After a brilliant O-Week I would like to congratulate everyone involved in putting it together and say how excited I am for semester to start, particularly with many of the new students I met in the last week at our SRC stall. I would also like to welcome all new members of our collectives and encourage you to take part in the campaigns and events they put together. This is important as we are under a government that is, across the board, systematically disadvantaging so many people in this country in areas such as education, gender equality, multiculturalism and environment.
So if you have a passion for the environment and climate action I suggest you make contact with the Environment Collective. Have strong feelings about social justice aiming to take out racism? Have a chat with the Anti-Racism Collective (ARC), the Indigenous department, or the Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR). Think education is a right of all people and not just for the privileged rich? See how you can be a member of the Education Action Group (EAG), which helped build one of the biggest student movements last year in at least 10 years. Find yourself pissed off with the way the society we live in treats wom*n and queers? Join or support the Wom*n’s Collective (WoCo) or the Queer Collective.
University is a place with constant critical thought and debate; a place where the future of society is determined. Throughout the semester and the year I ask you to keep in mind that while you have the opportunity to be educated in one of Australia’s top universities, I believe you should take the opportunities to help create a society that is accepting, open minded, progressive and fair for all people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, colour or religion. With your help and ideas, this year the student movement will carry on and continue in a direction towards equality and solidarity amongst our comrades. Have a good year and I’ll see you at the first National Day of Action in a few weeks.
Education Officers’ Report
This O Week, sure to be one of my last as I’m close to graduation- was by far the most satisfying. I talked to so many students concerned about what they were getting out of their education and how they can fight for it that I really have begun to feel as though this year will be one of activism’s most productive.
During this time, however, I also talked to some students who weren’t so concerned about deregulation. I was met with opposition and disinterest. Male students talked over me or completely ignored me, and a few heated conversations left a sour taste in my mouth as I mulled over what had happened to make fee deregulation seem so appealing to some.
To regulate something is to open it to everyone and make it equal and accessible.
The deregulation of university fees flies in the very face of this notion. It promises to continue to widen the gap between people of colour, women and students from low socio-economic backgrounds and the privileged class of student (the kind who were overall most in favour of fee dereg) that profits most readily from the deregulation model.
Students are banding together all through this month in order to demonstrate against our government’s proposed cuts to universities. On Wednesday March 4th a feeder rally will be held outside Fisher Library at 1pm in order to educate students on why they should care about the future of education in Australia and why they should attend the National Day of Action on the 25th of March.
This demonstration will be much larger-scale, one that spans all national universities and will move through Sydney from our university to UTS and down George Street and is the best way for you to help the fight against fee deregulation in order to ensure everyone can access education. The hindrance fee deregulation presents will only make the education system in Australia worse. Please come and help us continue the fight, things will improve for students if fee deregulation is beaten and we want to make sure future generations can study like we have. You should too.
Welfare Officers’ Report
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after their Summer break, your SRC Welfare Officers are thrilled to get to work on the myriad campaigns we have in stall for you throughout the year (the conception of which involved far too many glitchy cross-continental Skype conversations and cluttered Google Docs.) To break the ice and extend our appreciations for your efforts, we the Welfare Officers would like to recognise a few of the more exceptional feats of courage demonstrated by you, dear reader. We would like to congratulate those of you who managed to wade through the Turkish bath that was Eastern Avenue during O Week, along with the long-suffering stall coordinators who managed to stay alive during those three days, fuelled singularly by the double-espresso-shot-guarana-infused V energy drinks without suffering fatal heart palpitations (you know who you are. Shame.)
This year, the Welfare officers will be conducting several different campaigns for the student body to actively participate in and benefit from, including a wider range of multilingual services and resources offered by the SRC. We’re looking forward to expanding the ways in which we communicate with you in a way that every student can access, such as those lecture bashes you so fondly associate with us SRC-types. For the cash-strapped gourmands on campus, we are also planning on setting up an emergency food bank and student cookbook for those of you who can’t quite justify the just-shy-of-ten-dollars baguette from Taste. And finally, we will be running a combined drug and alcohol safety campaign to further educate students about recreational drug use and its presence in University culture, complete with a student-composed handbook of personal experiences.
Of course, we couldn’t forget all of you first year students who are able to read this because you are seated comfortably outside your lecture theatre having arrived early in a fit of optimistic eagerness; congratulations. A small word of caution, however, in the hauntingly dulcet tones of The Carpenters: “we’ve only just begun”.
Sydney Uni Refugee Action Collective
Gabrielle Pei Tiatia
2015 began with a renewed crisis for the Liberals’ brutal offshore processing regime, Operation Sovereign Borders. Over 700 asylum seekers went on hunger strike to protest their imprisonment on Manus Island. More than 40 people stitched their lips and there were extreme cases of self-harm and suicide attempts including people swallowing nail clippers, razor blades and washing powder. The government responded with a savage oppression. They denied refugees drinking water and later roused up and imprisoned protest organisers.
The Australian Government’s brutal detention regime continues to take its toll on asylum seekers. The reality of indefinite detention, unsanitary conditions, the threat of deportation and violent treatment has led to constant unrest inside the prison camps.
The Human Rights Commission report on children in detention is just the latest confirmation of the kind of horrors asylum seekers experience in detention, whether they are women, children or men. It’s an unjust system and it has to go.
The Sydney Uni Refugee Action Collective (formerly Anti-Racism Collective) is a collective for students committed to campaigning for the rights of refugees. We stand for a pro-refugee campus and fight to see refugees have their claims processed humanely in the community with guaranteed resettlement in Australia. A just refugee policy can only begin by welcoming the boats.
Refugee rights groups have been springing up across the country to answer this challenge. Students must join the doctors, Christian groups, unions and rural Australians mobilizing against the government’s cruelty. We need to make our campus a bastion of pro-refugee activism and energy that will inspire others to fight back. Together we can win! Under John Howard, it was grassroots activism that shifted public opinion, broke bipartisan support for offshore processing and pushed back the Pacific Solution. It is this sort of vibrant campaign we will need to stop Abbott
COME TO OUR FIRST FORUM OF THE YEAR WITH SPECIAL GUEST, NICOLE JUDGE (12pm Tuesday, March 17 – New Law 117)
Nicole was a worker and eyewitness on Manus Island during the unrest that resulted in the brutal murder of Reza Barati. We’ll be hearing from her, discussing refugee policy in general and most importantly, what we can do as students.
We have a big year ahead of us. The Coalition government is determined to entrench some of the cruelest refugee policy seen in Australia’s history. But refugee supporters around the country are equally determined to fight for a humane refugee policy
The campus refugee rights club meets every Monday 11am on New Law Lawns. All welcome! If you’re keen to get involved, check out our fb page, ‘Sydney Uni Refugee Action Collective’ or contact Gabby on 0416 488 258. Stand up, fight back!
Interfaith Officers’ Report
Peace be upon you, or salamon alaikum as most Muslims say when we greet each other. My name is Fatema Ali, and I’m so honoured to be the founder of the Muslim Wom*ns Collective – an all inclusive and all welcoming space for Muslim wom*n of all sects and backgrounds. We welcome diversity within this community and hence our major aim is to celebrate it as much as possible – our differences empower us, and we won’t let them divide us. We aspire to unite Muslim wom*n under the banner of peace, as well as reach out to the non-Muslim community and increase the visibility of Muslim wom*n on campus.
This collective was a product of frustration at overpowering male voices, and constant pressure on Muslim wom*n to denounce their Islamic identity and be “liberated” from the oppressive force that is apparently Islam. The truth of the matter is that Islam makes us who we are and we don’t need others to speak for us or grant us freedom, no matter how well-intentioned.
O-week was home to our first official event and it was magnificent! We held a Hijab Booth, a little space where willing participants were offered free lollies and to try on a headscarf. It’s been months in planning, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome and feedback we received from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. One of the main questions we asked wom*n who tried the headscarf on was “do you feel oppressed?” The response was unanimously no, many stating that the headscarf was quite light and they felt beautiful. Hopefully, this message will be shared far beyond the avenues of our university.
Weekly meeting times will be announced soon (inshallah, God willing). If you identify as a Muslim wom*n, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the private group here: tiny.cc/mwc. If you’re a non-Muslim interested in getting involved, you may also send us an email or check out our page at facebook.com/usydmwc. We’d love to hear from everyone!
Vice President’s Report
Hey. I don’t quite know how you managed to stumble upon this lonely spread of unread reports from your Student’s Representative Council, but, now that you have, welcome. In these pages for this year, you’ll find a collection of students who are—for sure, imperfect and embarrassingly, commonly fallible—but all of whom are genuinely committed to your student experience, and to the experiences of those not lucky enough to attend our leafy, sandstoney campus. And, hopefully, long after I’m gone from these pages, it’ll be a little less difficult for you to navigate Sydney administration; a little bit easier for you to attend and access all of our university’s opportunities; and a whole lot tougher for this university’s management, and our government, to ignore you. It’s incremental – and it’s not always gripping, or immediately successful – but it’s the efforts of those who organize, collaborate and fight injustice that change and impact political systems. You need not be a hardened political activist, or an anarchic rebel since conception. You can join an SRC collective to get involved with only a few clicks. And you only need to contribute where and when you feel comfortable and safe, and only to the degree that you are able. There is no special activist hierarchy – or a prize divined for whoever is the roughest, strongest, or longest devotee. If we are to fight at our best, it is when we are inclusive and diverse; not divisive and derisive. After all, Back-to-the-Future as an O-Week theme is remarkably relevant – as we are confronted by archaic, divisive, and unjust approaches to contemporary issues in government. This is from the looming specter of fee-deregulation – dredging up the system of decades ago, in which your education was predicated simply on your background—to the offshore detention and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers—indefinitely imprisoning foreigners, purely based on their means of arrival. O-Week is over—and while you still may oscillate between intoxication, induced by fermented grapes, potato-based ethanol and fruity, fruity cocktails, and insomnia, induced by assessments and extensions and everything in-between—spare what you can to fight for a fairer future; one that we won’t feel embarrassed going back to.