Radical Democracy: Making Hampers To Fight Student Poverty At UQ

A Little Bit About My Beliefs

Okay, honestly, a lot of the time, I don’t really understand myself as a person. As a zoomer, I inhabit a terrible post-ironic void where everything is at once serious and a joke. I always see the funny side in everything and I love taking the piss out of politicians and political ideas I don’t like, so I guess many people regard me as unserious (which is kind of based).

However, there are a number of foundational principles that guide my politics and my world view, and these are principles I care about deeply and would give my life for. As a Christian and a libertarian socialist in the tradition of Cornel West, I believe the protection and promotion of human dignity must be our chief political concern at all times. It must always be our urgent, ongoing concern; the condition of our impoverished brothers and sisters must always be at the forefront of our minds. Wherever there is misery and suffering and injustice, our heart must break at the sight. Che Guevara once famously said: ”If you are capable of trembling with indignation each time that an injustice is committed anywhere in the world, we are comrades.” It’s one of my favorite quotes. You must never allow yourself to become inured to injustice, however universal and entrenched it becomes. You must tremble with indignation, you must let your heart break a million times for the vulnerable and the voiceless. Then, you must resolve to act. To do anything to make even the slightest dent in this wall of suffering.

And for many of our brothers and sisters, suffering characterises modern Australian life. Australia is one of the wealthiest nations in the history of all mankind. And yet hundreds of thousands of children across this country go to bed hungry every night. We torture refugee children in off-shore prison camps, and Indigenous Australians, subjected to murder, rape and genocide, die many years younger than White Australians. Each week, a woman is murdered by her partner in this country; LGBTI Australians face hate crimes and despicable rates of sexual violence. These injustices tear at the heart of our humanity and violate the dignity of each and every one of us. It must therefore be our task to live each day striving to wage total war against this cruelty. I think the task is to some extent Sisyphean. Like Sisyphus, condemned to roll his boulder up the mountain only to watch it fall just prior to reaching the summit every time, our task will likely never be finished. But like Sisyphus, we must go on regardless. We fail again and again, and yet we hold our heads high, return to the bottom of the mountain, and start the struggle again. I know this seems totally irrelevant to our hamper appeal and rather lofty considering the small scale of our work so far. But it’s just a little bit of background into how I see the world and our place in it. I wanted to distribute hampers to students in need as a concrete example of our commitment to justice for the vulnerable among us. I wanted to do something, anything, to uphold the dignity of those stuggling through this economic depression right now. It’s not enough, and it will never be enough, but we must find value in holding our heads high and continuing to fight for a better world. That’s what our movement, Radical Democracy, is about.

Funding The Hampers

Two weeks ago, UQ Life, a service delivery arm of the university administration that exists for no other purpose other than to kneecap the student union, put out a post boasting of its charitability providing ”hardship hampers” to students. It was a great idea at this time of economic crisis, but there was a catch – UQ Life charged $25 a hamper. I was kind of shocked at first by how tone deaf this was – senior administration officials ”earn” (in inverted commas because their roles are meaningless) hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars a year while students starve, and here they were patting themselves on the back for charging impoverished students $25 for hampers filled with essential supplies. As is my nature, I became extremely fucking pissed reflecting upon this. I decided I would pressure them into providing free hampers to students by starting my own campaign promising better hampers delivered right to the doors of students for free. At the time, UQ Life were imposing strict restrictions on the number of hampers they were distributing. I set a fundraising target of $5000 to make 250 free hampers.

When I woke in the morning, I was pretty nervous that I would not be able to complete the extremely hard task I had just set for myself while in a stable genius midnight manic mood. When I remembered what I had done, promising a substantial distribution of charitable goods with zero experience ever having done this before, I almost collapsed in despair. Thankfully, dozens of people were right there by my side to help. It was only possible with their dedication and support.

The money starting pouring in, such that we hit our target in just three days. In raising such a significant amount of money in such a short amount of time, we relied upon the tremendous generosity of dozens of students and supporters. Former Labor MP Michael Danby and current Greens State MP Michael Berkman each donated $100 towards our fundraiser. Greens Councillor Jono Sri contributed a stunning $400.

A number of students made tremendous contribitutions. Liam Lenton donated $180, Chester Stadler donated $150, and my Senate colleague Ricky Lee donated $100, as did Ben Shaw, Christopher Portway and David Evans. After I bullied him into submission, UQ Union President Ethan Van Roo Douglas generously donated $100. Rebecca Elizabeth donated $150, Riaz Uddin donated $111, Sarah Sigley donated $90, and David Catchpole donated $69 (the sex number). My mate Jayden Townsend donated a whopping $200, and Callum Laing donated $68 (one number less than the sex number).

James Hazeldean, Ian Martlew, Portia Meadows, Elliot Granger, Daina Harrison, Ava Greenwood, Chris Nicolaou, Jack Conkey, Scott Whittington, Harvey Williams, Nikki Geffen, Nick Hiller, Barclay McGain (yes, this Barclay McGain) and Tori Holliday each generously donated $50. I have to write a special shout out to my great Taiwanese friend Candy Tai. She donated an absolutely incredible $475 – a remarkable effort by a fellow student. Such generosity is astounding.

In total, we raised $5,323.00 through Go Fund Me. The shit cunts took $156.10 in fees despite advertising no fees, which took us down to $5,166.90, as can be seen below:

The first step was buying 250 bags. I ordered through QIS Packaging for $84.74, driving out to their warehouse in Archerfield to save money on shipping. The receipt for this can be seen below:

After this, we bought supplies in bulk. My great friend Anita Campagnari is a restaurateur, and so possessed an account with Charlie’s Fruit Wholesale. She placed an order for $914.05 in fruit with Charlie’s, for which I transferred her the money required. Contrary to popular myth, Drew’s Dad’s fruit shop was not involved.

Our $4,109.39 order with Bidfood comprised the bulk of our spending. Receipts are attached below:

To round out our purchasing, I spent $130.65 at Woolworths on female hygeine products and sugary snacks:

So, in total, to account for all money raised and spent:

RAISED: $5,166.90

SPENT: $84.74 + $914.05 + $4,109.39 + $130.65 = $5,238.83 (I covered the shortfall with my own money on top of my donation of $300 to the fundraiser).

I hope this demonstrates that I did my very best to use the money we raised honestly.

Organizing The Hampers And Final Thoughts

Mindful of needing to adhere to the strictest sanitary procedures possible and wary that the order would comprise hundreds of kilograms worth of food, we built and distributed the hampers from Anita’s restaurant in Fortitude Valley under kitchen-prep conditions. Without Anita and her partner Nico’s generosity in offering us this space, there is absolutely no way we could have prepared the hampers. So I want to thank her and Nico again from the bottom of my heart – their contribution to the hampers was absolutely indispensible. I was thankful to have so many volunteers from Radical Democracy to help prepare the hampers, which required a tremendous amount of work. Isy Nolan, Freya Hoareau, Christopher Stewart, Sam Adams, Tori Holliday, Cassandra Yeung and Kristina Stevens all did gruelling work preparing the heavy hampers. It was actually Chris’s birthday and he still helped, which was extremely kingly.

A number of students volunteered to do an incredible amount of driving to deliver hampers directly to the doors of students. Riley Pollock helped prepare hampers, directed an awesome video, and on top of that delivered more than fifteen hampers. Vinnie Batten, Jordan Mark, Nikol Visnjic, James Hazeldean, Jody Thompson, Tori, Chris, Freya, Cassandra and Isy drove for hours. Sam Adams worked remarkably hard – he continued driving across the northside of Brisbane until well after midnight. Kael Gaddafi drove hours to the outer-southern surburbs of Brisbane to deliver hampers. Kristina drove until late at night, travelling as far as the Sunshine Coast. Amber Mae Katherine Jones and Sal Chippers drove to Gatton, a two hour drive, in an incredible act of selflessness – they basically gave up their entire day to deliver these packages to students in need.

Our volunteers were absolutely indispensible, and I am completely humbled by their selfless efforts and hard work getting these hampers out to students in need. It truly showed the power of the UQ community and makes me extremely excited for the future. These were ordinary people who gave up their entire days and did countless unpaid hours of difficult, hard labour, all out of the goodness of their hearts and concern for their brothers and sisters doing it tough. It makes me tear up! Their selfless efforts not only ensured 250 free hampers got to students in need – they ensured UQ had no choice but to make their own hampers free. Possibly thousands of UQ students will find it just a little bit easier to make it through the week because of their efforts. Thank you so much! I’m so thankful to know such great people, to be able to stand alongside you fighting for a better world.

In all, to every single last one of you that donated, supported us or volunteered, thank you. It was not possible without the amazing generosity of dozens of people. Without you, it was impossible, since I am a fucking idiot and have no attention span whatsoever. United in this common struggle to uphold the dignity of the vulnerable and demonstrate love for the downtrodden, we can do anything. What we achieved shows us how strong we are when working together. Be proud of yourselves – you did this, it’s your victory, and a victory for all UQ students!

Drew 🙂

One thought on “Radical Democracy: Making Hampers To Fight Student Poverty At UQ

  1. Nice work! Read the oz article today and outraged so trying to get a feel for you as a person. There’s much in your delivery style I don’t agree with despite smirking about other things but this is amazing.


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