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WSUP’s Book Picks 

Team WSUP's Book Picks from Sydney Writer's Festival ...

Tash – The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon 

This fictional story is the fourth in the Bone season which is a dystopian and paranormal thriller. Being in the centre of a planned seven book series means that this is the integral part of the storyline. Compelling, driven, and full of suspense.  

“It is a beautiful mask, but all masks fall. In the end.” – The Mask Falling 

Anya – Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes 

A fictional story using the ancient Greek Pantheon and Medusa, who experiences mortality unlike her sisters. This modern retelling of the ancient myth is proclaimed as witty and passionate as it explores the concepts of beauty and persecution through Medusa’s story.  

Julia – Reclaim by Dr Ahona Guha 

Dr Ahona Guha is an Australian psychologist with a doctorate in clinical and forensic psychology from Swinburne University. She has also written the book “Life Skills for a Broken World” and works to break down the stigma between mental health and mental illness. Reclaim is about the tools needed to survive complex trauma and abuse, as well as the aftermath of this suffering. Whilst this might be useful for people struggling with their mental health and building relationships, it is also a fascinating read for anyone who wants to learn more about human behaviour and support the people who may be around them. 

To see WSUP’s complete book list from Sydney Writer’s Festival check out our bookshelf on Goodreads now.


W’SUP news would like to thank the Sydney Writer’s Festival team for providing the opportunity to attend events media personnel and for hosting such incredible sessions. We hope to continue collaborating in the future and bring these important conversations to Western Sydney University. 

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Samantha Shannon: On the Roots of Chaos 

Samantha Shannon: On the Roots of Chaos - What do students and readers think of Priory? ...
(Samantha Shannon, speaking at the 2024 Sydney Writers’ Festival, with Shelley Parker-Chan. Photo credit: Nataša Aster-Stater)

The Roots of Chaos event, which was held at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on May 25th, showcased the author, Samantha Shannon, speaking to a large crowd about her novel, The Priory of the Orange Tree, and how representing strong female characters in epic fantasy has been a dream come true – for both her and readers. 

Student Symphony Chakma, who is part of the Western Sydney University Queer Collective team as well as The Book Club, and enjoys reading fantasy, says: “The reason why I loved The Roots of Chaos so much was the versatile characters and the diverse cast of female women. I particularly enjoyed the representation of Sapphic main characters in The Priory of the Orange Tree”.  

(Symphony Chakma loves reading fantasy. Photo credit: Symphony Chakma). 

Author Shelley Parker-Chain, who interviewed Shannon, asked her what surprised her most about both Priory and it’s prequel, A Day of Fallen Night, and she said how well-received both books have been by readers: there’s representation of LQBTQ characters and, at its centre, there’s a lesbian relationship with two of the main characters, Ead and Sabran.  

Shannon also credits social media platform, TikTok – in particular, BookTok – for helping to spread the word about Priory, and get the story into the hands of many more readers: as a result, Priory went viral, several years after it was first published in 2019:  

“Priory was suddenly everywhere again,” says Shannon to the room of eager readers, laughing, when referring to the confusion about the sudden resurgence of love and interest regarding her book. She adds how it was fellow author, Adam Silvera, who also writes fantasy as well as Young Adult LGBT, who told her the secret to Priory’s second bout of success: TikTok.  

Shannon says how Silvera then remarked how much readers are loving Priory.  

And they do: Dominika, WSU student and fantasy lover, says:  “I feel like Ead and Sabran break the mould of traditional female roles in fantasy. They showed me that strength comes in many forms, such as physical skill, intellect, and determination.” 

She adds “Reading Samantha Shannon made me feel empowered. She told me women can be heroes or leaders or revolutionaries in change. In my opinion, Shannon showcases diverse female voices and shows us our ability to shape and redefine the world.” 

(Entrance to the Sydney Writers’ Festival 2024: authors at events helped readers “Escape into a World of Books.” Photo Credit: Nataša Aster-Stater).

Like many books, Shannon’s stories help readers’ inhibitions fall away, as they’re transported to another place, often one that represents their dreaming. It seems also fitting, then, that the Sydney Writers’ Festival – which first began in 1997, and which had more than 300 local and international guests in 2024 – had the theme “Take me away” this year. 

There were many other events and stories at the Sydney Writers’ Festival which celebrated the LGBTQ community, such as Queerstories, and Queer Love and Longing, which told tales of heartbreak and true diaristic journeys of six writers, such as Maeve Marsden and Christos Tsiolkas.  

“Seeing representation in queer love stories and the normalisation of queer relationships in books and mainstream media is so important,” says Chakma. “It’s finding similarities with people and characters who share experiences like yours and realising you’re not alone in your feelings, which is incredibly empowering.” 


W’SUP news would like to thank the Sydney Writer’s Festival team for providing the opportunity to attend events media personnel and for hosting such incredible sessions. We hope to continue collaborating in the future and bring these important conversations to Western Sydney University. 

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An end to placement poverty? Students are left doubtful.

The government announces payments for placements, but students feel they are missing the mark. ...

In recent news, the federal government announced that students undergoing teaching, nursing, and social work placements may be eligible for weekly payments by July 2025. 

The government calculated that students could receive up to $319.50 a week.  

While the government expects the change to help, students say it’s not enough to ease the economic challenges they’re currently facing. 

What is placement poverty, and who does it impact? 

“Placement poverty” is a term first coined by Social Work students in April 2024, in reaction to the hardships of struggling financially whilst trying to maintain their placement experience. 

Students say the time spent on placements without income has pushed them close to or below the poverty line, which is defined as half the median household income, according to Poverty and Inequality Australia. As of 2022, it’s $489 a week for a single adult, and $1,027 a week for a couple with two children, as stated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 

Jasmine Taylor is a learning support officer and a teaching student at Western Sydney University. Even after taking an additional job in retail and receiving youth allowance entitlements, Jasmine says she is struggling to stay afloat: 

 “I was, up until a few weeks ago, working two jobs and accessing Centrelink and that still was barely covering my essentials…Everything is so expensive,” Jasmine said.  

Jasmine says the cost of living makes unpaid placements ‘impossible’ || Image by Ruby Ritchie

Like Jasmine, anyone studying teaching, social work or nursing must complete placements as a part of their qualifications. However, these placements are unpaid and span between 16-26 weeks.  

The $319.50 a week is equivalent to the single Austudy weekly rate. The payment will be means tested and available from July 1, 2025.   

 The government has stated that 68,000 higher education students and 5,000 VET students would be entitled to the payment, but it is only available to teaching, nursing and social work students.  

“This will give people who have signed up to do some of the most important jobs in this country a bit of extra help to get the qualifications they need…This is practical support for practical training,” said Federal Minister for Education, Jason Clare, in a media release.  

While she has yet to start her placement, Jasmine feels the payment amount is too little and believes that the Austudy entitlement is not a fair benchmark.  

“Yes, money is money, and a step forward is good. But this isn’t something that students should be subjected to, in terms of using their time, energy and resources to supplement the shortages they have in those industries,” Jasmine said.  

Students say government should increase payments to minimum wage:

Sabrine Yassine, the Welfare Officer of the National Union of Students (NUS), said whilst the union welcomes the payment as a significant step, the federal government should go further.  

“It’s such a great first move… government is listening to students in terms of what they want… it alleviates about 10 to 20 hours for students, that’s 10 to 20 hours they don’t need to work on a part time job,” Sabrine said.  

Sabrine says the government has taken a good first step || Image: Sabrine Yassine

When broken down, the proposed payment will total $8 an hour. The NUS urged the federal government to increase the payment to the national minimum wage, being $23.23 per hour or $882.80 per 38-hour week.  

“We have three clear asks…amend the Fair Work Act to make unpaid placements illegal, increase the payments to at least minimum wage, and pay all students who must undertake mandatory placements,” added Sabrine. 

Why can’t every student access this? 

One critique the government has faced is that medical, engineering, and psychology students won’t be entitled to the payments.  

In addition, the entitlement can only be accessed by domestic students, as Centrelink is only accessible to Australian citizens and permanent residents.  

“All students should be paid. All unpaid work should be illegal…I think international students are doing the same amount of work and unpaid hours as domestic students,” Sabrine said.  

The next steps:

The government has not yet revealed how they will conduct the means test for this payment but has said students can access the payment alongside other entitlements.  

Jasmine remains sceptical of the government’s payments but is hopeful for change.  

“I think the generation going into all of these industries is very aware of what they deserve, their rights, and what isn’t okay to experience. Unpaid placements are absolutely not okay,” Jasmine said.  

The payment to help ease placement poverty will not come into the hands of students until 2025, however, and there is hope that the government broadens the list of eligible courses that qualify, so many more in need can receive assistance.  

When Education Minister, Jason Clare, was asked by Radio National on whether more courses will be added, he neither confirmed nor denied:  

“That’s something we’d have to look at down the track.” 

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Polin’s in the air… Bridgerton Season 3 is upon us!

After a two-year hiatus, Netflix's swoon-worthy series, Bridgerton, returns to our screens! Read more to find out how Part 1 has faired...

Dearest gentle reader of W’SUP, pollen seems to be in the air more so than usual, which can only mean one thing. It is my pleasure to finally review Part 1 of Bridgerton Season 3! Or as I’d like to call it, the season for the wallflowers. But be forewarned, dear reader, if you wish not to be spoiled, please watch Part 1 of Season 3 and resume reading from this point. 

This author was pleased to see representation for the wallflowers and introverted individuals in general through Miss Penelope Featherington, the aptly named Emerald of the Season, and Miss Francesca Bridgerton, the Queen’s Sparkler. How it encapsulated the experiences of being a wallflower being out of their element and soon coming into their own was very much beloved and appreciated.  

How the first half of the season dealt with the friends-to-lovers trope was great, as it portrayed how friends who reciprocate romantic feelings for one another, and finally realise it, the floodgates of emotions burst wide open. Part 1 was indeed captivating, especially by its cliffhanger leaving us thirsty for more, since Colin Bridgerton has finally come to his senses about his true feelings for Miss Penelope. 

However, as much as I would love to give endless kudos to the showrunners, like all human beings, flaws were undoubtedly noticed within and without. This season’s pacing felt oddly rushed as if it were a hare attempting to beat the tortoise, to mayhap be met with disappointment from its overconfidence.  

Netflix’s decision to split the season into 2 parts was unusual, as the season has the same number of episodes as its predecessors. However, in retrospect, it was recognised that a purpose behind this decision was to drag out the hype. Taking this strategy is kind of a gamble, as the story progression in Part 1, dictates how fans would approach anticipating Part 2. From seeing how Part 1 delivered a somewhat satisfying cliffhanger, despite how oxymoronic it may be, Part 2’s prospects for a delicious ending for this season’s leads, may prove to be a success. 

Questions abound as to how Netflix will go about fleshing out Part 2 in a smooth, satisfying manner. How will Colin Bridgerton react when he finds out the truth about his best friend, now fiancé? And how will Cressida Cowper go about attempting to reap the Queen’s 5,000-pound reward for providing evidence as to Lady Whistledown’s identity? 

Only time will tell, as we all await Part 2’s arrival on June 13th

Finally, before ending this review, a message to Netflix… 

PART 2! YOU MUST MAKE HASTE! 

Yours Truly, Luci Whistledown (pun intended)

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WSU is sleeping on its stars

The Western Sydney University observatory needs your support by Julia Bell...

The observatory contains a 30 year old telescope that was designed at the university, using concave mirrors to reflect the light and show students the celestial bodies they study. The software used to operate the telescope and view the images was designed by a master’s student at the university. This observatory has been labour of love from day one, as this incredible resource gives the university opportunities gives WSU students a unique access to an incredible resource.’ 

Ain De Horta, the Principal Astronomer of the observatory, runs an elective The Cosmos in Perspective: Information and Life during the autumn semester open to every degree. This subject includes practical activities at the observatory in Werrington, so if you want to see the dome roof of the building open, allowing us to see the stars up close while studying the origins of the universe, this is the elective for you.  

The observatory is currently not open to the public, but students and staff alike hope it will be again. Before the pandemic, the observatory hosted an amateur astronomy group for students and local enthusiasts and was open for school excursions and families to tour. Increasing student engagement at this incredible building through Western Life events and the enrollment in its elective is the best way to show the university that it is not forgotten.  

On the 7th of May the Science Society held a movie night in the observatory to watch Hidden Figures.  This was one of many events held by the Science Society, including pizza nights and liquid nitrogen ice cream. Be sure to watch out on Western Life, Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on what’s happening.  

The Western Sydney University Observatory sits on an unused campus in Werrington, where it was once filled with students and astronomers.  

The observatory contains a 30 year old telescope that was designed at the university, using concave mirrors to reflect the light and show students the celestial bodies they study. The software used to operate the telescope and view the images was designed by a master’s student at the university. This observatory has been labour of love from day one, as this incredible resource gives the university opportunities gives WSU students a unique access to an incredible resource.’ 

Ain De Horta, the Principal Astronomer of the observatory, runs an elective The Cosmos in Perspective: Information and Life during the autumn semester open to every degree. This subject includes practical activities at the observatory in Werrington, so if you want to see the dome roof of the building open, allowing us to see the stars up close while studying the origins of the universe, this is the elective for you.  

The observatory is currently not open to the public, but students and staff alike hope it will be again. Before the pandemic, the observatory hosted an amateur astronomy group for students and local enthusiasts and was open for school excursions and families to tour. Increasing student engagement at this incredible building through Western Life events and the enrollment in its elective is the best way to show the university that it is not forgotten.  

On the 7th of May the Science Society held a movie night in the observatory to watch Hidden Figures.  This was one of many events held by the Science Society, including pizza nights and liquid nitrogen ice cream. Be sure to watch out on Western Life, Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on what’s happening.  

Image Credit: Sandy Lindsay
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Western Sydney University students run a bake sale to raise money for charity

Alicia Deans tells us about how Western Sydney University students have run a bake sale to raise money for charity......
Jacob Chan (pictured left), Sophie Pozzato (pictured middle), Michaela Rattos (pictured right), selling a cupcake to a customer. Photo: Alicia Dean.

Three Western Sydney University (WSU) students gathered their baking skills for a heartwarmimg cause, supporting Northcott Disability Services. Sophia Pozzato, who studies a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Business, was one of the three students who helped run this bake sale.

“We raised just under $500 within three hours of selling cakes! Our baking skills were better than we expected,” she said.

Pozzato was joined by Michaela Rattos, who also studies a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Business, and Jacob Chan, studying a Bachelor of Business.

The three students set up a table full of homemade sweets, including cookies, caramel slices, cupcakes and chocolate crackles. They were selling for a price ranging between $2 and $3.

This endeavour arose from a sports management assignment for a class they studied together at the Parramatta City campus, where they were tasked to create an event to raise money for Northcott. Opting for a bake sale, they believed it would be the most efficient way to raise money where each member could contribute meaningfully.

Northcott was established in 1929 and is one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit disability service organisations, providing personalised services to over 13,500 people annually. Northcott has a longstanding partnership with WSU starting in 2020, working together to upskill, retrain, and employ displaced workers rapidly.

WSU provides continuous support and encourages students to raise money for Northcott. Over the last 14 years, WSU has raised over $185,000 for Northcott through fundraisers.

This bake sale is just one of the many examples where students took the initiative to provide positive community support to an fantastic organisation.

“Honestly, we were expecting just to break even. We didn’t have high hopes for our baking skills, but the sweets turned out to be a hit!” Chan said.

Over three hours, the students’ bake sale drew in around 50 customers. Some people even stopped by to donate without making a purchase. One generous lady donated $50. She said she was just glad to see students taking the time to organise and run such an event for a fantastic cause. 

With the students raising a total amount of approximately $650, the bake sale had shown to be a success. This figure was much more than expected, as they only had around $400 in sweets to sell.

The students attribute a significant portion of their success to people simply passing by to leave a donation. All the funds raised went directly to Northcott. Through the joy of baking, these students demonstrated the power of collective effort for a noble cause.