Doug reminisces about the CIA

by Doug Burbidge

Getting knowledge out of people’s heads and putting it down on (digital) paper counts as history; therefore, I shall now reminisce. (This reminiscence may be somewhat spotty, because my episodic memory is not that fabulous. Comes from reformatting and reinstalling my brain too many times.)

I became a student at Curtin Uni in 1988, and I saw occasional posters for something called the CIA, but discounted it as some sort of elaborate joke.

In this case “CIA” stood for “Curtin Imagination Association”. The club’s previous name was the Curtin Fantasy & Science Fiction Society, but “CFSFS” was a bit unpronounceable.

One of my friends (Doug Paice, I think who had happened upon them on Orientation Day) took me along (late ’88/early ’89), and I got to find out what they actually were.

Occasional movie days were held on weekends, in tutorial rooms in buildings like 401 and 402*. I remember seeing The Running Man that way. Brian Ende was the president at that time, I think, and the club library was somewhere in the Guild rabbit warren and only accessible (very) limited hours.

We met, I think, in the “gym” at the north end of the rabbit warren, once a week. At some point, we discovered a largely unused storeroom at the west end of that gym, and we managed to possess it as a club room. We acquired a carpet second-hand from someone who was selling it via a classified ad, and a refrigerator from Irwin Barracks. It was old enough that it was curved, had a door that latched, and sounded like a Harley Davidson idling when it ran its compressor, and being ex-military, it was khaki. We attached a padlock to it, gave committee members keys, and sold soft drink out of it, cheap enough to undercut all the Coke machines on campus (we sold for 80 cents; they mostly sold for a dollar), but high enough that we were making a mark-up of around 100% on the cans — we keenly perused junk mail to spot specials, and bought shopping-trolleys-full at a time.

By this point, I must have been a committee member, because I was involved in the acquisition and transport of the fridge and sometimes of the soft drinks. I wore a variety of committee hats over a period of years (up to 1992): Quasar coordinator, T-shirt coordinator, magazine editor, treasurer, secretary, even social council rep on at least one occasion; but never president or vice president.

The advent of a club room meant that the core of the club now had a place to spend much of the time we should have been spending in lectures, tutorials, etc. This lead to some academic transcripts being weaker than they might otherwise have been (likely including mine).

All Guild clubs were either social clubs or sports clubs, and were all affiliated with either the Guild’s Social Council or its Sports Council. Unsurprisingly, we were a social club. Soc Council met, oh, once a month, I guess, and had a system for disbursing guild funds to clubs. There were various line items you could go for once a semester: a printing grant, a travel grant, etc., etc. We made it our mission to collect the full set. The voters on Soc Council were the representatives from the clubs — i.e. the club reps decided whether each club got approved for each piece of funding they were asking for. This has a certain fox-and-henhouse quality to it, so if you didn’t examine other clubs’ grant requests too heavily, neither would they examine yours that closely. So there was room to get creative. We used substantial Guild funds to buy books and games. The most elegant way to work the system was to produce something (e.g. the club’s annual magazine, club T-shirts, whatever), sell that something to members at a price designed to cover costs, and then submit those costs to soc council for a grant, thus getting the costs covered twice.

After a while we lost the club room again, and became more nomadic. We briefly had a club room in 402 (and had an… interesting experience moving one of our extremely heavy book cases up the stairs), but eventually wound up without a room at all, and therefore camped at the cafeteria — outside when the weather was clement, inside when not. Despite not having a permanent club room, many of us still spent too much time hanging out with our fellow CIA, in preference to the tedium of classes.

University clubs tend to have a quick turn-over: new students arrive and join, but within 3 to 5 years many of them have moved on. UniSFA has a tradition of graduate members continuing with their membership, but not so with the CIA. After a few cycles, the CIA eventually petered out, though it has now been replaced with a new club, which I believe is called the Curtin Sci-Fi and Fantasy Club (CSFC).

* 401 – the life saver shaped Psychology building, and 402 – the Business building with the Freudian tower on top

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