Monash rally today to push for postgraduate travelling concessions

The Fares Fare campaign kicked off last year, with Monash postgraduate students Vibol Hy (left), Dylan Styles (back), Georgia Daly (centre), Natasha Abrahams (right) joining the fight. Picture: Stamatina Hasiotis

BY SALONEE MISTRY,
social issues editor

Postgraduate students’ battle for cheaper public transport kicks up a notch today with a rally at Monash University’s Clayton campus from 11.30am to 2.30pm.

In the lead up to the Victorian state election on November 24, the Fares Fair PTV campaign is calling on the leaders of both major parties to extend travel concessions to Victoria’s postgraduate students.

CAPACA (GSA) general secretary and law student Georgia Daly said many students were struggling. 

“There are over 70,000 full-time postgraduate students in Victoria, and we’re studying hard so we can go on to professional careers in a whole range of fields,” Ms Daly said.

“Public transport concessions would help us make ends meet while we study,” she added.

Post-graduate student Georgia Erin Cameron, who travels from Ballarat to Caulfield more than twice a week in semester, said the costs were difficult to manage.

“Despite being the cheapest option, it’s still so expensive. Even if I was just travelling for school, it costs more than my weekly shopping,” Ms Cameron said.

She said the benefit should also extend to international students. 

Formed in 2017, the Fares Fair PTV coalition brings  together the GSA, Monash Postgraduate Association (MPA), the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), and other postgraduate representative bodies in Victoria.

Ms Daly said she was driven by her personal experience to be a part of the campaign.

“When I first began my course, I found it difficult to stay afloat in between rent, bills, and daily public transport fares. I had to work two jobs alongside my intense study commitments.” said Ms Daly.

“My circumstances are no different than when I was an undergraduate student the year before – it’s unfair that simply by being a postgraduate student, I suddenly had to pay double to get to class,” she said.

CAPA national president and former MPA president Natasha Abrahams said a postgraduate student commuting to university each day could easily spend $50 a week on public transport.

“The goal of the campaign is quite an ambitious one which will not be achieved overnight,” Ms Abrahams said.

Georgia Daly said she believes the concession would go a long way in helping students manage their budgets better. Picture: Lori Vullings

“A further challenge is that the campaign requires consistent support and action from students and student leaders, but student leaders change over every year,” she said.

The Fares Fair group has held a range of public events, including a letter writing campaign to Parliamentarians, postcard campaigns, media coverage, and petitions. 

“Our key strategy has been meeting with politicians from all sides of politics, and making our case directly to decision makers.”

“We have met with the Parliamentary Secretary for Public Transport, Ros Spence, several times at the Transport Minister’s request. She had indicated that she is personally supportive of our cause, and has offered us advice on how to persuade the Minister,” Ms Daly said.

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan has said she was opposed extending concessions.

“The longstanding exclusion of postgraduate students from the concession fare policy reflects the fact that a greater proportion of postgraduate students are working full time and may not require additional financial support.” Ms Allan told Parliament.

“Postgraduate students with low incomes that meet the eligibility criteria for government support through Centrelink can receive a Low Income Health Care Card. This card entitles the postgraduate student to public transport concession fares,” she said.

Ms Abrahams said they had met with many decision makers at state level.

“They are sympathetic to the issue, so now it is a matter of them making this a priority to fund postgraduate concessions,”  she Abrahams said.

Today’s event  will be followed by festivities including on-ground campaigning activity, a picnic barbecue and music.

You can sign the petition HERE