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Kate is currently the Director of her local Kalgoorlie business, Puzzle Consulting—and more importantly a mum-of-two. She studied at Curtin between 1999 and 2007, completing a Social Science degree in Politics and a Commerce degree in Tourism Management. But if a double degree and being a student from a small country town wasn’t enough, in 2001 Kate became the 3rd female-identifying Guild President, and later the National Union of Student WA President.
We talked about what made her take on all those roles and what she got out of them.
By Daryna Zadvirna
So how did you become involved with the Guild? What was your first sort of interaction and what prompted you to run for President?
My first interaction with the Guild was on the orientation day at uni. My sister and I bumped into the Guild President at the time—Jamie Getaway. My sister was so excited, she was like, “oh my goodness, I cannot believe we just met the Guild President, that's just amazing!". But in terms of getting involved, I suppose I come from a small country town and that's what you do in country towns—you get involved, you participate, you put your hand up. So to be perfectly honest, the reason I ran for President or even got involved was just, I suppose, a general outlook on life—that “yeah, you should participate” attitude. So, I was happy to, you know, start off initially as just volunteering for events, getting to know people, perhaps sitting on some committees. And I got very lucky and started out as a divisional representative. And then eventually I put my hand up to be the Guild President, which was kind of interesting at the time because I think there had only been two female presidents. In fact, many of my friends had been the Vice Presidents, and we often talked about being kind of relegated to a particular role or another. But it just so happened that I ran for President and I think since then it's been pretty gender balanced—I think?
Yes, well the current president is actually female!
Oh fantastic! That’s good because there was certainly a feeling for a while that women ran for Vice President and men ran for President, so it’s great to hear that it’s changed.
Yeah, absolutely. And what do you recall was your biggest achievement in the role?
Well it definitely wasn't just my achievement, I was working with all of the other university Guilds and it went over a number of years—I had moved on to be State President of the National Union of Students so was able to continue it—but the work around voluntary student unionism and changing that legislation in Western Australia was a critical milestone. But again, that was a team effort.
If I was to look at Curtin, and the achievements I did during my term, I'd say it would be that we engaged with international students in a very different way than what we had before. I think that there was an assumption that it was just the international student’s council that looked after international students and so on with mature-aged students as well. It was really these kinds of segregated “that interest group will look after their own interests” attitudes and I really tried to break them. I tried to break some of those barriers and in fact, integrate some of that work into what we were doing at the Guild as a whole, rather than just segregating and having those groups engage in their own activities. It was really trying to put what their interests were at the forefront of what the Guild's interests were.
Was the Guild involved with Grok Magazine at the time, at all? Do you have any memories of it?
Yes, I do remember it! I used to love going up to the Grok office, which at the time, I think, was the top of “Megazone”, and is now actually the administration and office building. It was always such a cool, happening place—although a little bit, uh, gross at times. I don't know if that speaks about journalism students or the editors at the time, ha-ha. But yeah, the Grok office always had a great vibe and it always seemed like the people working on Grok had heaps of fun. I hope that's still the case. But yeah, it was a great, great to have that localised magazine. Basically, when you look at Curtin—and at the time I think there were like 24—25,000 students on campus. You know, it was its own little community, its own little area of interest. And to have that specific magazine that enabled students to find out about what was happening on their campus and affecting their education—Grok was fantastic. I found that, depending on who the editor was at the time, the magazine would take on a different kind of flavour. The editors could put their own stamp on it and make it their own. Yeah, I did enjoy reading it and I liked that it had a broader appeal as well.
So overall, what would you say you took away from your time at Curtin and the Guild?
Oh, that's a really good question. I would have to say the number one thing that I personally have gotten out of the Guild was actually my three best friends, that are still my absolute best friends now. In fact, this year is our 20th anniversary of when we all first met. So, they were all of the Vice Presidents in the years preceding me; Tanya was Vice President in 2000, Bridget was Vice President in ‘99 and Helen was the Vice President in ‘98. And so that friendship is probably the most important, most valuable thing that I got out of my time at Curtin and the Guild.
However, there's probably countless other things that I got out of that opportunity, including work opportunities—it's always nice to have a reference from the Vice Chancellor. But also, just that confidence that it teaches you, like to approach an issue without phenol favour. I think that was pretty much how we used to talk about issues that we had to raise with the University at times—you had to be a strong advocate. So, there are certainly a lot of those great attributes, and getting job opportunities, and those sorts of things that came from being your President. But my number one personal thing probably would have to be that relationship with my girlfriends—that is still as strong as ever.