NEWCASTLE University Students’ Association plans to use its highest level of funding in at least five years to provide students with free drug testing kits.
NUSA president Phill Johnson said the association was “very keen to trial” the kits – which the University of Melbourne Student Union introduced in September – as part of an “holistic harm minimisation approach”.
“This is an issue for all universities,” Mr Johnson said. “The last thing we want to see is students put in a precarious situation. It’s important that we make sure that all students are safe at all times.”
Harm reduction campaigners have said they will flood Sydney’s summer music festivals with the kits.
NUSA vice-president Giacomo Arnott said the association was being “proactive rather than reactive”.
“We’re not really interested in the controversy around these things,” he said. “If a few people in The Chancellery say this is a terrible thing to do, that’s okay and they’re allowed to believe that. But it’s good for students so we’re going to do it.”
A University of Newcastle spokesperson said it would allocate $2.022 million next year to student associations NUSA, NUPSA and Yourimbah, and sports union NUsport from its collection of the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF), which it receives from students and distributes to student service providers.
NUSA is projected to receive a $480,000 cut, which it said was up from $373,750 this year and the highest amount it has been given in at least five years and possibly since the 2006 introduction of voluntary student unionism.
Mr Arnott credited the increase to Mr Johnson strengthening NUSA’s relationship with the university.
The UON spokesperson said SSAF funding was provided to all student associations according to a formal agreement between the university and each association.
“All four associations are audited for compliance with this agreement on a regular basis, with NUSA last audited in 2014 and scheduled for audit again in 2017.”
Mr Johnson said as well as providing the kits, additional funds would be used to introduce a financial advisory service, employ management staff, as well as continue its services in orientation, advocacy, clubs and societies, student media and skills development. Mr Arnott said NUSA’s provision of free food was a “lifeline” for what he estimated was the two thirds of students living below the poverty line.