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By Daryna Zadvirna
Finlay is a current student at Curtin with a fair bit on her plate. She’s not only studying Secondary Education with a Major in English and Minor in History, but she’s also the Guild President—more precisely, she is the 50th student and fourth female to be elected in this role.
Finlay says she’s always felt strongly about what the Guild did for students, which is what prompted her to initially go on the Guild council. Finlay ran as a candidate for the role of Women’s Officer before being elected Humanities Representative and eventually President. We chatted about her achievements, challenges of the role, and advice she has for the next person to fill her shoes.
How does it feel being Guild's 50th President?
It's pretty amazing! I definitely feel very privileged to be a President in such a monumental year and have this really great opportunity to reach out and connect with all of the previous Office Bearers and things like that. I'm especially glad to have the opportunity to be the face of the Guild in a year where we're really able to get out there and show everyone all the amazing things that Guild has done for the last 50 years. So yeah, I definitely feel really privileged!
So how and why did you become involved with the Guild?
I started in the Guild—as a lot of people do—because I kind of had friends on campus who were involved and they knew that I was, I guess, politically-minded and really interested in this sort of stuff. I was approached and asked if I'd be interested in running for Guild Counsellor. So, I started going to those meetings and I was in a couple of committees and just kind of helping out where I could. I guess I quickly realised that it was something that I really enjoyed and was really passionate about, and it all kind of grew from there.
What made you eventually run for Guild President?
I think that as I said, I felt very strongly about what the Guild was doing, and just thought it would be such an amazing opportunity to get to be the leader of such an important organisation for students. I really wanted to take it in a direction of, you know, standing up for students, especially on the big political issues. As we know this is a federal election year, so it's super important that student unions are out there right now making the voice of students heard. I just really believe in what the Guild does in every respect, whether it be the political side of things, or the really on the ground sort of stuff—just making students' lives easier and also fun!
What would you say is your biggest achievement so far?
That's a tough one! So far, we've obviously been running our federal election campaign “We Will Not Be Left Behind”, and we have engaged with many, many students in the lead up to this federal election. We have had the highest numbers of people enrolled to vote since the federation, which is absolutely incredible. So, I think being a part of that has been something that I'm really proud of. We've engaged with hundreds of students about the importance of voting, the importance of having their voice heard and the sort of issues that they really need to be thinking about in the lead up to this election. And also, the consent module—which is something that was spearheaded by last year's Guild and particularly the Education Vice President Nicola—has finally been completed and is rolling out in the next few weeks in a soft launch. So, we're really, really proud of that.
How do you think being a part of the Guild has impacted you?
I think being part of the Guild has been the thing that has influenced my life the most in recent years. It's just incredible how much being involved with the Guild changes you as a person. Obviously, it helps you develop those leadership skills and it gets you more informed and involved about political issues. But also, I think it really helps you develop thick skin and really know who you are as a person and what you stand for. I think especially being Guild President, no matter what I do, you know, there are people who disagree and people who agree. And I think that being in this role has really helped me to identify what I care about and what I think is important for students and really kind of stick to my guns on those things. So yeah, it's just been absolutely life changing.
What are some of the challenges you've faced so far?
Anyone coming into this role really faces a big challenge in how much responsibility it really is. Obviously, we're generally young people, in our early twenties, and we're stepping into this role where suddenly you're responsible for this entire organisation. You have people kind of scrutinising and criticising every little move that you make. You have this whole team of people that you're responsible for leading and that can be really, really challenging dealing with all of those things while also trying to achieve the things you promised. I think you come into this role with really grand ideas about what you're going to achieve and then suddenly you're dealing with all of these little day-to-day things, all these little spot fires that come up that you have to put out. And you can find that those really big things you wanted to achieve suddenly start to kind of slip away. So keeping track of those big priorities is a challenge but I think if you just keep them in the back of your mind all the time, you can still achieve them.
When do you think you'll you be graduating and what's the plan after that?
I'm honestly not sure how many years until I'm going to graduate. I'm in my fourth year currently, but I've kind of changed my study loads and put things off, so I'm not exactly sure how long I have to go. I obviously came into university wanting to be a teacher, but I think being opened up to this whole new world has really kind of changed my priorities. I don't want to be a politician in the sense of, you know, being in the Labor Party, or being in the Greens or anything like that. But I do think I'll go into some sort of political field. I would love to work for a union or for an environmental organisation or something like that. I think that probably campaign organising is where I'm heading after this, but I'm still not really sure. Being Guild President has 100% shifted my perspectives on what I wanted to do.
I imagine being Guild President will definitely help when you'll be applying for those sorts of jobs! So finally, what advice would you give to the next Guild president?
I think, as I said earlier, just really keeping your priorities in the back of your mind at all times. It's going to be difficult and overwhelming at first, but you shouldn't let those little things get in the way of what you really want to achieve in this role. You only have a year, so really make it count. There's a really amazing support network in the Guild. The staff are incredible. The other representatives are there to support you. So, utilise those people. Don't feel like you have to take on everything by yourself, because that's what's going to make you get to the end of your term and realise you spent all this time dealing with little things and didn't get to do what you wanted to do. So, I'd say just utilise your support networks and make sure that you know what your priorities are!