Written by Samantha Wheeler
The ultimate goal of activism is to create large support and lobbying around issues to create change. In order to create change, it is important to educate yourself to be able to debate respectfully and educate others.
1. RESEARCH, RESEARCH & RESEARCH!
There is more to activism than yelling at a rally. Activists are knowledgeable about the issues they are passionate about. Knowing your stuff will ultimately pay off in the long run. You need to know what you’re fighting for and why. Read books and articles from reliable resources, follow newspapers or organisations on your socials that cover issues you care about, and watch the news to keep up to date with what’s going on around the world.
Some good resources to start with:
2. Know your rights! Join your union!
Like research, knowing your rights will ultimately benefit you, especially if you get yourself in a dodgy situation. Start simply with your basic rights as a common Australian citizen.
Then, research your workplace rights. Fair Work or your Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) are good places to start. For those who don’t know what an EBA is, it can be seen as a workplace rule book that sets out the conditions of employment. Do the same for renter’s rights, property rights, and even transportation rights—there are so many laws to protect people in Australia that many people do not follow or know about.
Join a Union! Unions have a history and are notorious for creating change and throwing many rallies. They will also help you in the workplace if you experience your rights being infringed upon by your boss or other co-workers. Knowing your rights is important, because if you don’t know your rights, how else are you going to help and protect the rights of others with theirs?
3. Show support to the movements you care about.
- GO TO A RALLY.
- SHARE A POST (of course, reliable source).
- ENGAGE with others in debate (to find out what barriers still exist).
- SIGN A PETITION or
- DONATE (if you can).
Find and follow the organisations and people that are fighting for the things you believe in.
4. Look at what you can change around you.
Lifestyle is a good place to start creating small changes that can one day add up to make a big difference. Look at the businesses you shop at—how ethical are they? How about your superannuation? What do they invest in? Even switching banks to one that fits your morals. These are all small changes that everyone can enact to make a big difference.
5. Difference starts in your local community.
Do you know who your local politicians or local council members are? Is there an issue that’s been affecting your community that you’ve noticed? If there is, write to them. Ultimately council members and politicians are public servants and are elected to help and represent the community they’re a part of.
If there’s an issue that’s really big in the community, get others involved. Create a petition and a formal letter and send it to them. If your local politician is voting on a particular legislative bill that you either agree or disagree with, get a group of friends to lobby around it. Let your voice be heard in your community, and maybe you can create change.
6. Join a community at university.
Deakin has so many clubs, societies, and communities that you can be a part of. Many of them present opportunities to get more involved and learn more about student activism.
Some clubs I recommend looking at:
- Fair Trade Vision.
- Deakin Human Rights and Refugee Society.
- Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
- Deakin Enviro Club.
7. Join organisations with the same beliefs you have.
Find organisations that are fighting for what you believe in. There are many that are just a Google search away. From human rights, race issues, LGBTIQ+ issues, and many, many more.
Here are some organisations to look at:
- Amnesty International
- Fair Trade
- Reconciliation Australia
There are many organisations out there that are waiting for you to help them out.
8. Join your student association/union.
DUSA is our student association, and they are a separate entity from Deakin University. Sign up to be a member! Always be aware: student unions/associations should be subject to scrutiny by members too. They should be working to support what is best for all students, so think critically and stay informed on their policies and actions. By joining and getting involved, you can create change within the association and outside it.
9. Student elections.
You know those crazy people in coloured shirts that try to trap you to get your vote? That’s student elections. It’s the battle for who will be the student representative of DUSA, your student union. We suggest you find a ticket (which is sort of like a party but on a student level) that has the same beliefs as your own and get involved. This is the best way to make change within your own university. It can also mean you can run for a position and get voted in to directly create change within DUSA and Deakin University.
Whether you like it or not, legislative change happens in parliament, and voting is crucial to elect politicians that share the same values as you. So, my suggestion is to vote below the line and vote for the individual, not the party. Look at what the individual has achieved—what have they done for your community? Yes, this takes time and effort, but ultimately this is the best way to make your vote count. We are lucky to be in a country that lets us have the right to elect our leaders—many other countries that do not.
No form of activism is too small, so even implementing one of these suggestions can help change things for the better. Ultimately, standing up for what you believe in even when no one else stands is a lonely position to be in, but don’t forget you are not alone, and there are many people fighting for the same issues you are. You just haven’t found them yet.
Samantha Wheeler has been involved in student activism and politics since 2018. She ran as an independent candidate for an NUS delegate position in 2019 against GO, and she is now being voted in as the Arts and Education Faculty Board Undergraduate Representative. She’s involved with National Union Students, RAFFWU, and supports many other organisations around Victoria. She believes in equality for all, no matter your background, class, or sexuality. She fights against racism, sexism, and for LGBTIQ+ community. She would like to see more people of colour, such as herself, get more involved in student activism.