Last week saw the launch of the Ally Network in support of standing with Queer students and staff on campus. In attendance was one of my predecessors, The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG and Liberal Member of the Legislative Council, The Hon. Don Harwin. The proceedings began with speeches from the VC, Chancellor, Oscar Monaghan (giving a students’ perspective) and yours truly. Reflecting on the event, I began to talk with many students from the queer community on campus about the event itself and what the network meant for them. It was a mixed response.
While I was taking a photo with Kirby he leant over and told me I was too soft. So, here’s what I really think. I think the event was full of symbolic and political gestures touching on barely any of the issues the queer community face on campus. Of course everyone promoted gay marriage. Everyone spoke about how important equality is. But nobody, besides the students, spoke in depth about the hate crimes we still see today, mental health, high suicide rates of our youth, or public bathrooms being unsafe for queer students. Furthermore, I know for a fact that students have been pushing a preferred name campaign with the University for about a year now and while it is considered dealt with on paper, students are still subject to humiliation in lectures and tutorials by being outed publically as a trans person. The Liberal who stands alongside a patriotic, queerphobic, racist party or the lack of queer speakers at the event was not what got under my skin. To put it bluntly, it annoyed me that students are facing these issues everyday of their lives and instead it was allies who were congratulated and recognised for being decent human beings. It’s like saying, “Congratulations, you’re not a dick.” I don’t have to be part of an Ally Network to be a good ally. What even is an Ally Network?
General Secreties’ Report
Baristas have been pumping out caffeine to students shuffling sleepily to 8am lectures; Eastern Ave is swarmed by crowds on the hour; and it’s hard to secure a spare square of lawn at Hermann’s at the end of a long day. Another university year has begun. Hope your return to class has been bearable!
Our efforts in organising the SRC’s OWeek activities across the Camperdown/Darlington, Conservatorium and Cumberland campuses definitely paid off. All 500 SRC showbags were snapped up by students who visited our stall and spoke to our Office Bearers and casework team. If you missed out on one of our ‘How to Uni’ guides, we still have plenty more available at the SRC, so feel free to visit and grab a copy for yourself.
We also sparked conversations about the Abbott government’s plans to deregulate tertiary education as students had a go at our interactive ‘Pin the Tail on Chris Pyne the Deregulation Donkey’. The deregulation of tertiary education would remove the limits the government currently places on how much Australian universities can charge students, allowing universities to charge students whatever they want.
The SRC has remained in steadfast opposition to deregulation over the past year. At last week’s Council meeting, virtually all Councillors present indicated that they were elected by students on a platform of opposing fee deregulation. We’ll be making this opposition clear once again at the National Day of Action on March 25. Join us outside Fisher library at 1pm to march against fee deregulation, for a fairer and more equitable education system!
Last week’s council meeting was the first for 2015. Council is integral to upholding accountability in the SRC (as Office Bearers, including Max and I, report on their activities for the month) and engaging with students at the grassroots level (through motions submitted by students and voted on by the 33 elected Councillors). Council is held monthly and open to all undergraduate students to attend and participate in. If you would like to bring something to the attention of your student representatives, the next Council meeting will be held on April 1 (location TBA).
On a final note: if you’ve been waiting until Week Two to avoid the long queues for textbooks, check out whether the SRC’s secondhand bookstore has a copy of your textbook at a cheaper price. You can also sell your textbooks through our bookstore’s consignment scheme (subject to demand). For more information, check out srcusyd.net.au/src-books/
Environment Officers’ Report
The Enviro Collective ran very effective campaigns last year and hasn’t lost momentum during the break. Following is some of what we’ve done since the end of last semester. We:
– Helped organise and attended a 10-day long road trip (Mining the Truth) through regional areas affected by coal and coal seam gas.
– Hijacked the Vice Chancellor’s Christmas Party with “Operation Rudolf” dressed up as Santa and reindeers to deliver him a sack of coal.
– Helped organise and attended a week long training camp with collectives from other states in January.
– Met with the Vice Chancellor, set up an ongoing framework for communication between the collective and management, and secured a number of commitments.
– Saw a big win for the Fossil Free USyd campaign which we’ve been working on for 18 months. The University has committed to reducing the carbon footprint of their share portfolio so that it is 20% lower than the weighted average of the markets on which they trade in three years. You can read our press release in response here: http://fossilfreeusyd.org/news/
– Organised a ‘Date with Divestment’ community building picnic for Global Divestment Day at UTS with UNSW & UTS environment collectives.
– Mobilised for and attended Bat Attack, a 5 day festival of non violent direct action protesting the expansion of open cut coal mines into the Leard State forest.
– Created a beautiful OWeek stall themed “Back to what future?” with representations of the potential future impact of environmental action vs inaction, and have had lots of new interest and excitement in the Collective’s activities this year.
– Organised 2 events for OWeek, a screenprinting workshop and a film screening.
– With Vegesoc and the Food Co-op, organised an event in Week 1 in the Community Garden with live music, cooking & gardening workshops, screenprinting and free food.
– Restructured our Collective so that this year you can join a Working Group to work on what interests you. So far we have Campus Sustainability, Fossil Free USyd, Frontline Action, Finance, Events, Communications, and Community Garden, but you can always start your own! Contact Robert Pattinson on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to get involved and when the various groups meet.
Enviro Camp, April 10-12
Divestment NDA – April 22
Wom*n’s Officers’ Report
Xiaoran Shi and Subeta Vimalarajah.
Wom*n’s Collective had amazing student engagement at OWeek this year: almost 250 feminists signed up as members and we made $505 selling our T-shirts and showbags. The money raised will go straight back to keeping the collective running smoothly, and our immediate plan is to use it for the costs of the Growing Strong launch, happening at 7:30pm on March 14 at the 5 Eliza ballroom in Newtown.
The launch was originally slated for March 7, but upon realising this clashed with Mardi Gras, we swiftly postponed it to this Saturday. We are in awe of the array of poetry, fiction and essays featured within the magazine and can’t wait to celebrate such diversity of female talent. Come along!
The collective also hosted its first social event last Tuesday. About 20 members attended the Mardi Gras Film Festival screening of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, and it was impressive to see the film’s intersectional approach in examining the history of the women’s liberation movement and its notoriously privileged and exclusive beginnings.
Additionally, the Wom*n’s Collective hard work and creative flair will be on show at SHE, an upcoming exhibition celebrating female artists. Three of the collective’s zines: vagina activity book, O-Week zine and activist handbook will be featured, and 20% of all profits will be donated to the International Women’s Development Agency.
Last but certainly not least, the collective’s first ever meeting of 2015 was a great success. It was fantastic to see faces new and old, and work together in planning a year of radical and creative activism. One of the action points to come out of the meeting was organising a wom*n’s contingent to the International Women’s Day March on March 14 and in this week’s meeting, the collective will be creating signs and placards for the march.
If you’re interested in getting involved, the collective meets every Thursday at 1pm in the Wom*n’s Room on Level 2, Manning. If you’re unable to make that time, fear not, as we have a fearless Facebook group where a lot of discussion and organising takes place. And as part of the expansion of our online empire, we’ve just revived the Wom*n’s Collective Facebook page, so chuck us a ‘like’ if you like: www.facebok.com/usydwoco
Happy International Women’s Day (aka everyday),
Xiaoran and Subeta
Indigenous Officers’ Report
Howdy. Now is everyone ready for some knowledge? Well if you are reading this, you are procrastinating, a puzzled first year or an interested reader (You know who you are) so damn straight you are ready for some knowledge!
Well firstly, 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Ride. Fifty years ago, students from the University of Sydney toured towns in rural NSW to witness the discrimination of Aboriginal people. This publicity strengthened the push to eliminate racial discrimination. This year in commemoration, the SRC and University organised a new tour of the towns. This proved to be an eye-opening experience for the participants, as they learned that while some things change others remain the same.
Secondly, during OWeek the Indigenous Collective had a stall, the one with the emus. You know you saw it. We met a variety of interested students and University staff members over a very successful three days. However, there was a sour moment. A small group approached us asking what we do. Then they inquired into how much Indigenous we were. That was disappointing. There is no division, of half, quarter one sixteenth. No matter how you divide, an Indigenous Australian is an Indigenous Australian.
Thirdly, the Indigenous Collective has big plans for this year. The Reconciliation Week Festival later this semester, which we are hoping will provide the student population some excitement, knowledge and a greater understanding of Indigenous Australia. In week 11 the Indigenous Edition of Honi Soit, which is an excellent opportunity for the Indigenous students to have their pieces featured and to (again) allow for a greater understanding for non-Indigenous Australians. What about second semester you ask? Patience is a virtue.
Now if you have made it this far, you have probably noticed a recurring objective of the Indigenous Collective. Yes, understanding is the objective. Reconciliation is like the tango. Reconciliation takes two and without understanding, nothing will be successful. When it comes to Indigenous issues there needs to be a clear understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. While the Freedom Ride strengthened the pursuit to eliminate racial discrimination, we still have ways to go. That is it, enthused readers. Stay tuned for next time on the Indigenous Officer’s Report!
Student Housing Officers’ Report
In a cramped townhouse a dozen students—mostly from overseas—study, eat, and sleep mere paces from each other. Some students have lived out of cars or in meth dens. Some live with homophobic parents or with abusive relatives or partners. Most students who live out of the family home live below the poverty line.
The majority of students who rent suffer from “rent stress”. A large proportion of their incomes vanishes with rent payments, leaving the pocket strained when it comes to budgeting for expensive textbooks, other semester expenses, or medical costs for students with disabilities, particularly those with chronic illnesses.
Add to that the increasing attacks on welfare by the Abbott government that threaten the Disability Support Pension, Youth Allowance, and HECS itself, and you have a picture of students beset on all sides by the fickle forces of rent prices, neoliberal government policy, and an increasingly casualised and underpaid job market.
In the face of this, Sydney University plans to develop up to 5000 beds over the next five years. The question is whether they will be affordable and meet the needs of students. The Student Housing Action Collective is being reignited in order to campaign for several simple goals:
a guaranteed percentage of affordable accommodation
inclusion of a temporary accommodation service for students who are temporarily homeless and dedicated crisis accommodation for more extreme cases
an approach to housing that recognises the unique issues facing wom*n, queers, people of colour, Aboriginal people, international students, and people with disabilities.
But starting a collective and a campaign from scratch is tough. If you want to get involved, join the Student Housing Action Collective FB group. You can be involved to any extent, from just giving your input to throwing your heart and soul into it.