BRA President Oliver Byrne on Burgmann life, table rules, and ‘that’ ANU parking situation

BRA President Oliver Byrne was kind enough to take time out of his busy end-of-semester schedule to chat with us about the highlights and challenges of being BRA President, what inspired him to take on the role, and what he loves most about Burgmann.

What inspired you to run for BRA President?

I was inspired to run for BRA President because I wanted to give back to the community. After seeing the great job that Bas and Isobel did during my first two years, I believed I could continue their work by facilitating fun events, promoting positive cultural change, and improving the residential experience. I care a lot about helping people, and President seemed a natural fit to achieve this while representing the residents at the highest level at College on Council and the Board.

What is your favourite thing about Burgmann life?

The convenience of seeing so many of my friends every day. While it can become overwhelming living with so many people, I love going down to the dining hall and having conversations with everyone about a whole range of topics. College is a melting pot of people from different experiences, and learning from those experiences is insightful and beneficial.

What qualities do you think are most important for the BRA President to possess?

Interpersonal skills and multitasking. On a regular day I can work with the admin team, Cultural Change and multiple resident bodies. To do this, I need to recognise their perspectives while also communicating my own. As such, communication skills and proper preparation are required, but I would argue that understanding the people you’re working with is more important. What’s more, I need to keep an eye on what task or issue is next. Not doing so can be unhelpful when balancing multiple different aspects of College life.

How do you foster a sense of community and inclusion among students living at Burgmann, particularly for those who aren’t as active in College life?

This is a question that has troubled BRA for some time. For residents who love sports, arts, greens, or another aspect of College we offer this isn’t a significant problem. These residents fit in easily to the community and we’re very appreciative of their contributions. But we know more can be done to promote the various activities that residents can be involved in. We have a heavy social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and even TikTok to encourage and inform residents about what is going on. We find participation is generally high and we are satisfied so long as residents are provided with an opportunity to get involved. For residents who are less interested in what we offer, we want to make sure they still feel included. Part of this is the promotion of the dining hall ‘table rule’, whereby tables should be filled before a new one is begun. For international students, we’re planning a ‘Burg 101’ mini-N-Week style information session to better educate them about what they can get involved in and where they can access support. However, I want to acknowledge Burg’s opt-in culture. We don’t want to make residents feel pressured to come if they don’t want to. Part of Burgmann is recognising people’s interests may not lie in what we provide. I am happy if everyone is informed about what, when and where events are and are encouraged to attend.

What has been the highlight so far of being BRA President?

My highlight was Commencement. It was the culmination of several weeks of discussion and work with the admin team and it was a great night for all attendees. The ‘Dancing Nuns’ were fabulous and seeing everyone dressed up at the Arboretum was a great sight.

And the biggest challenge?

Dealing with the parking changes ANU wants to make has proved very challenging. For context, ANU wants to take half of Burgmann’s Dickson Parking Station spaces. This will place residents in an incredibly difficult position. The ANU’s response has been a dispiriting combination of silence, buck-passing, and rejection of resident concerns. However, there have been rewarding moments from this. I was interviewed by Woroni, and Principal Sally Renouf has been very helpful. I hope that we can achieve a satisfactory outcome and the changes will not proceed.

What are some specific initiatives or events that you have planned or are currently working towards?

BRA has operated on tradition for a large part of its history. While this works fine to some extent, it can raise confusion about role requirements and responsibilities. I want to change this in conjunction with our Constitutional Review Officer. We have been collecting information about the various roles in BRA and I hope to pass several motions detailing this. Also, I want to start better collecting BRA’s motions for future use so that we can keep track of them going forwards.

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