Membership of the Student Guild was compulsory for UNSW students at the Kensington campus until 1 July 2006. In late 2006, it commenced the process of winding up following the establishment of Arc @ UNSW.

Political history[edit]

By the time of the Guild's establishment, student politicians from the left-wing National Organisation of Labor Students (NOLS) had established a firm ascendancy. In 1994, however, right-wing students running as Us polled unexpectedly well, beating the ticket of the president-elect, Warwick Adams, 4-to-1. In the end, a complex network of preference deals between left-wing groups locked Us out.

A major phenomenon in National student politics at the time, the Non-Aligned Left represented centre-left coalition that avoided the extremism of radical activist groups like Love and Rage or Resistance. At UNSW they were in many ways populist predecessors to the Everybody phenomenon and, later, Students First in that they exploited links within the campus club and society community to gain power. Reminiscent of Democrats and (at the NUS level) Independent factions, they gathered a very significant volume of support at UNSW and on other campuses around the country. The Guild President in 1993, Alex Hanlon, was prototypical of the group which later involved Amanda Graupner (later the last NUS delegate from the NAL and a member of the Australian Democrats) and Greg Moore (also the president of the UNSW Union but not related to the UNSW Students' Union President of similar name).

As if to mirror the defeat of the federal Australian Labor Party in 1996, after 13 years in office, right-wing students under the Everybody banner came to power under David Coleman.[16] However, the key to Everybody's success was not right-wing ideology: it was instead a strategic alliance with international students, coupled with a formidable network amongst colleges and clubs.[citation needed]

Non-left groups were to hold the Guild for seven of the next eight years thanks to this formula as a coalition of nonaligned, centrist and conservative students build a formidable get-out-the-vote machine though links to the residential colleges and communities of foreign students at UNSW. During this time, Australian Liberal Students Federation and National Liaison Committee-aligned student politicians, along with a large number of genuinely non-aligned students from the faculties of law, medicine and engineering, running under the Everybody, U'n'I and SpeakOut! banners, prospered.

In the 2000 elections, however, the Everybody/U'n'i/SpeakOut! group fell apart. Without a core political base beyond the personalities of key individuals there was little to hold it together. This disintegration had been in place since the resignation of Nina Pham and the increasing tensions between the Guild Council and Tharunka. The election was poorly contested and a left-wing alliance of "Student Power" candidates led by members of the National Organisation of Labor Students (NOLS) in conjunction with identities from the National Broad Left (NBL), and other unaligned leftist and environmental activists, capitalised on the situation. Student Power pursued a more radical and activist political agenda. The new administration's budget dramatically increased funding to the Guild's activist departments and related collectives, dipping into the Guild's reserves.

A fissure of the NBL and NOLS alliance, coupled with the Guild's failure to cultivate affiliated clubs, helped propel the Labor Right-linked Students First ticket to victory at the 2001 election - with over 70 per cent of the vote.Students First, founded by Sam O'Leary and David Hughes, was based around the UNSW Labor Club (of which O'Leary was the President) and linked to the Australian Labor Party and the Student Unity faction (of which O'Leary and Hughes were, at the time, the State and National convenors respectively). Despite this political core, the ticket had a very broad support base, derived from college students and members of a large number of campus clubs and societies. Students First campaigned on a platform of reducing Guild activism on global non-student political "activist" issues in favour of a strong focus on the needs of students, the politics of higher education and lobbying on campus-specific issues.

Students First sought to undo what they perceived as the fiscal irresponsibility of the previous administration and redirect funding into clubs and societies. The Guild participated actively in the Federal Government's review of Higher Education in Australia, making a series of submissions to the Senate.[17][18][19] This tied in with the group's ideological focus on education and student issues rather than engagement in broader political movements such as the anti-globalization movement, which it claimed was a misuse of student money, no matter how valid such movements might be on their own terms.

The 2003 Guild election saw the incumbent Students First group in decline as experienced people moved away. Students First faced a renewed challenge from National Organisation of Labor Students (Power) and Australian Liberal Students Federation (Your Own University) candidates. Power and Your Own University both outpolled Students First. However, Power's candidates were controversially excluded by returning officer Andrew Phanartzis after the ticket was caught with campaigners from outside the university—grounds for disqualification under the regulations. Power's preferences flowed to Students First, nudging the incumbents ahead of Your Own University.[20]

In response, NOLS, the dominant National Union of Students faction, ruled the NUS component of the ballot invalid, excluding the UNSW delegation from the organisation's national conference. The decision was reversed in a deal between NOLS and Student Unity, NUS being unwilling to forfeit the Student Guild's $135,000 affiliation fee.[20]

In 2004, the Guild joined calls for then UNSW Vice Chancellor Rory Hume to be dumped for his role in the Bruce Hall scandal. When the embattled Vice Chancellor resigned in April, then Guild President Courtney Roche told ABC Radio that "Hume has simply meant more fees for students."[21] Roche later told Tharunka that Hume's handling of the Hall whistleblowers had been "shocking".[22]

In November 2004, the Guild was attacked by The Daily Telegraph columnist Michael Duffy for attempting to prevent the expression of support for voluntary student unionism at UNSW. "Student politics is still notoriously corrupt and secretive," Duffy wrote, reporting that "the editors of the student union magazine Tharunka, have been told by the Guild Council ... not to publish articles in support of voluntary unionism."[23]

Students First won the 2001, 2002 and 2003 elections—though the results of the last election were rejected by the heavily favoured NOLS opposition. In 2004, Students First pushed through changes to the Guild's constitution in order to make better use of the organisation's resources. This proved a high water mark for the group, which spent most of the latter part of the 2004 term fighting internal battles.

In 2004, the University of New South Wales Postgraduate Board, hitherto an autonomous department of the Guild, indicated its intention to split from the Guild.

The 2004 election was won by the National Broad Left (NBL) and NOLS-linked Power ticket, with Students First only a token presence on the ballot paper.

In 2005, the Guild attracted negative publicity in the mainstream and student press after it offered monetary incentives to campus clubs in return for getting students to attend a protest against voluntary student unionism. Then president Manoj Dias-Abey defended the $500 prize pool as educative. Education Minister Brendan Nelson dismissed the Guild's protest, telling The Sydney Morning Herald that "The average, normal students whose compulsorily collected fees are paying for this sort of rent-a-crowd have probably had enough. This is a perfect example of how they continue to be forced to pay for activities that they may not need or want."[24]

In the 2005 election the incumbents under a new name of Voice defeated a combined Unity/Liberal challenge with an overwhelming majority. The election highlighted in particular the effectiveness in strategic alliances between large student clubs and societies with politically affiliated tickets. On the first day of polling, over 85 campaigners from Voice were seen to march down the main walkway. "It was a sea of red" claimed one bystander. This election was the subject of a student-made documentary, Politics 101: Big Fish, Little Pond, timed to observe student politics as the implementation of voluntary student unionism drew closer. Voice won the 2006 election, students electing Jesse Young as President. The Guild's position on a restructure presented the maintenance of almost all of their expenses as a minimum position during a 2005 review of student organisation services.[13]

Voice's reign as a coalition of Labor Left, National Independent, and Greens-aligned students was prolonged by the presence of Osman Faruqi of the UNSW Greens. Faruqi was elected as a councillor in 2008, became SRC President for the 2010 term, and in 2011 was the first student elected to a consecutive term since 1956. The 2012 election was strongly contested by a coalition of Labor Right and Liberal-aligned students running under Stand Up!, receiving 45% of the vote, but Voice remained in power until 2014.

The alliance between Labor Left and the Greens-aligned students later broke down over disagreements about the inclusion of Student Unity candidates onto the Voice ticket for the 2015 SRC. When the UNSW Independents and Greens rejected a deal that would have ensured an uncontested election, Labor Left broke off from the Voice alliance and formed a new alliance with Labor Right, known as Activate. In an extremely close election, during which the Activate ticket was banned for one and a half days of the five-day voting period, the Voice ticket, now composed solely of Independent, Greens-aligned, and Socialist Alternative candidates, was defeated on a margin of 90 votes out of the 4,210 cast.

In 2016, the Labor Right and Labor Left alliance ended. Labor Left joined with the Grassroots Left and Indies (National Independents) political factions under the retained ticket name of Activate. Labor Right created a new ticket with only independent students who held leadership positions in the clubs, societies and colleges, under the branding of Ignite UNSW. In a very tight and heated election, Activate won the presidency by a margin of 46 votes off the back of preferences from the only other ticket 'Left Action' run by Socialist Alternative.

2017 saw the uniting of Labor Left, Labor Right with Grassroots Left and Indies (National Independents) factions under the 'Activate' ticket name once again. This unusual uniting of all major factions was the product of long running negotiations between Zack Solomon, Emma Ross (respectively National Convenor of Labor Left and State Convenor of Labor Right) and Dylan Lloyd of Grassroots. Activate ran against a Liberal backed ticket named 'Swipe Right', and a Socialist Alternative ticket named 'Left Action'. Activate won the election in a landslide victory of 76% of the vote, the highest ever at UNSW.

University of New South Wales Union[edit]

In 1959, the university established the University of New South Wales Union to provide campus services.[25] Though the Union shared a membership base with the Students' Union, its higher membership fees and control of on-campus retailing immediately made it the larger of the two organisations. The overlaps between their respective roles were to be contested for the next 45 years.

At the beginning of 2006, the Union rebranded, referring to itself as the Source.

The Source was primarily involved in providing student services such as retail outlets, entertainment and social activities. It also ran events including Orientation Week, Oktoberfest, Sourcefest, weekly dance parties and the weekly Blitz magazine which included a What's On guide for the Kensington Campus.

In late 2006, it commenced the process of winding up following the establishment of Arc @ UNSW.

College of Fine Arts Students' Association[edit]

Until 2007, the College of Fine Arts, a UNSW faculty based at the smaller Paddington campus, had a separate student union.

The College of Fine Arts Students' Association (COFASA) began life in the mid-1970s as the Art Club at what was then called the Alexander Mackie College. The club was formed to cater to the specific needs of tertiary students of fine arts. At the end of the decade, a Student Representative Council was formed. In 1990, the council changed its name to the College of Fine Arts Students' Association to reflect its broader focus.

The COFASA operated as a 'single structure' student union combining political representation with service delivery. The organisation maintained retail spaces, a student common room and various publications. In addition, it performed a student advocacy role and sent delegates to the National Union of Students.

In late 2006, it commenced the process of winding up following the establishment of Arc @ UNSW.


In 2005, the Federal Parliament passed legislation making membership of student unions voluntary for the first time. This policy, known as voluntary student unionism (VSU), threatened the funding model behind the four UNSW student organisations with compulsory membership provisions.

A report commissioned by the university administration recommended that three of those organisations – the Student Guild of Undergraduates and Postgraduates, the University of New South Wales Union and the College of Fine Arts Students' Association – merge into a single student organisation, a structure in use at the University of Melbourne.

A new company was registered under the name ACN 121 239 674 Limited in August 2006. A transitional board with representatives from the university and existing student organisations managed the process over the following six months. The expected fall in membership fee revenue forced the company to significantly reduce the number of staff – two-thirds of the organisations' 300 paid positions were axed.[26]

The organisation's final structure was adopted on the basis of a report from consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers.

A variety of names were considered by the company before "Arc" was settled upon. The Union, having rebranded as "the Source" in 2006, was of the view that the term "union" was a liability for student unions: organisations such as Students At Macquarie had also moved in this direction. While discussions continued, the company was simply called ACN 121 239 674 Limited or the "New Student Organisation". The "Arc" brand was launched in early 2007.

See also[edit]

  • Australian student politics
  • National Union of Students of Australia
  • Voluntary student unionism
  • University of New South Wales
  • Tharunka


  1. "Arc" (PDF). Agency details. UNSW University Archives. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  2. "Arc's Submission to the Impact of Voluntary Student Unionism on Services, Amenities and Representation for Australian University Students' Discussion Paper" (PDF). Department of Education, Science and Training. Retrieved 3 February 2009.[permanent dead link]
  3. "Student Development Committee". Arc. UNSW. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012.
  4. "Postgraduate Council". Arc. UNSW.
  5. "Student Representative Council". Arc. UNSW. Archived from the original on 24 September 2012.
  6. "2017 SRC Election Results". Arc UNSW Student Life.
  7. "Meet your 2018 PGC". Arc UNSW Student Life.
  8. https://www.arc.unsw.edu.au/blitz
  9. "Blitz entry". UNSW A - Z Guide. UNSW. Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 31 August 2007.
  10. "University Timeline Exhibition: 1970s". Records and Archives Office. UNSW Archives. 1 October 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  11. "Student papers feel weight of censorship". The Australian. 16 November 2005.
  12. "What is VSU?". B&T Magazine. 17 November 2006.
  13. 13.0 13.1 O'Halloran, Brett (June 2005). "The Implications of Voluntary Student Unionism Legislation for UNSW: An Issues Paper with Recommendations" (PDF). UNSW. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 January 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2006.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Arc Club List Archived 19 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  15. 15.0 15.1 "New South Wales University of Technology (1953 - 1958) / University of New South Wales (1958 - 1992) Students' Union / Student Guild (of Undergraduates and Postgraduates) (1993 - 2007)" (PDF). Agency details. UNSW University Archives. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  16. "Mr David Coleman MP". Senators and Members. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  17. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 September 2009. Retrieved 2014-01-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  18. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 September 2009. Retrieved 2014-01-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  19. http://www.aph.gov.au/.../eet_ctte/completed_inquiries/2002-04/ed_students_withdisabilities/submissions/sub187.pdf[permanent dead link]>
  20. 20.0 20.1 Stella, Joe (23 Feb. 2004). "Maintaining the rage or arguing the toss?". Tharunka.
  21. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (9 Apr. 2004). "Uni students welcome vice-chancellor's resignation". ABC Local Radio New South Wales.
  22. Small, Kathryn (26 Apr. 2004). "VC Day". Tharunka.
  23. Duffy, Michael (13 November 2004). "Forced to subsidise bad food and bullies". Daily Telegraph.
  24. Thompson, Matthew (26 April 2005). "Student cash for protest denounced as rent-a-crowd". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  25. "University Union" (PDF). Agency details. UNSW University Archives. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  26. Alexander, Harriet (15 November 2006). 'Anger as student body agrees to university workplace deal'. Sydney Morning Herald.

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