This week members of your SRC protested outside the Vice Chancellors office to demand that Sydney University publically support marriage equality. The university and Vice Chancellor Michael Spence have chosen to remain neutral on the issue of marriage equality. Their reasoning for this is that universities should be a place for intellectual freedom, where debate and respectful discussion can be had around important issues. However marriage equality isn’t just an important issue, marriage equality is a fundamental human right. Countless other universities across the country have announced their support for marriage equality and its time for Usyd to do the same.
Our university claims to support the LGBTI+ community. They proudly fly the rainbow flag atop the quad, they boast of their ally network and of the universities involvement in Mardi Gras. Beyond that the university’s latest marketing campaign ‘unlearn …’ includes an image of two men getting married with the tagline ‘unlearn love’. The university cannot use the LGBTI+ community as a marketing tool to make them money whilst refusing to support their fight for a basic human right. They cannot claim to support LGBTI+ students and staff when they continue to refuse to acknowledge the LGBTI+ community’s struggle.
As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” and its extremely clear what side our university has chosen. They have chosen the side that tells LGBTI+ students and staff that they are not equal, that they are not a part of our community and that they don’t deserve to marry who they love.
We can’t afford to be complacent in the fight for marriage equality. Make sure you vote YES and that your ballot is posted back before November 7.
Wom*ns Officers’ Report
IMOGEN GRANT and KATIE THORBURN
Welcome to week 11! This semester is flying by, and I can’t believe this is one of my final reports as Wom*n’s Officer! As you may know, the R&DVSA is going through a difficult time after facing a new subcontract by MHS – a health insurance giant – in which a number of other non-for-profit organisations replace the R&DVSA workforce with non-specialised counsellors on much lower wages. The R&DVSA has also raised privacy concerns for callers about the new requirements to record all calls and share these, along with existing case files, with MHS. As a result of this, following the expiration of its current contract in October, 1800RESPECT will no longer be staffed by R&DVSA counsellors.
The Government’s plan is to turn a crisis line into a profit-making venture, sack skilled workers and hand out to the lowest bidder the provision of specialised counselling on 1800RESPECT. For the profits to flow, the union workforce need to be replaced by lower skilled non-union workers paid rock bottom wages. Current job advertisements are offering $20 or less an hour without proper clinical supervision for staff.
To make things worse, as a Government funded service, the R&DVSA have not been permitted to put aside money to cover redundancy payments for its staff. If the Government does not provide the $1 million needed for the redundancy entitlements, the R&DVSA will have no choice but to liquidate its assets and close its doors – and with it, vital services will be lost such as the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, Sexual Assault Counselling Australia, and the NSW Community Based Counselling Service. The Government is abdicating its responsibility to the highly committed and skilled workers who have been providing the 1800RESPECT trauma counselling service for the past seven years. What we are seeing is privatisation, competition, sacking workers and rock bottom prices just to make a profit out of rape and domestic violence. This government is sick.
If you wish to get involved with the Wom*n’s Collective and the fight to support R&DVSA, like us on Facebook and email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault, support is available by contacting NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 424 017.
General Secretary’s Report
DANIEL ERGAS and ISABELLA PYTKA
It’s almost over – you’re almost there (wherever that is) and, for that matter, so are we. This is our penultimate report (truly a tear-jerker if ever there was one), and, in a reflective spirit, we’ll be reviewing the year in our final two reports, and offering suggestions to all (four of) the hacks out there who actually read this.
O-Week, that chariot of co-branded stress-balls and corporate stalls, gave us our first opportunity to get the SRC’s name out there (the erstwhile goal of every single election campaign ever run). As we handed out several thousand calico bags (we still fill with pride and stare whenever we see a #mainstream student using one), the collectives smashed it in recruiting new students; WoCo’s several hundred new members is unlikely to be beaten in quite some time.
There are several lessons to be drawn from O-Week. The first doesn’t particularly relate to the SRC, but instead to student organisations more broadly: how do we fund the fun, wild, and creative events without selling our soul in the process? We took free tampons – and, in our estimation, that was a good op – but should we have taken the free Red Bull we were offered, too? We tend to be a bit upset at the CommBank bonanza, but we seem to be more OK with free Dendy Newtown tickets. It’s a tough balancing act; and it’s one the Uni loves to see us struggle with. It is, after all, purely a consequence of how the Student Services and Amenities Fee – that pesky couple of hundred $ you pay / defer each year – is distributed. If less of it went, say, to SUSF, and more of it went, say, to actual student organisations that you have a voice in, student orgs wouldn’t need to make the choices they do.
That doesn’t mean that we need to live an aesthetic life of piety and solemn contemplation. It just means that any incoming OB needs to accept that there will need to be trade-offs, and to consider them methodologically and carefully. It also means that student orgs need to work more closely in delivering – and conceiving of – these big ticket events. A lot of criticism comes down to lack of communication, rather than any meaningful political or ideological differences, and can be solved beforehand, with cooperation, rather than after the fact, with awkward half-hearted mea culpas and pledges to ‘do better next time’.
The second lesson, directly for the SRC, is to plan early. You – and I’m going to guess you’re an incoming OB, because why else would you read this? – need to start fast. It is an awkward time of the year to come into a role (December 1, for those playing along at home, is when the new SRC officers start), and the annual shutdown comes quick. Source quotes fast (trust us, Alibaba is great – but always always always go for escrow), decide on a plan for what you want, and work closely with collectives to make their dreams come true. O-Week will come faster than you think, and it’s your best opportunity to make an impact and lay the groundwork for the SRC and your collective for the year. And make sure to coordinate early with the USU, and their O-Week coordinators; they helped us immensely in our term, and they’ll help you too if you make your requests clear, and aren’t afraid to reach out early.
Next fortnight, in part 2, we’ll be looking at the rest of the year and signing off. Until then, in solidarity, D+B.