Happy 80th Birthday On Dit

I wrote a little birthday message to On Dit, originally published in On Dit issue 80.11

Happy Birthday On Dit, you spring chicken!

You’ve been around for 80 years, but sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same. In your very first edition, in 1932, one of the writers talks about “the well known fact that undergraduates are not sufficiently interested in the fascinating squabbles of contemporary politics”, and “hopes were expressed for a brighter future.” Fast-forward to 2012, and commentators everywhere spend their time lamenting the apathy of youth. How very familiar.

From the beginning, you have been giving a voice to the needs and opinions of University of Adelaide students. In 1932 you were instrumental in influencing the University by supporting students in their demands to have the Barr Smith Library open at nighttime. Fast-forward to 2012, and students now spend their time complaining that Hub Central isn’t open overnight on the weekends. How very familiar.

After the Second World War, when politics and student activism covered the University, you weren’t afraid to take a stand. Your archives document the attitude of students at the time and provide a complete history of the era, giving a student written account of both the University and national current affairs.

In June 1968 you published an issue considering Australia’s obligations to the Aboriginal people, calling for a “crucial battle on a war against large commercial interests” and advertising an All Night Vigil outside the Police Headquarters. Fast-forward to 2012, and the nation is debating whether or not we should have a debate about indigenous recognition in the Australian Constitution. How very familiar.

Of course, not everything has remained the same. Over the years you’ve taken the form of a two-page broadsheet, a weekly newspaper, a half-tabloid newsprint magazine, and the fortnightly magazine format we have now.

Many of your editors and contributors have gone on to big things. You can count the Hon Dr John Bannon (former Premier), David Penberthy (Editor of the Punch), Clementine Ford (writer), Sarah Hanson-Young (Senator), Shaun Micallef (comedian), and Julia Gillard (Prime Minister, duh) amongst your alumni, as well as many others.

You’ve also seen some controversy in your time, like the year that Senator Nick Xenophon (or Xenophou, as he was then known) edited you and then admitted the following year that the election had been rigged by his mates. He’s surprisingly candid about the whole affair now.

You hold a special place in the history of the University, and the contribution you make to student life is immeasurable. It’s critically important that students have the opportunity to voice their opinions and have dialogues on University affairs and stories important to students. You provide that outlet.

Once again, happy birthday, and keep it up old chum.