The tunes of the Beatles reverberate through Wholefoods, the aroma of coffee permeates the air, and rainbows of vegetarian food decorate the white plates, as the Wholefoods community have their lunch. Beneath the ambience, 2012 was the beginning for a renewed student controlled and worker run Wholefoods, with a little help from Friends of Wholefoods, and helter skelter from graffiti. Sadly, Wholefoods said goodbye to its old volunteering system and free rent but got back something called Collective. Whether this revolution towards new glory days for Wholefoods continues, depends on whether the warriors of love fight for a Wholefoods flying freer like a bird, or the murmuring whisper is to let it be.
The plans to restructure the Wholefoods space without input from those who use the space (including the Collective, staff and customers) were exposed and halted for the time being. Secret discussions regarding the potential introduction of meat into Wholefoods were also uncovered and exposed.
The MSA-appointed manager who rarely worked with the student Collective was replaced with two student coordinators who work closely with the Wholefoods Collective.
The Wholefoods Collective were enabled to draft and submit a 2013 budget to the MSA Budget Committee that was largely accepted.
Over $20,000 of MSA expenses inappropriately allocated to the Wholefoods budget (such as the legal advice misused to ban volunteers, former manager costs, and equipment used by Sir John’s Bar) were expunged.
Overall we are pleased to see the progress that has been made with the Wholefoods Collective and the MSA Executive now working more constructively together.
However, there is still some way to go in terms of ensuring a Collective/worker run Wholefoods that is open to the voluntary participation of all students.
2012 was the first year in Wholefoods’ 35-year history where there was no volunteering in the kitchen or the cafe.
While the MSA Executive have been asserting, since March 2012, that volunteers will soon be volunteering in Wholefoods again, volunteers have not yet returned to the kitchen or cafe. We hope that the MSA will allow students to once again volunteer and receive a fair reward by the start of 2013.
Furthermore, the surveillance cameras installed in Wholefoods during the height of the Save Wholefoods campaign have not yet been removed. The MSA Executive has agreed to have the surveillance cameras removed from the Wholefoods space after protest from kitchen and café staff, as well as from Friends of Wholefoods.
The mediation that had been taking place between the MSC Executive and the Wholefoods Collective ceased when Wholefoods Collective members became uneasy with the MSA’s idea rushing into cutting Wholefoods loose through incorporation via a referendum question at the MSA elections. Collective members cited concerns that incorporation would likely entail a high commercial rent from the University, which could ultimately bankrupt Wholefoods.
Moreover, the original Student General Meeting (SGM) petitioned by more than 400 Monash students did not eventuate after it was delayed beyond the original petition’s call for a meeting in August. An alternative SGM proposal from the MSA Executive was rejected by Wholefoods Collective when it became clear that this rescheduled meeting would be unlikely to have the minimum numbers to make decisions binding and involved a lack of constitutionally enforced advertising to inform students.
Finally, last Thursday the MSA Executive signed off on its controversial Funding Agreement with the University, which states that Wholefoods will pay $80,000 rental fee to the University every year. Previously Wholefoods, like other MSA student spaces, paid no rent. The agreement guarantees rent will be offset by an equal subsidy, until the agreement ends at the end of 2014, when there is the possibility that subsidies may be reduced or withdrawn completely, thus possibly further threatening Wholefoods’ future financial viability.
Yet despite these ongoing concerns, in light of the progress that has been made in the last few months, and with a new MSA administration and a reinvigorated Wholefoods Collective, 2013 looks more promising for Wholefoods.
The Wholefoods Collective envisages a Wholefoods that is not limited to simply being another restaurant and cafe on campus, but rather a community and cultural hub for a diverse range of students. We envisage a thriving Wholefoods that regularly hosts both social and political events and groups ensuring a dynamic space open to alternative ideas. We see a thriving Wholefoods as managed by the Wholefoods Collective in a constructive and mutually respectful relationship with the MSA hierarchy. A thriving Wholefoods redevelops an alternative economy, based on local food and produce, and encourages self-organisation of students and the wider community.
Here’s to 2013 and a vibrant student-controlled and worker-run Wholefoods!