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By Amber Weir, Grok Magazine.

Hana Arai will be the Guild President for 2020, her pronouns are She/Her and she is currently studying a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. Hana describes herself as a creative person, alternating her hobbies each year to try a bit of everything—at the moment she’s making earrings out of polymer clay. She also plays competitive Ultimate Frisbee and loves video games!

Hana has been involved with the Guild since 2018, and has been the President of the Curtin Chemistry Club (in 2018), a Curtin Mentor and a Curtin Volunteer.

What is your favourite campus food?

I’m going to impart some objective truths here. Best value food on campus: Main café’s fajita. Best food: AngaZi burgers and chips.

What is your biggest whine/peeve about campus?

That the decreasing federal budget for higher education and ongoing corporatisation of the University means that our quality of education is consistently undermined and deteriorates every year in the pursuit of expansion and profit … and when the hexagon is painted white—it’s too bright.

What would you like to do after you graduate university?

Haha, I hate when I get asked this question because I really don’t have an answer to it, so I’ll give a general philosophical response.

I think I could quite possibly work a number of different jobs so long as I feel like I’m contributing to society in a way that is meaningful. I would love to use my degree in Chemistry to go into environmental science and to contribute to finding solutions to the climate crisis, or use my experience in the Guild to go into humanitarian work. There are certainly a few industries that I would want to steer clear from. For a while, my goal was to complete a PhD and go into research where I could then teach. But if that route is not destined for me, I think I could find fulfillment in any occupation where I feel like I’m being creative, making decisions and helping people.

How can the Guild help make university life better?

In so many ways! The Guild is at the heart of the student community on campus. We put on events and run initiatives throughout the year to bring people together and make Curtin a fun place to be. We represent your rights on university boards, so the student voice is always heard in decision making processes (this allowed us to push back against the trimester proposal in 2018). [We also] see students on a one-on-one case worker basis when they are in need of assistance. We have active equity departments that provide safe spaces and events for students who identify as members of various equity groups. We engage in activism and get loud about the issues that matter to young people today, such as climate change, sexual assault and harassment on campus, the rising costs of living and youth unemployment, and social and economic inequality. Finally, Guild owned cafes and outlets means we have control over food pricing and can keep it student-friendly—and we provide free breakfasts and barbecues regularly.

How and why did you get involved in the Guild?

I got involved in the Guild by running in the Guild elections at the end of 2017. At the time, I was looking for ways in which I could get more involved on campus; I had already had a go at Curtin Volunteers and Curtin Mentoring when a friend of mine suggested the Guild as a way to make meaningful change for the better. I’d seen the way the Guild campaigned around things like the marriage equality plebiscite and I loosely kept up to date with Guild events and activities so I decided I may as well give it a shot. And now here I am, two years later.

What has kept me here, however, is learning about how significant the student union movement is and what a difference this organisation can make in the lives of individual students. I’ve come to understand how important independent service provision and representation is, and how powerful a voice we can be as young people.

How do you think you can make a difference this year, and what are you hoping to achieve?

As president, I am afforded a lot of creative and executive freedom in pursuing a direction for the Guild. That being said, I want to be the kind of president that works very collaboratively with this year’s representatives, so that our achievements are made as a team and are things we can all be proud of. In essence, I really want to focus on shifting the culture both within and external to the Guild towards one that is more open, approachable, collaborative and genuine. I think we need to focus on making this organisation as accessible and welcoming as possible. I also think it’s important that students see us as an actual agent for change, so working hard to deliver outcomes and actually involving the wider student body will be a focus this year as well. It’s important to acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of giants, and the initiatives that I would like to engage in are only possible because of the strong student activists that have come before me.

In terms of tangible goals, I have quite a few and could go on about them for pages. These can all be found in the Illuminate policy platform.

What is your advice for making the most out of the uni experience—especially for first years?

Getting involved in the clubs and extracurriculars that are available is a great way to make friends and join a community, but that’s pretty much a given that everyone is going to tell you.

My advice is to come to university with no expectations and just do what makes you happy. Don’t put unnecessary pressures on yourself; you’ve got your whole life to make big decisions. Focus on meeting new people and forging friendships. Surround yourself with people who celebrate you and want to see you thrive. Go to that life drawing class, go and have a snooze under a tree for an hour, attend a protest, live your best life. University is about figuring out who you are and who you want to be.

This article is part of a Curtin Student Guild interview series conducted by Grok Magazine.

Email Hana on president@guild.curtin.edu.au