Global Affairs

Student journalism around the world: Farrago, University of Melbourne

The four editors of Melbourne’s oldest student publication, Farrago, give an insight into their work, student experience and the issues facing students at home in Australia.

Written by Farrago Editors Amber Meyer, Bethany Cherry, Sarah Peters and Tharidi Walimunige.

Farrago is derived from Latin, the term meaning ‘a confused mixture’. We are the oldest student publication in Australia, founded in April of 1925, at the University of Melbourne. What began as a rebellious student newspaper has transformed in 95 years. Today, it publishes 6 annual editions of news, nonfiction, creative writing, art, design and satire, hosts a radio channel and prints a creative anthology. This diversity reflects our namesake. We wear this quality with pride.

As it is the age of technology, Farrago, and the media department that it calls home, has adapted to increase its online presence. We operate from our website and social media platforms to make our words and art accessible to all students. It’s also not bad for business.

Like any other good publication, Farrago has endured its share of controversies. Ailish Hallinan, a Farrago reporter, wrote an opinion piece “I was pepper sprayed by police at IMARC (even though I was a journalist)” in 2019. This recieved online applause and was one of the most honest and confronting pieces we have published. Otis Heffernan-Wooden was a similar case. In 2018, we published his article, “An Exhaustive List of Whom We Shall Kill on the First Day of the Revolution”. This encountered direct backlash, with students claiming it was a deliberate attack on right-wing students.

Every year, four new editors are elected. This year, it is the pleasure of Amber Meyer, Bethany Cherry, Sarah Peters and Tharidi Walimunige to hold the office. Our responsibilities combined include collating, organising, designing, editing, reviewing, and publishing the magazine. We also run the other media outlets, such as the radio station, ‘Radio Fodder’, the annual creative writing and art anthology Above Water, and other workshops, teams, and events. It is our priority to give voice to all students, and help create a platform of expressions and experimentation that they may not have had otherwise.

The four of us were elected in the 2019 September student elections, and held the same vision for a fair, free, and transparent department. In the few months since, this has become our reality. We have had the honour of representing Farrago at national conferences like the National Student Union Conferences (NUS NatCon) and National Editing and Writing Conference (NEWS). It is during events like these that editors like us realise how small we are, but how large our impact can be. Giving voices to students is hard but important work.  The process can be arduous, and always improved. We saw the work of all the students rewarded with the release of our first edition of Farrago on the 26th of February. It is in times like these, when students see their work broadcasted across our campuses, and then distributed nationwide, that the power of student media is evident.

MEET THE EDITORS

Bethany is in her fourth year of a Bachelor of Design, and is the Design and Illustration Editor. She designs the magazine, and produces the visual material. She manages the illustration team and, with them, has transformed Farrago into a visual powerhouse. Working with the Video and Photography Managers, she is also the Editor who organises training and projects.

Amber starts her law degree this year. More importantly, she also embarks on her highly-anticipated 007-esque mission to get abs, half a sit-up at a time. With experience as a subeditor and contributor, Amber now overlooks the Nonfiction and News section. She plans to devote the same energy she spends avoiding her readings to empowering students of colour and First Nations students.

Sarah has been at uni for six years and mostly needs a nap. She will be writing a thesis on Instapoetry this year and is happy to be looking after the Creative and News sections after many long years of involvement. If you’re getting late night social media posts from Farrago, it’s most likely Sarah.

Tharidi is finishing up her undergraduate degree in Creative Writing and Screen & Cultural Studies. When she’s not overseeing Nonfiction with Amber and Creative with Sarah, she is collecting dozens of reviews and publicity opportunities for students at the University. The plums she brings from home sustain the editorial team. 

Editors of student newspaper Farrago at the University of Melbourne: (LtR) Amber, Sarah, Bethany, Tharidi

We are made with volunteer-based effort, hosting various roles for students in web design, event coordination, social media, blogging, music curation, and sub-editing. Some quirky trivia about us is that we are a little obsessed with getting everything on record. We have a quote board in our office, which records the best of the 2020 Editors. Some of these include: “I just consider myself a superior being” and “You know we’re friends when you go from view-only to permission to edit.”

Student media never looks the same. It never reads the same. It gives us the opportunity to see through someone else’s eyes, or listen through their ears. We are in such a lucky position to have access to some of the most creative and genuine minds in our vicinity. So of course, we want to share their works. The further the reach, the more people who will find joy, sadness, awareness and maybe even some hope. Student media is the future of our society…who wouldn’t want to read?

How did you get involved with Farrago?

B: Through my art. A friend told me I wasn’t good enough to get published… so of course, I had no choice but to get published. My art then got me accepted into the illustration team, and then the columnist team, and now hey look, I’m an Editor.

A: I first got involved in the Above Water competition that celebrates creative writing in particular. I felt like I was welcomed into Media regardless of experience. My lack of experience was embraced.

S: An editor in 2015 was the first person to approach me at a Writing Awards night. Eventually I started subediting with later teams and submitting work as well.

T: I started with submitting short fiction and flash fiction pieces. When I was finishing up high school my sister would bring Farrago copies home and tell me to submit writing and become a sub-editor once I started at uni. Two years later, Farrago had me hooked in ways I never expected!

What do you do in your free time?

B: I don’t have much free time, or free isn’t the word I would use to describe it. I have ‘fun’ time, where there are no academic or professional merits. I love to run, swim, and cook. A good book and a quiet spot are my cup of tea.

A: True crime podcasts are my jam and I’ve tried my hand at home-made kombucha. Sweet serotonin also hits when I fulfill the cheesy weekly goals set out in my planner.

S: Answer more emails and spend far too much time on social media. I run a bookstagram blog @reading.rah and obsess over books and bees.

T: I watch movies. A lot. Animated films and superhero blockbusters, in particular. I recently attended DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition in Canberra and Shrek: The Musical. Before you ask, yes, DreamWorks has my heart.

What do you think are the most important issues facing students in Melbourne?

B: Unfortunately, I think how bureaucratic our world is becoming is the issue. We can’t hope for a peaceful life anymore. In Melbourne, but also a wealthy and multi-cultural capital. To be silent is to be ignorant and to be loud is to be a trouble-maker. We need to learn to navigate the waters of politics, and not get swept away by anger or fear.

A: I think definitely climate change, as well as the immense task of navigating through and chiselling down institutionalised oppression in media. Young people, and specifically queer women of colour like me, have good ideas, new ideas and deserve to be taken seriously.

S: Throughout the start of our term, a significant amount of Australia was on fire. The climate crisis is undeniably an issue alongside many other concerns about accessibility and student safety especially for students of colour, queer, trans and more.

T: The state of tertiary education weighs a lot on youths’ minds. Inaccessibility, higher costs, and an increasingly competitive job industry. And climate change of course. I feel like our generation has taken a pretty solid stance. The age-old question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has taken on new meanings for our generation when we consider, will there even be a world to inhabit in our futures?

What piece are you proudest of?

B: Singular pieces do not bring me pride. Where’s the fun in that? I am proud of the process. If it’s good, pride that it’s good. If it can be improved, I will be proud of my effort. If it’s bad, pride I tried and will try again.

A: I write one poem every three years and for those three years it’ll be my greatest treasure, cradled and worshipped until inspiration strikes again. I have a naughty tendency to fall in love with my own writing, and an even naughtier one to fall out of love. 

S: A piece I really loved was ‘banksia embrace’ because I got to respond to the artwork instead of the illustrator responding to my poetry. It was a really beautiful connection we forged. Also my time subediting, Natalie Fong was priceless, each of her pieces is a gem.

T: Probably my Venom (2018) review. I did that in my first year at uni and that was the first time I felt like I could stray away from serious writing and really inject the warmth and humour of my personality into my work. I got to write whatever I wanted, so of course I wrote about a sad trash man and his slime buddy!