Student Pitches Tent to Avoid Rent

ONE local university student is taking his protest against campus accommodation to a new level.

William Woodbridge is studying a Bachelor of Industrial Design at the University of Canberra and says he is fed up with the expensive accommodation offered to students.

He’s taken to camping out in a teepee on Lake Ginninderra instead.

“It’s just quite ridiculous the amount that they’re expecting students to pay, and really at the end of the day you’re getting hard working, independent students trying to pay for where they’re living and having to work almost a full time job as well,” he said.

Living on campus last year, William shared a small room including a bunk bed with another student – paying $133 per week.

“I think that viable accommodation alternatives need to be found”.

For now, William is floating around the lake on a large pontoon style deck, equipped with a teepee – an option he chose for its ergonomic design.

“They’re a round cone shape, they are weighted more towards the bottom which give stability, and the rounded shape doesn’t catch the wind, so I’m not getting buffeted around everywhere,” he said.

Living there since the start of February, he said the tepee had survived the weather so far and that he isn’t too fazed by the upcoming winter, but admitted that he might “have to get a decent pair of slippers.”

The Department of Territory and Municipal Services has been in contact with William and told him he won’t be able to stay on the lake, however they are trying to come to an agreement to ensure that he doesn’t have to uproot during the middle of the semester.

As an Industrial Design student, William hopes he’ll be able to submit his new home for future assignments.

Originally published by 666 ABC Canberra: Student Pitches Tent to Avoid Rent



Over the past semester I have been lucky enough to be involved in a public journalism exercise as part of my journalistic studies at the University of Canberra. Under instruction from the watchful eyes of Julie Posetti and Ginger Gorman, the exercise has been a collaboration between the Journalism students at UC, students from the ANU School of Music, and 666 ABC Canberra.

The collaboration has been designed to test our journalistic and story telling skills as final year students about to go out into the real world. Told to go out and source tales about local refugees, our stories were to be scored by the ANU students and then possibly broadcast on 666 ABC Canberra.

Prior Perspectives

Recent media coverage has “brought international migration to public consciousness” (Kaur 2007, p.1) and made it a very topical subject in contemporary life.  Ongoing issues relating to the Malaysia Solution and asylum seekers travelling to Australia by boat has been common fodder for the media, resulting in mixed public opinions.

Personally I was shaky on my thoughts and attitudes about refugees before taking on this latest challenge. What little I knew about refugees and asylum seekers I had learned from various, wide ranging, forms of media coverage including articles such as, ‘Why Australia should abandon the Refugee Convention‘ and television shows such as ‘Go Back to Where You Came From‘. I therefore felt that I was ill equipped to voice an opinion on the divisive issue.

I was not aware of having any personal relationships or encounters with refugees or asylum seekers. This is not overly surprising as it can often be difficult to ascertain such a thing without directly asking every person you come across.

On Assignment

My time working on the assignment began when I was paired with fellow classmate Jessica Henry. Jess and I had worked together in the past and approached the project with vigour and excitement, hoping to tell an exciting new story in an innovative way.

While brainstorming we wondered how difficult it must be to adjust to life in a new country with new cultures and customs. After much discussion we decided to chase a story about refugee health, wondering how much refugees knew about sexual health and sexual health practices in Australia.

We soon discovered how little we knew about refugees, and how wildly inaccurate our assumptions had been. While interviewing Dr. Chris Phillips from Companion House we were told how important sexuality is to Islamic women, and how educated they are about the topic.

We were so surprised by our findings that we reconsidered whether our story was going to be interesting or even tell a story worth being broadcast, but after continued research and interviews we carried on with our piece, learning more and more as we continued.

Sexual Health

Sexual health is an important skill to own

The biggest lesson I learnt from my time working on the project has undoubtedly been the power of the media to tell a story that can influence its audience in many ways. While tackling such a delicate topic as refugees it is important to tell the story as truthfully and neutrally as possible, allowing the audience to make their own assumptions and beliefs from the facts you present.

In addition to this I soon discovered how difficult it can be to approach such topics in a sensitive way. Sourcing talent to interview proved particularly difficult as you cannot tell a person’s background just by looking at them. Short of stereotyping and racial profiling it would be tough to find a refugee to interview. Yet, as such tactics rarely work we soon decided to avoid such approaches and instead spoke to the only person we knew to be a refugee. He kindly put us in touch with a wide range of people involved in the refugee community in Canberra, and we were surprised to learn the community spread to include so many people, including neighbours, friends, colleagues and fellow students. This experience just reinstated our belief that our decision to avoid stereotyping when looking for talent was a good one, and taught me a lesson that I shall carry with me for a long time into the future.

Care and caution would therefore be the biggest lessons I took away from the whole project. You are much better off taking time to tell a story properly and succinctly than telling a story incorrectly. The responsibility as a storyteller who has the ability to change public opinion is one too important to take lightly.


I have learnt such a large amount from this entire exercise. Valuable journalistic skills such as the ability to approach topical, possibly sensitive, issues in a respectful way that produces results. Taking on such a story would have seemed very difficult to me earlier in the semester. I have a new confidence and tactics for when chasing story ideas that I will use in the future.

The whole exercise will come to a close on Sunday the 27th of November, with the broadcast of the Reporting Refugees program on 666 ABC Canberra. In a surprising turn of events I have been lucky enough to be chosen to present the program. The enormity of the situation has dawned on me over the last few days as I finalise my scripts and introductions with co-presenter Ashley Hamilton, and practice my pronunciation. I am very honoured and delighted to have the opportunity to present such a great number of stories to such a wide audience, and hope all the Canberrans who tune in on the day enjoy the great range of tales we have all worked so hard to produce.

Reporting Refugees will air on 666 ABC Canberra on Sunday November 27th, 2011 from 10am.

Week 8 – #Market

After undertaking extensive research into the online presence of student finance and university suitable jobs, it is my sincere belief that there is a whole in the online market for this niche topic.

There is no online resource for information about student finance, in particular somewhere for jobs suitable for a university student to be advertised. Few job search sites specifically cater to this market, and those that do seem to have been largely abandoned or have strayed from their original purpose. It is for this reason that the website being proposed would fill the void in information about student services that so many are searching for. Combining both job advertisements and news of interest to a student, especially news of a financial nature is an idea that would have a large demographic and audience, that if utilised correctly could be a lucrative market to target.

This informative website would have to take advantage of all forms of social media in order to be most effective, especially considering the demographic that will be target will be primarily those of Generation Y. Independent students that are forced to juggle a full time university schedule need all the assistance they can get while trying to stay financially secure when they have little time to dedicate to working commitments. Considering that most students are technologically savvy, an online tool that targets this gap in the market should be welcomed with open arms.

Week 7 – #News

Information that would be interesting to my audience would include topics about student finance, such as information about students and Centrelink etc. And in particular something that has garnered a lot of interest in the news over the last few days, the return of student union fees in Australia.

Student union fees were compulsory before becoming voluntary under the Howard Government. This resulted in universities struggling to finance student clubs, throwing campus services into jeopardy. The Gillard Government has now overturned the decision, meaning union fees will return next year at a cost of up to $263.00 per student.

Stories about the fees returning have been published by all sorts of news outlets, dating back from 2009 to now.Broadcasters include The PunchThe AgeWhirlpool ForumsThe ABCThe Age again, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Conversation.

The Australian also published an article and video explaining the ins and outs of what the new funds will go toward. The Australian’s article in particular was interesting as Stephen Matchett mentions in the video that “the vast majority of Australian students work”, insinuating they don’t have time to benefit from these union fees – an issue that would be very much of interest to our demographic.

The article from the Australian was tweeted by popular tweeter Peter Black;

Which was then retweeted by many others;

The article was also accessed via a number of email clients, shared on Facebook 13 times, and liked on Facebook 42 times.

The following information from bitly shows the popularity of the article from The Australian, as well as which country people were accessing it from.

Week 6 – #Audience

To do some research into my audience and therefore the demographic I will be looking to target, I tried to find out the number of students in Australia, and to do this I looked at recent census figures.

According to the most recent census conducted in 2006, there are 745, 445 university students in Australia, and 428, 026 TAFE students. No matter which way you look at it, that is a large number of people. And each of those people are going to need some way to support themselves while they look to further their education.

Of course, a number of these students may have wealthy parents, and access to Mummy or Daddy’s bank accounts, and therefore service their university bar tabs thus, however this won’t always be the case. Another group of students will happily chug along on the measly amount of money they are afforded by Centrelink, and will live off two minute noodles for the duration of their tertiary days.

Yet another group of students again will look to securing casual employment to supplement their bank balances, and start on the treacherous journey of balancing university requirements and work commitments. Even if only 50% of Australia’s tertiary students seek employment, this is still over 580, 000 people all looking for similar work.

The twitter account, @StudentUpdateAU has collected over 300 followers since joining the social media site in February of 2011. The account is aimed at giving Centrelink and Medicare support for students, and the fact that it has received such a large number of followers when it has only sent out 70 tweets, shows the yearning for information amongst its demographic.

All of this tells me that there is a demographic and audience for my site, which needs to be tapped into and utilised in order to make the most of it.

Week 5 – #Content

The most common form of content in regard to university students seeking jobs are job advertisements on major employment websites and news articles.

The job advertisements of course are hidden deep within websites such as Seek, and yet are few and far between as many employers do not bother to advertise casual jobs on a wide level. Often a sign in a shop window will gather enough interest in a casual job to secure an employee, meaning there is not a large need to wide advertisement.

However, news articles about struggling students are numerous at times. The amount of money students receive from Centrelink often comes back into the public sphere, causing many an article to be written about poor, starving students. I found a number of articles bemoaning the trend of students getting married to one another in order to receive more benefits from the Government, and to expand their incomes. Other articles about the lengths students will go to in order to earn some money were available also, and the statistics of students who strip to supplement their incomes while at university are high, and would to some people be alarming.

However, there is not a large amount of content providing solutions to the problem of student finances, more commentary on the issues surrounding the topic. An operational, easy to use, central site offering money saving solutions and casual job advertisements, in addition to helping students get every entitlement from Centrelink is non existent, leaving a hole in the market for just the kind of site I am hoping to create.

Week 4 – #Follow

Obviously the demographic for my website will be Generation Y students looking to make some extra dough on the side. The best way to target and engage with such an audience is through the use of social media and other forms of online interaction.

Twitter is the most obvious place to gather information and news about the topic. A large percentage of recruitment agencies and sites can be found on twitter and are advertising on twitter. @MonsterCareers @CareerOne @SaulSearching and @TeenJobs are just a few of the examples of sites that can be followed that give job advertisements, advice and background information about securing employment.

However, few of them provide the exact service that my site wishes to supply. @StudentJobs from the United States caters to my demographic on the other side of the world, providing followers with links to various jobs suitable to a range of students. Internships, casual work, and more, the twitter feed is similar to what is needed here in Australia. Similarly, @CasualJobsPoole gives followers links to casual jobs in the Poole and Bournemouth area of the United Kingdom.

@StudentUpdateAU provides up to date information on services and entitlements of students from @Centrelink, in an effort to make sure students receive all they are eligible for financially and otherwise.