Student Union Pursues Whistleblower For $50,000 Legal Bill


A former student union director is facing a $50,000 bill two years after leaking information to a student newspaper and sparking a legal battle in the NSW Supreme Court.

Tom Raue, a former Vice-President of the University of Sydney Union (USU), leaked information to student newspaper Honi Soit in 2013 indicating police and university officials had been coordinating during industrial action that saw persistent complaints of police violence against students.

After providing the information, other Directors on the USU’s Board moved to expel Raue for the breach of confidence.

One of 11 democratically elected student board members, Raue challenged the union’s power to remove him in the NSW Supreme Court but was ultimately defeated and ordered to pay costs by the Court.

In an amazing turnaround, the union’s Directors subsequently voted not to expel Raue from his position, in spite of the fact they had just fought the Supreme Court case to establish their right to do so.

In a final twist the USU Board on Friday voted eight to five in favour of pursing Raue for the resulting $50,00 legal bill.

USU President Tara Waniganayaka confirmed the decision but declined to comment further.

Raue, who served the completion of his time on the Board and is no longer a student, said he was surprised the Board had decided to pursue him for costs and that he didn’t have $50,000.

“I knew that it was a possibility but I thought that the Board Directors would be more compassionate because I don’t have that much money,” he said.

“$50,000 is far more money than I’ve ever seen – I’ve never earned that much money in a year, I’m really at a loss as to how I will afford this.”

While Raue had secured pro-bono legal representation, the student-funded Board racked up a hefty fee.

“I do think it’s a shame student money was spent on this but the court action was in response to actions by the board tyring to remove me from my democratically elected position after I did what I saw as an action in the public interest,” he said.

At the meeting where the decision was taken, students opposed to the pursuit of Raue occasionally heckled, and were left dissatisfied the matter was discussed in camera and voted on in secret.



*Max Chalmers was an editor of Honi Soit in 2013, the year Raue leaked the information.

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.