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History of the TUSA

The Tasmanian University Student Association was established in 1899, originally serving as a social club for the 35 students of the University of Tasmania at that time. It’s interesting to note that lectures didn’t commence until six years later. Today, we proudly represent the diverse student body of approximately 35,000 enrolled at the university.



  • Our first student magazine, “Platypus,” went into production.
  • 17 Clubs and Societies were serving.
  • Partial membership fees were made compulsory for students in the 1920s.
  • We began fielding teams in inter-varsity sporting competitions.
  • Full membership of the TUSA was made compulsory in 1930.
  • “Platypus” was replaced by “Togatus” in 1931 as a fortnightly student news and opinion paper.
  • We joined the National Union of Students (NUS) in 1937.
  • The first employee was hired in 1939 to assist with the administration of the growing TUSA


  • Membership fees were donated to help the war effort during World War 2.
  • In 1941, our first female President, Cynthia Johnson, took office.
  • The Student Representative Council became a fully elected entity.
  • We introduced a formal budget process.
  • We printed our first student handbook.
  • The University began its move from the Domain campus to Sandy Bay.
  • We started Orientation (O Week) events, a book stall, and organized more student spaces and a canteen.
  • We gained permanent sporting facilities up at Olinda Grove.
  • We established the Old Nick Theatre company, which continues independently today.
  • We joined with academic staff and brought about a commission into unfit working conditions and poor facilities, which hastened the move to Sandy Bay.
  • We secured government funding for the TUSA building, which was completed in 1959.
  • We held our first Scav Hunt (which became notorious over the years, with the ‘kidnapping’ of local personalities and buses).
  • We began looking into wider issues within the Tasmanian community.


  • Became the starting point for a number of protests against the Vietnam War, Apartheid, and other issues throughout the 60s and 70s.
  • Experienced hard times in the 70s, being effectively bankrupt by 1977.
  • Student activism declined, and we voted to secede from the NUS in 1979.
  • A new Constitution in the 80s saw us begin to look more like we do today.
  • The Board of Management (with a student majority) was started to handle financial and trading interests.
  • Turned around from the late 70s to boast “the best facilities and lowest fees in Australia.”
  • The Activities Council became the major music promoter in Tasmania.
  • We campaigned on issues like Commonwealth tertiary education funding, student allowances, and against the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism.
  • We expanded our services, particularly in the housing space.
  • The SRC increased their presence on University Committees and won a campaign for anonymity in exams.
  • Another dip in fortune saw commercial ventures return to loss before a new Executive Officer returned financial stability and won a Businesswoman of the Year Award.
  • Our second-ever female President was elected.
  • Added SRC positions such as the satellite campus representatives, sexuality and environment officers, and the Postgraduate Council.
  • Togatus changed to more of a general magazine than a newspaper.
  • Continued campaigning against cuts to tertiary education and voluntary student unionism.
  • We became an incorporated entity in 1991.


  • In 2011, the bulk of TUSA commercial operations were sold to the University.
  • In 2015, a male student was controversially elected to the role of Women’s Officer. This highlighted a lack of good corporate governance, and the position description was promptly changed. The student resigned from their position 9 days after being elected.
  • In 2017, we embarked on a Strategic Review process that would lead to the largest overhaul of the TUSA in years.
  • As a result of the review, SRC positions were cut from 49 to 27, with the Education and Postgraduate councils being dissolved.
  • We commenced a number of campaigns, including #NeverOK in response to a national report on sexual assault and harassment, and the Find the Right Blend campaign to foster a greater sense of respect and community within the University.
  • During the Covid-19 pandemic, the TUSA supported students financially and with strong representation to the University of student needs and interests. Financial aid was increased to students experiencing hardship, and academic guidelines were relaxed to accommodate for a change never before seen by the student body.
  • In 2021, a significant overhaul of TUSA strategy, operation, and structure culminated in the decision to change the name of the organization from the Tasmania University Union to the Tasmanian University Student Association. This decision followed several years of work aimed at overhauling processes in an effort to improve representation, advocacy, and support for students. The new name was decided upon following extensive student consultation as a way to better represent the diverse student population at UTAS.

Past presidents and notable office-bearers

Eric Abetz, Chair of the Publications & Communications Committee, later Tasmanian Senator and Leader of the Government in the Senate

Guy Barnett, later Tasmanian Senator, Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier and State Member for Lyons

Neal Blewett, TUSA President 1954, later MHR for Bonython, Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Tasmanian Rhodes Scholar

David Bushby, later Tasmanian Senator and Government Whip

Richard Flanagan, TUSA President 1984, later acclaimed author and Tasmanian Rhodes Scholar

Duncan Kerr, TUSA President 1974, later MHR for Denison and Judge of the Federal Court of Australia

Pierre Slicer, TUSA President 1965, later Judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania.

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