University of Melbourne Student Union
HeadquartersUnion House, University of Melbourne
Key people
Jack Buksh, President
Allen Xiao, General Secretary
Justin Baré, CEO
AffiliationsNational Union of Students

The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) is one of two student organisations at the University of Melbourne, Australia. UMSU, incorporated as University of Melbourne Student Union, Inc. (UMSU) provides representation and services for all current students and the University of Melbourne.

Following the liquidation of its predecessor, The Melbourne University Student Union (MUSU), UMSU was incorporated on 17 November 2005, following approval by the Council of the University of Melbourne in October of that year. Its first elections were held in October 2005 under the transitional clauses of the constitution.


There is a long history of student activities at the University of Melbourne. The Union Band Comp has kick-started the careers of several well-known Australian bands, and an annual comedy review once produced the Working Dog crew. Several Members of Parliament were active within the MUSU, including Sir Robert Menzies (former Australian Prime Minister), Lindsay Tanner (Member for Melbourne) and Sophie Mirabella (Former Member for Indi).[citation needed]


The Union Theatre,[1] also known as the Union House Theatre,[2] was founded around 1953, along with the Union Theatre Repertory Company. A large number of notable Australian performers, writers and other notable people did some of their earliest work there, including Cate Blanchett, Barry Humphries, Steve Vizard, Barrie Kosky, Graeme Blundell, and Germaine Greer.[3] It is on the ground floor of the Student Union.[4]

The Guild Theatre is on Level 1.[4]

Student clubs and Societies

See also: Melbourne University student organisations

Over 200 student-run clubs and societies are affiliated to UMSU,[5] which supports these organisations though financial grants and administrative assistance. The groups affiliated with UMSU range from the More Beer! club to the Quidditch team, but the largest and most notable of these societies are the faculty clubs (Arts' Students Society & Science Students' Society[6]) which have the largest balls and parties on campus.

Theatre clubs

See also Theatres, above.

Union House Theatre is the facilitator of student theatre at the Parkville campus, and runs two theatre spaces available for use by student theatre groups.[7] Student theatre groups include the Melbourne University Absurdist Theatre Society (MUATS), the University of Melbourne Music Theatre Association (UMMTA), the Throwback Players and the Union Players, as well as groups for the Colleges. Faculty theatre clubs include the Law and Medical Revues. Theatre clubs from culturally diverse backgrounds include Chinese and Sri Lankan theatre groups.[8]

Faculty clubs

There are six notable faculty clubs at the University of Melbourne: The Melbourne Arts Students' Society,[9] The Science Students' Society,[10] The Engineering Students' Club,[11] The Commerce Students' Society, The Biomedicine Students' Society and[12] The Environments Students' Society (ENVi).[13] All clubs run events throughout the year aimed at integrating new students into university life, running social activities and liaising between the faculties and the current students to enable and encourage their studies and enable opportunities for future employment.

Political clubs

Students Protest Against Education Cuts. University of Melbourme Parkville, September, 2013
Students Protest Against Education Cuts. University of Melbourme Parkville, September, 2013

Political clubs in 2020 include Melbourne International Relations Society (MIRS) Liberals, the ALP Club (Labor Left), Labor (Labor Right), Greens, Socialist Alternative and Solidarity, as well as clubs representing Amnesty International and the Political Interest Society. [5]

A number of activist campaign groups are affiliated to the student union, including the Campus Refugee Rights Club and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.[14]

Cultural and linguistic clubs

As of 2020, there are 42 cultural and linguistic clubs.[5] Out of those, there are 26 Asian cultural and linguistic clubs, 6 Middle Eastern cultural and linguistic clubs, 6 European cultural and linguistic clubs, 1 African club and 3 broader cultural and linguistic clubs.[5]

Debating society

The Melbourne University Debating Society is one of Victoria's oldest student organisations, founded in 1876.[15] MUDS holds weekly debating competitions, as well as larger annual invitational competitions for other universities in the lead-up to the World Universities Debating Championships, and the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships. Historically, the University of Melbourne has been very successful, hosting the 1993 World Universities Debating Championship, and making it to the Grand Final of the 2003 WUDC. Additionally, MUDS were the champions of the 2019 Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships. The Society also hosts Public Debates, and is one of the largest student groups on campus.

Special Interest

As of 2021, there are 35 special interest clubs[5] including Unimelb Love Letters and the Bullet Journal and Stationery Club.


Union House in the Parkville Campus
Union House in the Parkville Campus

The student union had been funded by compulsory Amenities and Services Fees since 1911. The introduction of VSU saw a significant loss of funding for the union, as the ASF was no longer charged from 1 July 2006. On 11 October 2011 the SSAF[16] was introduced which led to a large increase in funding to the Union, though not as high as in the pre-VSU era. In 2014 the Union was allocated just under $4.5 Million by the University, or 34% of the total SSAF revenue collected.[17]

The union funds a range of services including: the Rowden White Library; the Student Union Advocacy and Legal Service; the campus information centre; the Union House Theater, Clubs and Societies, Farrago, Student Representation and common areas in Union House. This allocation also covers staff salaries, and office bearer honorariums. UMSU additionally collects a small amount of revenue from event ticket sales, AV and BBQ hire, sponsorship and other sources.


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (July 2020)
Union House in the Parkville Campus
Union House in the Parkville Campus

The University of Melbourne Union was founded in 1884 to promote the common interests of students and assist in social interactions between its members.[18] The Melbourne University Students’ Representative Council was formed as an independent unincorporated association at a special general meeting called by the Sports Union Council on 19 September 1907.

The Associations Incorporation Act (1981) allowed incorporation of student bodies, among others. The Students’ Association in 1987 as the Melbourne College of Advanced Education Students’ Association-Carlton Incorporated, and the Students’ Representative Council was incorporated in 1988 as Melbourne University Students’ Representative Council Incorporated.[18] In October 1988 the two merged to form Melbourne University Student Union Incorporated (MUSUi).[18]

Voluntary liquidation

From 2002, some of the union's unprofitable commercial services were terminated, including U-Bar, and a property deal was entered into with Optima Property Development Group. A draft report from auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers warned in June 2003 that this could potentially create obligations beyond MUSUi's capacity to pay.[19][20] The deal was for MUSUi to sublease student apartments to international students from the Optima Group. It did not proceed.

On 30 September 2003, Vice-Chancellor Alan Gilbert informed MUSUi that the University was terminating the 2003 Funding Agreement, effectively stripping it of any future money, citing "evidence of breaches by MUSUI of its obligations under the Agreement", (the agreement being "providing facilities, services or activities of direct benefit to students at the institution"). He also cited a "serious breakdown in governance, financial management and accountability structures within MUSU".

On 6 February 2004, the Union was placed into liquidation by the Supreme Court of Victoria after a vote by the Student Union Executive. MUSU's liquidator, Dean Royston McVeigh, said in his provisional liquidator's report, that the Union owed debts of $4.3 million (mainly to the University of Melbourne) but only had assets of $3.5 million. McVeigh acknowledged that these "debts" were the result of creative accounting by the University, with the University ultimately relinquishing any claim to such "debts". As a result, it was no longer student-controlled (a prerequisite for affiliation to NUS) and was in any case unable to pay affiliation fees. A new constitution was approved.

Master Ewart Evans, who was presiding over the hearings of the liquidators' examination until his retirement in 2005, was critical of the "somewhat precipitative" timing of civil court proceedings, which McVeigh quickly settled out of court after much adverse publicity about his own fees and expenses believed to total more than $8 million[21] prior to producing a Liquidator's Report and convening a meeting of creditors. The downfall of MUSU was satirised by the Union Players in the play Friday Night at the Union in 2004.

Recent political history

Students Protest Against Education Cuts. University of Melbourme Parkville, September 2013
Students Protest Against Education Cuts. University of Melbourme Parkville, September 2013

Following the 2004 annual election, a coalition between the Liberal Club and the Labor right was defeated by a cooperative left, made up of National Labor Students (ALP Club), Socialist Alternative and a group of progressive students who are not involved in other politics called Activate. The positions won by the left groups were for an interim student representative committee established by the University to oversee student representation and advocacy until the incorporation of UMSU.

UMSU saw few changes in its power dynamic from 2005-07. In 2007 National Labor Students held the President, Secretary and Education (Academic) Offices. The makeup of the 2007 Student Council had no ALSF presence (due to the Liberal Student tickets withdrawing from the annual elections prior to the opening of the ballot). The 2007 UMSU budget, due to funding cuts caused by VSU, was reduced from just over $2m in 2006 to $1.23m in 2007. This resulted in reductions in funding for departments, particularly those which traditionally have been considered high, such as the Activities, Clubs and Societies and Media Departments.

In 2008, the National Labor Students and Grassroots tickets, running as StandUp! and Activate respectively, won most of the paid positions in the Student Union. Their tenure in 2009 was highlighted by difficulties in passing budgetary support towards the National Union of Students and Students for Palestine organizations.

2009 saw nearly all major elected positions won by a Labor Right-Liberal coalition called Synergy.[22] On Student Council, Synergy were elected to four positions (two Liberals and two Student Unity) and five positions were won by iUnion, a newly established ticket run by international students and former StandUp! office bearers.[23]

2012 saw the union criticised for the decision to not lay a $200 wreath at the ANZAC dawn service, with President Mark Kettle stating that "participating in the ANZAC Day service would be ‘glorifying war’".[24] There was also a publication in a major daily newspaper that student resources had been were used to support "a live and extreme sex show performed on campus for "sex education" purposes."[25]

2013 again saw the union criticised, when they passed a motion to unreservedly celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher,[26] resulting in media coverage from the Herald Sun and a large student backlash against the union over Facebook.[27]


Year President
2022 Sophie Nguyen
2021 Jack Buksh[28]
2020 Hannah Buchan[29]
2019 Molly Willmott[30]
2018 Desiree Cai[31]
2017 Yan Zhuang[32]
2016 James Baker / Tyson Holloway-Clarke[33]
2015 Rachel Withers[34]
2014 Declan McGonigle[35]
2013 Kara Hadgraft[36]
2012 Mark Kettle[37]
2011 Rachel Lim[33]
2010 Jesse Overton-Skinner[38]
2009 Carla Drakeford[39]
2008 Elizabeth Buckingham[40]
2007 Bree Aherns
2006 Jessie Giles
2005 Paul Donegan

Affiliation to NUS

UMSU is an affiliate to Australia's peak representative body for students, the National Union of Students (NUS). With the University of Melbourne having over 30,000 students of an Equivalent full-time student load (EFTSL), UMSU is the largest union to affiliate to NUS. Due to this, at the yearly National Conference of NUS in December, UMSU is the most represented student organisation. UMSU holds 7 delegate positions, and a grand total of 182 votes on conference floor.[41] The election of NUS Delegates is undertaken during the general elections in early September of each year.[42]

Initial constitution

The Constitution of UMSU was drafted by a Student Representative Working Group, members of whom were elected in 2004 by electronic ballot; the University Secretary was appointed Returning Officer. The University was closely involved in the drafting process and provided free legal advice to the Working Group.[43]

These student Working Group members consisted of both undergraduate and post-graduate members, and the overall composition of the Working Group was factionally diverse, with the incumbent Student Unity/ALSF coalition being reduced to opposition status. Due to a large number of inquorate meetings, the Working Group instituted a drop-off rule.

The Working Group persisted until mid-2005, when the final draft of the Constitution was presented to the Council of the University.[44] In September 1052 out of 1240 students voted in favour of accepting the new constitution.[45]

The Constitution itself was largely based on the MUSU Constitution, with a number of innovations, including affirmative action provisions, pay-parity and strict accountability mechanisms curbing the powers of the President and Secretary in particular. It also created the Clubs & Societies Department (which in the past had been a part of the Activities Department) and the Indigenous Department.

UMSU has a number of paid officers, which include: the President; the General Secretary; Media Officers; Education (Academic Affairs) Officer; Education (Public Affairs) Officers; Activities Officers; Creative Arts Officers; Clubs and Societies Officers; Welfare Officer; Environment Officers; Indigenous Officers; Disabilities Officers; Queer Officers; Women's Officers; People of Colour Officers; the Burnley Campus Coordinator; the Southbank Campus Coordinators; the Southbank Activities Officer, and the Southbank Education Officer. [46]

Aside from the positions of President, General Secretary, the campus coordinator of Burnley, the Southbank Activities Officer and the Southbank Education officer, all other offices can be shared between two people.[47] The Media Office must be shared between three or four people.[48]

UMSU has a pay parity provision in its constitution which stipulates that all full-time officers must be paid an equal wage and that all part-time officers be paid at a .6 fraction of the full-time rate of pay. The Burnley Campus Coordinator is paid at .5 fraction of the full-time rate of pay and the Southbank Activities and Southbank Education Officers are paid at .6 fraction of the full-time rate of pay. [49]

Elections and Current Factions


Elections for positions within UMSU are determined through direct election during the first week of September each year. This sees the election of 32 paid office bearers of 17 representative departments, as well as 21 students who sit on UMSU's peak decision body, Students Council. The election of representatives onto department committees and seven NUS delegates also occurs at this time, with the election of a student representative onto the University's Council occurring every two years.

As of the 2016 election, the UMSU constitution has applied Affirmative Action to the election of positions held by more than one representative. This mandates that in all Office Bearer positions, at least 50% of elected representatives must identify as a woman, with the Women's Department having to elect at least one officer that identifies as a Woman of Colour. This is extended to Students Council and department committees, which must elect women into 50%+1 of all positions. In the election of roles within autonomous departments, as well as the election of restricted autonomous positions on Students Council, only those who identify with the represented group are eligible to run.


In 2019/20 the Students' Council, the peak body for the union, is made up of 21 student representatives from 5 factions (who run under the following Tickets during elections). [29]

Faction Seats
Current Students' Council (Total 21 Seats)
Community for UMSU 12 12
Stand Up! 5 5
Just Clubs Just Activities 1 1
The Biggest Blackest Ticket 1 1
Socialist Alternative 1 1
Independent Media 1 1

Currently, most of the positions within UMSU are held by members of six factions who run under the tickets Stand Up!, Community for UMSU, Independent Media, and The Biggest Blackest Ticket. As of the 2020 election, Community for UMSU holds the nearly all positions within UMSU and has a majority within students' council.

Current Office Bearers

The positions below were elected in the 2020 general postal elections for the 2021 term in office, which runs from 1 December 2020 till 30 November 2021.[29]

Faction Offices
Summary of Officebearer Positions (Total 19 Offices)
Community for UMSU 14 14
Stand Up! 2 2
Independent/Unaligned 3 3
Office Office Bearers Faction
President Jack Buksh   Stand Up!
General Secretary Allen Xiao   Community for UMSU
Activities Christos Preovolos and Phoebe Chen   Community for UMSU
Burnley Student Association Kaitlyn Hammond   Independent
Clubs Kalyana Vania and Muskaan Hakhu   Community for UMSU
Creative Arts Merryn Hughes and Vaishnavi Ravikrishna   Community for UMSU
Disabilities Brigit Doyle and Lindsay Tupper-Creed   Community for UMSU
Education (Academic Affairs) Jennisha Arnanta and Planning Jay Vynn Saw   Community for UMSU
Education (Public Affairs) Hannah Krasovec and Tejas Gandhi   Stand Up!
Environment Ann Nguyen and James Park   Community for UMSU
Indigenous Hope Kuchel and Shanysa Jayde McConville N/A
Media Ailish Hallinan, Lauren Berry and Pavani Ambagahawattha   Independent Media
People of Colour Emily AlRamadhan and Mohamed Hadi   Community for UMSU
Queer Amy Bright and Laura Ehrensperger   Community for UMSU
Welfare Hue Man Dang   Community for UMSU
Women Mickhaella Ermita and Srishti Chatterjee   Community for UMSU
Southbank (Campus Coordinator) Will Hall   Community for UMSU
Southbank (Activities and Events) Jungwoo Kim   Community for UMSU
Southbank (Campaigns Coordinator) Leyla Moxham   Community for UMSU

Notable associations

Several Members of Parliament were active within Melbourne University student life, including Sir Robert Menzies (former Australian Prime Minister), Gareth Evans (former Australian Foreign Minister), Lindsay Tanner (former Member for Melbourne), Michael Danby (Member for Melbourne Ports), and Sophie Mirabella (former Member for Indi).

Notable past presidents include:


  1. ^ "Union Theatre". OnlyMelbourne. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  2. ^ "Union House Theatre Awards Night". UMSU. 1 December 2020. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  3. ^ "History". UMSU. University of Melbourne. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Parking & Maps". UMSU. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Clubs Listing". Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  6. ^ "The Science Students' Society (SSS)". Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Theatre". Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  8. ^ "List of Theatre Groups". Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  9. ^ "Homepage". The University of Melbourne Arts Students' Society.
  10. ^ "Home". The University of Melbourne Science Students' Society.
  11. ^ "Home". The University of Melbourne Engineering Students' Club.
  12. ^ "Home". The University of Melbourne Biomedicine Students' Society.
  13. ^ "Home". The University of Melbourne Environments Student Society.
  14. ^ "Articles tagged with politics". MU Student Union Online. 2012.
  15. ^ "Melbourne University Debating Society: About Us". Melbourne University Debating Society. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  16. ^ "Student Services and Amenities Fee".
  17. ^ "SSAF". University of Melbourne Student Union. UMSU Inc. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  18. ^ a b c "UM… What? A comprehensive guide to the history of our Student Union". Farrago. 18 June 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  19. ^ "Student union urged to abandon deal" - The Age 2003-07-09
  20. ^ "The deal that threatens to send a student union broke" - The Age 2003-07-20
  21. ^ "Landeryou threatened me, says liquidator" - The Age 2005-05-25
  22. ^ Crook, Andrew (15 September 2009). "Young Liberals find their campus saviours: the ALP". Crikey. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  23. ^ Summers, Chris (16 September 2009). "Left and right? Just the beginning of the complexities of student politics". Crikey. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^[dead link]
  27. ^ "UMSU vs Margaret Thatcher. Round 2 *bing!". 14 April 2013.
  28. ^ "Revised Provisional Declaration of Results".
  29. ^ a b c "Report of the Returning Officer 2019" (PDF).
  30. ^ "Report of the Returning Officer 2018" (PDF).
  31. ^ "Report of the Returning Officer 2017" (PDF). University of Melbourne Student Union. 29 October 2017.
  32. ^ "Report of the Returning Officer 2017" (PDF). University of Melbourne Student Union. 5 October 2016.
  33. ^ a b "UMSU Election Reports".
  34. ^ "Report of the Returning Officer 2014" (PDF). University of Melbourne Student Union. 13 October 2014.
  35. ^ "Report of the Returning Officer 2013" (PDF). University of Melbourne Student Union. 23 September 2013.
  36. ^ "Report of the Returning Officer 2012" (PDF). University of Melbourne Student Union. 4 October 2012.
  37. ^ "Report of the Returning Officer 2012" (PDF). University of Melbourne Student Union.
  38. ^ "Report of the Returning Officer 2009" (PDF). University of Melbourne Student Union.
  39. ^ "Report of the Returning Officer 2008" (PDF).
  40. ^ "Report of the Returning Officer 2007" (PDF).
  41. ^ Pitt, Ed. "NUS National Conference 2018". Farrago. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  42. ^ "Elections". Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  43. ^ "Elected student working group will form a 'constitutional convention'". UniNews Vol. 13, No. 4. University of Melbourne. 22 March – 5 April 2004.
  44. ^ Christina Buckridge (22 August – 5 September 2005). "Council gives go-ahead to student body's constitution". UniNews Vol. 14, No. 15. University of Melbourne.
  45. ^ "Yes vote on new student body sets scene for elections". UniNews Vol. 14, No. 16. University of Melbourne. 5–19 September 2005.
  46. ^ Constitution|url=
  47. ^
  48. ^ "UMSU Constitution" (PDF). 17 September 2019.
  49. ^