Southern Cross SRC declared insolvent
By ANDY PARKS
THE Student Representative Council (SRC) at Southern Cross University in Lismore has gone into voluntary receivership, sparking claims by council members and staff the true financial picture of the organisation was kept from them.
The SRC is the body that represents students in disputes with Centrelink and in academic appeals to the university.
It employed one full-time and one part-time staff member at the Lismore campus. The president, Michael Lambert, was also paid on a part-time basis.
However, according to Josh Cavanagh, one of the council members, Mr Lambert kept important financial information about the state of the organisation from them.
"We were not warned. He'd say 'I've got it under control'. Everything seemed fine, and then one day it was like 'by the way, we're insolvent'," Mr Cavanagh said. He said he had serious doubts about the circumstances surrounding the insolvency.
The Northern Star contacted Mr Lambert on two occasions. He said he disagreed with the allegations of the other board members, but didn't wish to make any further comment.
The SRC board had been made up of five members, but two had resigned at the end of the university semester, leaving only three people.
The other member of the board was Steph Wilkinson, who was away in Sydney at the time. She told The Northern Star that Mr Lambert had called her and told her the SRC was insolvent.
"It came very much as a surprise to me. He said we didn't have a choice. One day I got a phone call and then the administrators were called in."
Both Mr Cavanagh and Ms Wilkinson said they were passionate about the organisation and keen to explore ways of keeping it afloat, and were critical of the way in which Mr Lambert handled the situation.
"I don't think Michael operated in the best interest of the SRC or the students," Mr Cavanagh said.
"If he knew the financial position, he neglected to tell other members."
Like all student organisations, the SRC suffered severe financial cutbacks after the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism in 2006, when students were no longer required to join.
According to Josh Cavanagh, the SRC lost about 75 per cent of its income, or about $600,000 a year.
It had diversified its operations by opening a print and copy shop in the Lismore CBD and was expanding what seemed to be a viable business.
One of the first to be affected by the receivership was Nick Fredman, who was employed part-time as the SRC's advocacy and research officer.
"It's a sad day for students, the university and the community," he said.
"I help hundreds of students with academic problems and issues with Centrelink, and helped the SRC organise various campaigns.
"I would now urge the university to facilitate a new independent student association and to lobby the Federal Government for the funding that has been promised in regards to student organisations."