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OnDitmagazine ― Features

The University is growing at about a rate of 1000 students per year. These students have to go somewhere. And the University doesn’t have many options – it can acquire more land or it can build upwards. It knocks down a building which only seats 400 at any one time and it will see the creation of 7 stories of lecture, tutorial and research space. When Australia finally gets its shit together and becomes a republic, maybe the University can take over government house, but until then, buying more land is a far less economical option than rebuilding. Paul Duldig, the bigwig of University’s Property Services, is under a lot of fire for the furore that has arisen. Duldig is no hero of mine, but through some bizarre accident, we’re actually on the same side in this. However, the Senior Citizens Against Change Brigade, more commonly known as the Save Union Hall lobby, have successfully gained some community and media support, enough to get the University Marketing Department’s knickers in a twist. 24

T

here seem to appear to be 3 main arguments against the Union Hall demolition: it’s old, it’s one of Adelaide’s few large performance spaces, and it holds cultural significance to the University campus. I value the 100+ year history of the Adelaide University Union. When the development was announced in September last year, I found myself in quite a moral quandary. On the one hand, I assume that 90% of the time, the University is doing the wrong thing. On the other hand, one of the most common complaints I received from students during my 2 years as AUU President was about the lack of space on campus. I was pissed off that I’d been hearing rumours about a demolition since May and there was no student consultation, but as a Law student, I have attended lectures where students had to sit on the floor or leave because there were not enough seats. Union Hall was built with money from the AUU, the University and donations in 1958 ( just as a side note, when did 50 years become heritage? Does that mean my dad qualifies?). In the 1970s, the AUU decided to build extra levels on Union House and it handed over its right to Union Hall to the University. In this the Save Union Hall lobbyists are correct – Union Hall was once a thriving theatre space.

O

n the 30th of October last year, when I was still President of the AUU, I received a memorable phone call from Peter Goers from the ABC and Sunday Mail. Goers proceeded to scream down the phone at me, berating me for not publicly condemning the demolition. He proceeded to call me a “toadie of the university”. One of his mini-rants concerned me enough to write it down. Goers referred to the “plague” of international students [Editors' note: use of the word ‘plague’ was vehemently denied by Goers] whose lack of appreciation for theatre was behind this demolition. He then continued on a tangent about how, “If I ever went to the hospital and the doctor came out and they said they were a Malaysian international student, well, I’d demand another doctor!” [Editors' note: For Goers' account of what was said, see end of article]. In Bob Lott’s open letter to the Vice Chancellor about Union Hall, he makes a strange statement: “In recent years as overseas student numbers increase and the ethnic mix changes there is a greater percentage of students now whose backgrounds don’t have the emphasis on what would be termed Australian/European traditional theatre performance.”

To me, there seems to be a disturbing

racism

underlying

the arguments of two of the Save Union Hall’s key campaigners.

Asia and India, the two key regions from where most international students in Australia come, have long and proud theatre traditions. Personally, I think that local students should bow down and thank international students whose exorbitant fees have been propping up the Australian higher education sector for around a decade, rather than draw a long bow and assign blame to them for the demolition of what is a rather ugly building. David Winderlich, SA Legislative Councillor,

On Dit Magazine: Volume 78, Issue 1  

On Dit Magazine is a fortnightly Australian student magazine with an emphasis on exceptional writing, photography, and illustration.

On Dit Magazine: Volume 78, Issue 1  

On Dit Magazine is a fortnightly Australian student magazine with an emphasis on exceptional writing, photography, and illustration.