Students demand a rape free campus at Welcome Week rally

“USyd is not safe. It is not safe for survivors, it is not safe for women and gender diverse people,” SRC Education Officer Ishbel Dunsmore said.

Photography by Valerie Joy

CW: This article contains reference to sexual assault and sexual harrasment 

The USYD Women’s Collective (WoCo) rallied in front of the Quadrangle on Thursday calling for an end to sexual assault and harassment on campus. 

WoCo Conveners Iggy Boyd and Alev Saracoglu chaired the Welcome Week rally,  which aimed to shed light on the culture of sexual violence endemic to Australian university campuses.

“The National Student Safety Survey, the most recent one whose findings was released last year, found that one in three (30.6%) Australian university students had been sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime. Also reported by the NSSS is that “students most commonly experienced sexual assault in private or less publicly accessible areas.” The most common location that sexual assault occurred in was “student accommodation or residences (27.3%),” which includes the Colleges.”

NTEU member Sophie Cotton spoke about the sexual assault and harassment experienced both by students and staff and the inaction by universities and their associated bodies, namely Universities Australia. “The kind of reforms we need to see are the ones that challenge the institution and change the way it works… we shouldn’t just be talking about 15-minute modules that you do by yourself,” she said.

Cotton said “this University is refusing to give casuals equal access to domestic violence leave, to equal superannuation, when we know that the massive superannuation gap is what is driving women homelessness.”

NUS Queer Officer Damien Nguyen highlighted the oppression of women, queer people and international students both on campus and in the colleges. “How many students will be harassed during o-week? How many at student accommodation? How many at the fucking disgusting colleges? Too many!”

Nguyen recalled the 2017 burning of a pride flag during an initiation ritual at St. Andrews, one of several colleges known for hazing and harassment they claim has since been stamped out. 

“Today we are reminded of how far the feminist movement has come, but how far we still have to go.”

SRC Education Officer Ishbel Dunsmore said that “USyd is not safe. It is not safe for survivors, it is not safe for women and gender diverse people.

“What it is a safe space for is for the wealthy male elite, who propagate a culture of institutionalised misogyny and violence that can so very easily be covered up through confusing, oftentimes retraumatising and bureaucratic reporting systems.”

Noting that 68 colleges students are raped per week in Australia, Dunsmore called for effective action on the cost-of-living crisis to prevent further harm to survivors, saying “we must fight for full housing affordability and safe housing for survivors of sexual violence.”

SRC Ethnocultural Officer and Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR) Convenor Rand Khatib called on students to join the fight against oppression and invited students to the activist space flourishing at USYD.

“Womens rights are incomplete without trans rights, disability rights and the rights of Indigenous peoples and people of colour… Systemic change is impossible without solidarity and intersectionality,” Khatib said. 

Students then marched down eastern avenue to F23, making clear in chant their opposition to the sexism and misogyny this university creates and perpetuates. 

Mark Scott there’s blood on your hands, sexual violence is USYD’s brand.

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