Last Wednesday thousands of students across the country protested in a National Day of Action against the federal Government’s proposed cuts to higher education. The Sydney University protest was attended by hundreds of students and included speakers from the National Tertiary Education Union and federal politicians.
What these national protests show us is that there is strong opposition to the government’s war on students. University staff, union members, politicians and everyday members of our community are standing in solidarity with students who are standing up for their right to an accessible education.
Wednesday’s protest was called by the National Union of Student’s (NUS), the peak representative body for tertiary education students across Australia. NUS has a strong and proud history of active and engaging student campaigns. In 2014 NUS mobilised thousands of students to protest the Liberal Government’s plans to deregulate university fees. This campaign resulted in the defeat of deregulation, with the Federal government failing to pass its bill twice.
NUS also advocate for students on a number of different issues. They fight for affordable, quality education, better living standards for students, and making our campuses safer for all. They conduct nationwide surveys into student wellbeing and sexual assault and harassment on campus. And they pressure universities and our government into taking action on important student issues.
Most importantly NUS exists for all of us. NUS gives students a strong and cohesive voice on a national platform, in order represent us and advocate in our best interests. When students are facing attacks, such as the ones we’re seeing now, NUS plays an important role in ensuring that students work together and fight back. The current political climate is dire. In a time where workers and students are facing some of the worst attacks we’ve seen in years the Liberal Government is doing everything they can to destroy unions and leave us voiceless. It’s up to us to continually engage with students and our communities to fight for our rights and ensure the survival of our union.
IMOGEN GRANT and KATIE THORBURN
On May 11 we protested the screening of the “Red Pill” – a popular alt-right recruitment film that promotes the idea that men are oppressed by women. Since
MRAs only discuss men’s rights and masculinity in reference to feminism or violence against women, it’s not acting for men, it’s acting against women. This isn’t activism that focuses on establishing services for issues that affect men, this is resentment that people believe women when they talk about the violence they’ve suffered at the hands of men. Importantly, the screening was attended by known fascists from the United Patriots Front.
In particular, the film promotes the notion that feminists have overstated the existence of ‘rape culture’, and that many women are lying when they voice their experiences of sexual assault and thereby feeding into a culture that condones and normalises rape. The documentary’s star, A Voice for Men’s Paul Elam, is a pro-rape racist who in 2010 wrote: “Should I be called to sit on a jury for a rape trial, I vow publicly to vote not guilty, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the charges are true.” Given the prominence of the sexual assault campaign, we believe that this screening was a targeted and antagonistic attempt to discredit feminists and women on campus.
Last week we also protested the Catholic Society’s event called ‘Is Abortion the Solution?’ which was a shameless display of anti-woman and anti-choice propaganda. The event posed as neutral, yet had an explicitly political and religious agenda: one that has at its core the restriction of bodily autonomy. The choices people make regarding their pregnancy should be properly informed and unchallenged by partisan groups who use misinformation to persuade them to choose a particular option. Abortion should be free, accessible, and safe with absolutely no apologies.
Sorry Day is coming up on Friday 26 May, and at 5:30pm Victoria Park the Wom*n’s Collective will be protesting against forced child removal, incarceration, and for reparations and healing for the Stolen Generations and their families. The feminist movement has often overlooked the struggles facing Aboriginal women. Whilst feminists have advocated for reproductive rights through access to abortion, Aboriginal women have been fighting for their children and rights as mothers. The government continues to take Aboriginal children from their families, now at the highest rate ever. USyd Wom*n’s Collective says “no more!”: there must be Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare. Please join us, Friday 5.30pm in Victoria Park.
As always, email us at usydwomenscollective@ gmail.com
DANIEL ERGAS and ISABELLA PYTKA
As the A-frames and lurid shirts (finally) vacate Eastern Avenue, and the NDA marches on its merry way, you’re still here, reading this report, almost there at the first semester finish line… Congratulations!
I was planning to write this report in the style of ‘80s rock anthems (you could have expected classics such as – ‘we built this NDA on rock-and-roll’), but, alas, you’ll have to deal with this standard and dreary format. We’re tired too. We’ve got a lot to report back on for this fortnight. The National Day of Action (NDA) was a roaring success; massive congratulations to the Education Officers, all students in the Education Action Group (EAG), and the National Union of Students. We got oodles of media coverage – hello even the most reactionary channels and Kochie! – and we can’t wait to see what happens next in the campaign.
We are onto the less-sexy, yet more report-worthy task of internal administration of the SRC. We received our SSAF allocation from the University, so we’re onto budgeting for our collectives and departments. Over the coming week, we’ll meet with every staff member for half-yearly consults, and interview candidates for the role of the Electoral Officer for this year’s SRC elections. (WILD!) As always, we would love you to email us about you, your ideas, and your breakfast – general.secretary@src. usyd.edu.au.
In other news, which many may find exciting, or like us, slightly intimidating, only two weeks left until STUVAC. Let’s just say – we are both ready for the break. Use your final weeks wisely – join a collective, come to a protest, tell your lecturers and tutors you support the NTEU’s demands… just do a little thing that the Uni doesn’t want you to. It’s worth it.
D & B x