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Historical activist material removed from SRC Office Bearer room

Stickers from student activist movements of the 1980s and 90s removed from SRC office

Photograph of the OB room taken on Wednesday Photograph of the OB room taken on Wednesday

Anti-racism stickers, alongside stickers promoting queer rights, Aboriginal rights and refugee rights appear to have been ripped and forcibly removed from the SRC’s office bearer (OB) room in the first week of the 91st SRC.

For over a decade, the OB room has served as a communal office for various departments of the SRC, providing desk space and storage for education, queer and environment officers, among others.

In photos of the room taken on Wednesday, stickers on overhead cupboards, desks and drawers are visible. In photos taken on Friday, some stickers appear to be either partially torn away or completely scrubbed off, with some residue remaining. Stickers which were torn off include those used in the 2017 campaign for marriage equality, and an artwork depicting an Aboriginal woman.

Photograph of OB room taken on Friday
Photograph of the OB room taken on Friday

Secretary to Council, Cameron Caccamo, requested that the room be cleaned by outgoing office bearers in preparation for incoming office bearers of the 91st council by Friday, December 7th. In an email, he encouraged outgoing office bearers to ‘mark’ items they wished to keep in the room.

Honi understands that while there was no coordinated effort to clean the room among office bearers, the room was cleaned by two successive groups of people between Wednesday and Friday of last week.

Jazz Breen, one of two pre-selected Wom*n’s Officers of the Wom*n’s Collective, told Honi that she cleaned the room on Wednesday evening, to the extent of sorting and storing objects in overhead cupboards, and disposing of outdated protest posters.

The following day, members of Shake Up––a Moderate Liberal grouping that emerged in the 2019 SRC elections––including Josie Jakovac (Moderate Liberal), Gabi Stricker-Phelps (Independent), Laura Glase (Liberal), Julia Kokic (Moderate Liberal) and other unidentified individuals were in the OB room, according to sources in the SRC offices.

Stricker-Phelps told Honi that she was only in the room to clean the whiteboard and table, and that the other individuals were there to “clean the room in general.” Kokic said that she was “clearing the stickers just for cleaning the SRC OB room” but had “no idea of the historical significance of the stickers.”

Jakovac did not respond to Honi’s request for comment.

Only part of the full SRC executive gave general permission for the room to be cleaned, without conveying the historic and sentimental value of certain material in the room, including the stickers.

According to President Jacky He (Panda), these executive members made a collective decision to “clean up and organise the office bearer room because of the Work, Health and Safety (WHS) hazards that some of the caseworkers have identified, and the inefficient use of the Office Bearer room due to its current state of condition.”

However, what is reasonably practicable in ensuring WHS is governed by section 18 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW). Under section 18, it is unclear how the stickers contravened any applicable WHS duties when they posed a low likelihood of risk and limited degree of harm.

Breen stressed that if individuals were unsure of the ownership and importance of materials in the OB room, those materials should not have been removed. Instead, she attributed  the removal of the stickers to a lack of experience with the SRC’s activist roots, and lack of judgment in distinguishing “between important history and actual rubbish.”

With regard to Caccamo’s request to mark items to be kept in the room, Breen noted that it would prove impractical to individually mark every sticker in the room, and that “the stickers were never mentioned as something that would be removed.”

On Friday afternoon, incoming councillor Madeline Ward posted in the 2019 SRC Noticeboard, requesting that councillors not dispose of stickers on the cabinets of the OB room. In her post, Ward highlighted the historical value of the stickers alongside the need to preserve them as important relics of the SRC’s organisational and activist history.

Primary archives of SRC material, including issues of Honi, have been previously examined by social historians such as Sally Percival Wood and Alan Barcan in researching student movements in Australia.

In 2019, the majority of the SRC executive is comprised of members of Panda, Shake Up and Centre Unity. The removal of the stickers may reflect desires among centrist and right-wing political groupings on campus, such as Shake Up and Centre Unity—with whom He’s faction, Panda, have formed a majority voting bloc in council—to ultimately distance the SRC from its activist history.