Madhumitha (Madhu) Janagaraja wasn't driven to run for ANUSA President out of an interest in student politics. Instead, her motivation was one driven by a desire to change the lives of students through community work. Her drive to enact change began two years ago when she was elected as the Disabilities Oﬃcer for ANUSA in 2019. In this position, Madhu learned the large and important role ANUSA plays for the University and its diverse cohort of undergraduate students.
From spending her childhood in India and Jamaica to embarking on her university journey at ANU, Madhu came to Canberra as a student who had little idea about ANUSA and its role. Experiences such as organising the essential distribution of P2 masks for students during the devastating bushfire season of 2020 and working with the University on devising the CRS/CRN grading system in light of the impacts of COVID-19 all led to where she is now in 2021; the leader of the association, driven by her original passion to put student needs at the forefront of the University's attention.
Madhu and her team have a large range of initiatives for 2021, all of which they are excited to tackle. As President, Madhu reflected on some of the pertinent issues, such as reestablishing campus life and welfare programs, that ANUSA would like to address for 2021 and how her role will facilitate that.
"I think that increasing community engagement and connection is something important and so supporting and empowering my social oﬃcer with her work will help that."
"We've also increased our student assistance grants allocation and other welfare programs because we expect an increased demand this year," she said.
In line with her passion for community work and advancing student needs, Madhu discussed the importance of working with the University to address SASH issues and how she and her team plan to improve the student experience of SASH related services at the University.
"We plan on working with ANU services such as ANU Counselling, Student Central and Respectful Relationships to look at how student engagement is occurring in those spaces and how we can improve the experience of those services in consultation with students."
In financial matters, Madhu also discussed her team's initiatives to diversify ANUSA's funding and why this was especially important to ensure quality delivery of student services.
"95% of ANUSA's funding comes from the Student Services and Amenities Fee. The number of students which contribute that fee is capped and our costs increase every year. Diversifying our funding, rather than relying on this shrinking pool, ensures that we can continue to deliver excellent services for students."
"We're also in the process of creating consultation forums for a new business venture that ANUSA could start. We're looking at diversifying and selling our own merchandise, running a plant stall as well as increasing sponsorships."
The introduction of remote learning has allowed many to ask questions about class accessibility. Madhu reflected on how 2020 and the pandemic provided an opportunity to pursue new avenues for academic accessibility.
"COVID has raised the question of remote learning's eﬀectiveness. Obviously many students think remote learning is not worth the money but in this day and age there's no reason why we can't deliver a worthwhile remote experience."
"Up until now it was deemed too hard or impractical but as soon as COVID hit we came up with a miraculous number of solutions, so it's definitely possible."
Outside of policies and initiatives, Madhu is leading a team of people from incredibly diverse backgrounds. She discussed the importance of diversity and representation as well as the strengths of some of her fellow representatives.
"My Vice President (Christian Flynn), he's very measured, takes a step by step approach to things and is hard working. My Education Oﬃcer (Madeleine Chia), she's really enthusiastic and unafraid to get what she wants. My Social Oﬃcer, (Sophie Jaggar) is organised, meticulous and very good at collaborating with people and stakeholders. My Treasurer (Siang Jin Law) is very creative and has gone above and beyond in supporting the team. My General Secretary (Meghan Malone) is wonderful in the sense that she sticks to the purpose of her role and commits to impartiality and doing what is right, rather than what matters to her, which takes a mature attitude."
"I think it's only possible to create meaningful systemic change that supports and uplifts all students when the people that make decisions prioritise the needs of marginalised groups. Lived experience is essential to that, and among my team I am proud to see the person of colour experience, the migrant experience, the low SES experience and LGBTIQ+ and disabled identities."
On a final note, Madhu reflected on self care and gratitude and how she'll be getting through each day of the role.
"Juggling university, my disabilities and a demanding full-time role is hard. I try to prioritise rest as much as possible, but at the end of every day I also write down three things I'm grateful for and a tip from the previous president (Lachlan Day) was to write down the name of one person I've helped each day. Happiness is hard to achieve since it comes and goes but healthy gratitude and dedicating myself to a higher purpose and the community gives me fulfilment and satisfaction."
Respectful Relationships Unit and Support Services
The Respectful Relationships Unit is a culmination of the University's commitment to providing a safe and respectful campus for the entire ANU community. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the Unit, or to access support services.
A list of free support services is also available on the ANU website.
ANUSA General Information and Services
If you would like to learn more about ANUSA, their services, useful contacts and who your 2021 Representatives are you can head to the ANUSA website for more information.