Apr 11, 2014

Speech at the Grand Opening of the UTS Haberfield Club

I’m honoured to be able to reveal this very special dedication plaque, for a man who I believe has had the single most positive impact on the student services sector in Australia. Tom O’Sullivan.

In 2003 Tom accepted the role of CEO at the UTS Union and he worked tirelessly to ensure that the UTS Union remained a strong, positive and viable organisation, particularly in the years of VSU.  When so many other Unions and Student Service Delivery agents collapsed under the pressures of VSU, the UTS Union remained a vital component of life at UTS.

His biggest achievement, however, was his work in overturning VSU, a 7 year battle that he fought from UTS.  The commitment and passion he put into both the campaign to overturn the VSU legislation and also to drive and lobby to have the Student Services and Amenities Legislation clear parliament, was nothing short of incredible.  No one put more on the line in both of these endeavours.

Tom had a great understanding of the true role and value of University Unions and it was former Prime Minister Julia Gillard who wrote ‘He fought hard for the passage of the student services legislation, even as ill health took its toll. Now thousands of students will enjoy access to better services thanks to a man they never met but who cared enough to fight for their future.’

In the last year of his battle to have the Student Services Legislation passed, Tom undertook another battle, a battle with cancer.  Tom didn’t win his fight with cancer and he passed away peacefully in the comfort of his home, surrounded by his loved ones on Thursday November 10, 2011, but not before he saw the Student Services Legislation pass Parliament, in late October.

Today we stand here on the beautiful waters of Iron Cove and I have been told from those of you who knew Tom, that this balcony was always his favourite space, with a middy of beer in his hand, overlooking the water.

Ladies and gentleman, it is a great honour for me to unveil this plaque dedicated to Tom O’Sullivan, for his longstanding commitment to the Union and to student services in Australia.