President’s Report: Jen Light
Here Ye Here Ye, the phrase that captured a nation this week as Senator Sam Dastyari pointed out the ridiculousness of our dear Prime Minister’s announcement of reintroducing the honor of Knights and Dames of the Order of Australia. Now I know that Tony Abbott has his loved views of the monarchy and lets face it what was once an energetic republican movement is not center stage at the moment, but seriously what was Tony Abbott thinking!!!
What was most hilarious about the whole situation is that he decided he would keep his announcement as a surprise to his colleagues. Particularly Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull who are both republicans and played major roles in the movement during the 1999 referendum.
While this story was taking the front page of newspapers this week, the real issues facing Australian’s were yet again forgotten about. Dastyari captured the irrelevance and disappointment of Tony Abbott’s announcement in a nutshell. The story has taken off through all media avenues, maybe because Australian’s are finally seeing the outdated, out of touch and uncaring actions of the Abbott Government. “Barking Mad: the Abbott nobility” writes Mark Carlton, “The Queens Guard” writes Sophie Morris, this is an issue so comical that the Media won’t even side with Abbott.
Last Wednesday was finally the day of the National Day of Action, the “Abbott and Pyne, Hands of our Education” campaign went National as students across the countries’ main cities marched to save high quality, affordable and accessible education. Sydney’s march went on despite the rain and gathered quite a good crowd.
However the news was still very pre-occupied by Abbotts return of Knights and Dames announcement. Too bad Abbott doesn’t spend the same amount of time trying to improve the Education and Healthcare systems in this country, as he does sucking up to the Queen.
All the best with your week and I’ll check in again same place, same time next week.
General Secretary’s Report: James Leeder
This past Wednesday marked the National Day of Action (NDA) against higher education cuts, organised by the National Union of Students (NUS). It also marked one of the rare moments of collaboration between the SRC and the University of Sydney Union (USU), with a clubs carnival being organised before the rally. The USU and SRC came together because both organisations rely on and believe in the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF), which is a fee levied on all students each semester.
Many of you who read this paper regularly will be familiar with SSAF and the controversy surrounding it, particularly the division between student organisations. It should be noted that despite the difficulties we have at USyd, we have been the consistent winner of NUS’ surveys regarding student life and SSAF implementation, and compared with other universities who are reluctant to give students control of their money Sydney is doing well.
However, as Sydney is the national standard we should seek to show other universities how SSAF can be best utilised and to do that we should redress current problems. For instance, much of SSAF remains tied up in inaccessible or prohibitively expensive ventures such as scholarships and gyms. The implementation of SSAF is also a very nebulous process. Aside from colourful Excel pie graphs on the university’s website, it is difficult to find out how the money is actually being used. The SRC rectifies this by voting on the budget annually; any student is able to attend the budget council meeting and learn about how their money is being used. Further, at the last council meeting the SRC passed a motion with regards to how it believes the SSAF should be used. It argued that the SSAF should be accessible, accountable, and with a core focus on student welfare.
As this year’s Union Board elections approach, I hope we hear more regarding the Union and its use of SSAF. As first years will soon discover, a typical union board campaign is awash with impossible promises and quickly becomes focused on the number of new bars each candidate proposes, or on which new exciting frozen dessert store might open a shop on campus. Rather than false promises, I hope this year we see elections that are not solely focused on food and drink, but on how we can make our student organisations more accessible.
As we reflect on the NDA, further actions and upcoming elections, I hope we can engage in more discussion around how we see SSAF being used now, in the future, and how we can make sure student money is controlled by students.
Vice Presidents’ Report: Laura Webster & Max Hall
It cannot have escaped your notice that a certain Vice President is faced with the likely possibility of being removed from Board. No, it’s not us. It’s Tom Raue. If last’s weeks edition of Honi Soit is any indication, we are not the only ones who support Tom and strongly oppose any motion which would have him removed from the University of Sydney Union Board of Directors. The events that have lead to this has already been thoroughly documented in this fine publication in great detail, so we instead will tell you why we stand with Raue…and why you should too.
Tom is an anomaly in student politics. He actually cares about students as opposed to building his résumé. USU executive would have you believe that Tom has committed a heinous crime and released a confidential report; however we would argue that Tom has done nothing but fulfill his obligation to the safety and welfare of students by releasing one line of a report detailing police and University cooperation during the violent 2013 strikes. May 14 has become synonymous with abuse, trauma, lies from the University and blatant police brutality.
We can’t help but question the integrity and motivation of anyone who suggests that documents proving direct cooperation between the University and the NSW Police Force should not be made public at the time of discovery. Tom made a judgment call and we stand by him. Tom’s attempts to protect students and his attempts to hold the University accountable for the violent acts committed by the NSW police on the picket lines have been met with a motion proposed by USU Executive to remove him from his position as Vice President, citing severe misconduct. Go back and check your duty statements because you’ve got it wrong.
Disappointment is not a strong enough word to encapsulate our feelings toward the USU Executive, Hannah Morris, Sophie Stanton and John Harding-Easson.
USU Executive, we do not support you. We do not trust you. You do not represent our wishes. If a motion to remove Raue from Board is passed, we have completely lost faith in you and you will have proven that the USU only function on campus is to host mediocre parties and the occasions more concerned with placating the University and it’s numerous corporate sponsors than listening to what its students want. Show your support and keep updated at facebook.com/standwithraue.
Education Officers’ Report: Ridah Hassan & Eleanor Morley
Last week was the national day of action for education! Despite the rain over 200 Sydney Uni students rallied outside Fisher Library to oppose Abbott and Pyne’s cuts to higher education. There we heard from a library staff member on the proposed restructuring and what it could mean for the workers in the library, and Sherry one of the International Student Officers in the SRC who spoke about the problems international students face at universities, stating pretty sharply that “international students are not ATMs for the government!”. Hear hear.
We then moved to the Quad, where we took to the precious grass to let our infamous VC know what we think of him and the decision of the Group of Eight universities to propose full fee places for Law, Accounting and Commerce. We also heard from SUPRA Education Officer Tim Scriven and SRC Enviro Officer Amelie while students chalked ‘education is a process not a commodity’ in solidarity with the Sydney Uni student facing suspension for chalking the same message at the strikes last year.
After that, we marched down Eastern Avenue pretty loudly, drawing in students along the way to UTS to join the main demonstration. Hundreds of students from Macquarie, UNSW and UTS were waiting there for us, for another lively rally and march into the city.
Across the country hundreds more students took part in the day, sending a strong message to the government that we won’t tolerate further funding cuts to universities, we won’t tolerate attacks on welfare, and we won’t tolerate the undermining of staff wages and conditions. The fight against Abbott and Pyne is just beginning though. Just last week the Liberals pledged themselves to implementing the conversion of Start-up Scholarships into loans when the take control of the Senate in July.
All in all, the first national day of action was a complete success, around the country and here in Sydney despite the miserable weather. EAG activist Chloe Rafferty was quoted on the ABC declaring that “They’re carving up TAFE. They’re making the biggest cuts to university funding we’ve seen in 18 years…It’s protests like this and mass actions like the March in March that we need to challenge, not only this government, but the rotting system that brings about these corporate universities.” Hear hear. The anger and defiance that marked the protests put us in good stead to fight the Liberals the rest of their term.
Wom*n’s Officers’ Report: Julia Readett, Georgia Cranko & Phoebe Moloney
Readers are advised our report will talk about sexual assault and other forms of violence.
Hi everyone! In our latest adventure, we are hosting a panel discussion to mark the launch of a poster campaign designed to raise awareness about the indispensable services of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Sexual Assault Service. This panel will address sexual assault and violence against wom*n, including topics of defining sexual assault, rates, intersectionality, effective advocacy, unpacking victim-blaming and dismantling rape culture. We want to acknowledge what sexual assault is, what the issues are and brainstorm how we can work towards a violence-free future.
Joining us on the panel will be Rachel Moss, Program Manager and Sexual Assault Counsellor at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s Sexual Assault Service; Moo Baulch, Project Manager at Domestic Violence NSW; and a representative from People with a Disability, Wirringa Baiya and the NSW Women’s Legal Service. The Panel will be held at 6pm, in New Law Seminar on Thursday April 3rd.
Please be aware that the panel discussion will be addressing a variety of issues surrounding violence against wom*n. We realise that discussion may bring up traumatic experiences, discomfort and/ or distress for some individuals. We would like to extend support to those individuals. Leaving the room, tuning out or doing anything to make yourself feel more comfortable is entirely welcomed and will not be drawn attention to. If you or someone you know has either experienced sexual assault or feels confused/ unsure about an unwanted sexual experience and would like to speak with someone, please contact RPAH Sexual Assault Service on (02) 9515 9040 between 8.30-5pm weekdays or (02) 9515 6111 anytime if the sexual assault happened in the last 7 days.
We hope this event can impart essential information about the RPA Sexual Assault Service and start a campus dialogue, and in the world at large, about the widespread issue of sexual assault, particularly in regards to men’s violence against wom*n.
We’d also like to give a big shout-out to the wonderful organisers of Critical Race Discussion Group. They’ll be another discussion group that focuses on travelling, tourism and Diaspora in Physics Lecture Room 4, Monday at 6pm – we are really looking forward to attending and encourage everyone to come!
Sexual Harassment Officers’ Report: Georgia Carr & Kitty-Jean Laginha
‘Sexual harassment’ is a term that many people have come to associate with women, and associate with unwanted physical attention of a sexual nature. In reality, sexual harassment is ANY unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature, including (but not limited to) verbal harassment such as sexist jokes and catcalling, and physical harassment such as physical intimidation or assault. And while women are the most common victims of sexual harassment, it can and does happen to people of all sexes, genders, sexualities and cultural identities.
Considering the myriad contexts in which sexual harassment is experienced – workplaces, uni, online, on the street, in the home – it appears there are very few truly safe spaces where men and women can freely and autonomously go about their lives without being at risk of facing verbal, emotional, mental and physical sexual assault.
Sexual harassment is appallingly prevalent even into the 21st century, and calling out harassment is an active, useful way of challenging discrimination, as it assertively confronts the perpetrator as well as affecting onlookers who witness the harassment.In opposing sexual harassment, we must ALWAYS keep in mind that the victim is NEVER, not even partially, responsible for the crime committed against them, despite what media and popular culture propagate.In the coming year, we see education-based and consciousness-raising campaigns as essential in fighting sexual harassment both on and off campus. We will be looking to work alongside the Wom*n’s Collective to provide informational resources, help and advice to others interested in working towards a culture of zero tolerance towards sexual harassment.
The Wom*n’s Collective will be holding a panel discussion on Thursday 3rd April at 6pm to address sexual assault and violence against wom*n, with the aim of raising awareness about the RPA Hospital Sexual Assault Service. Panellists currently include Rachel Moss from the RPA Sexual Assault Service, Moo Baulch from Domestic Violence NSW, Carolyn Jones from Women’s Legal Services NSW and Mel Harrison from People with Disability. If you would like to know more about the services available to those who have experienced sexual assault then come along to learn how we can work towards a violence-free future.
There are also free autonomous self-defence classes and accompanying feminist discussion workshops for wom*n-identifying people held from 5-7pm every Friday from Weeks 3-12 at USyd. For details of location, follow facebook.com/womnsselfdefenceusyd.