This afternoon, anti-sexual assault activists gathered before the F23 Administration Building in a speak out to demand better, earlier and more holistic sex education. Protesters condemned University management’s inability and unwillingness to give survivors justice.
The action, organised by the Women’s Collective and chaired by co-Women’s Officers Kimmy Dibben and Amelia Mertha, also called for the return of Radical Sex and Consent Week, which the USU dissolved in 2018 citing “lack of interest.” Mertha denied this reasoning, instead insisting that low attendance was on account of funding cuts to the event and a lack of advertisement from the USU.
“Consent should not be a one time online module, or one awkward class with your PE teacher. It should be engaging and enlightening. We’re calling on the university, in particular the USU, to recognise the important of Radical Sex and Consent Week and reinstate its funding. Management at this university needs to do more than talk about supporting the anti-sexual violence movement.”
Dibben provided an Acknowledgement of Country, noting that First Nations women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts. Dunghutti activist Erin O’Leary’s speech was interrupted before it could begin by an announcement of the lockdown of F23, which has become a staple of each rally since the occupation of the building by student activists on October 29th last year. Once that display had winded down, O’Leary pointed out that in his time as ABC Director, newly minted Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott oversaw a Lateline program which falsely alleged that Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory were engaging in widespread “sexual slavery” and pedophilia.
Recently elected Sexual Harassment Officer Alana Ramshaw declared “cops don’t keep us safe, we are the ones that keep us safe,” proclaiming that the system is not broken, it is functioning exactly as it was designed to. SRC Vice President Roisin Young Murphy asserted that women in every colony across the Commonwealth have always faced misogyny and sexual violence because it is what the Commonwealth was built on, what it maintains and relies on.
“Holistic sex education can not only prevent sexual violence, but also STIs and unwanted pregnancies. It can help young people explore their gender and sexuality, and understand oneself. It can help young people recognise healthy and unhealthy relationships,” said Dibben.
“This movement against sexual violence is exhausting and gut-wrenching at times, but it is also invigorating. To hold each other’s stories is an honour. We don’t have to fight for our own justice alone, we are most powerful when we come together.”
The speak out closed with an open mic, which saw activist Jordi Pardoel reiterate how sexism is entrenched in capitalist society from the very top, calling for mass action on the streets and within workplaces to “smash this whole system”.
If this article has caused distress, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Counselling Service at 1800 737 732 or NSW Rape Crisis Counselling Service at 1800 424 017.