SUPRA to begin one-year trial of a Carer Officer
Carers have remained a historically underrepresented section of the university’s population, and this translates to a lack of adequate support for students who have caretaking responsibilities.
The Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) has voted for a one-year trial of a Carer Officer.
The main aim of the role is to identify the needs and priorities of postgraduate student carers at USyd, and to investigate what changes can be made to better support these students. A report with future recommendations will be compiled at the end of the term, following consultation with carers.
Carers are defined as people who look after a friend or family member with a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness, or who is a child or frail aged. Importantly, parents will also be included in the remit of the Carer Officer.
Currently, postgraduate carers are represented in SUPRA by the Women’s Officers and Disability Officers — however, many carers themselves do not fall squarely into either of those categories. Carers have remained a historically underrepresented section of the university’s population, and this translates to a lack of adequate support for students who have caretaking responsibilities.
The proposal was led by SUPRA’s Disability Officers, Eva Midtgaard and Gemma Lucy Smart.
In a statement to Honi, Eva Midtgaard outlined the difficulties in her experience of being a parent and student at the University while undertaking a higher degree by research.
“My stipend did not have any legal hours for me experiencing health related issues due to my pregnancy. I had to defer my studies, meaning I had no income, due to pregnancy related health issues.
“That was quite shocking to me.”
These issues continued after Eva’s child was born. There was nothing in her contract related to maternity leave, nor were there suitable breastfeeding options on campus.
“Carers will be some of the busiest students because they are not only caring for themselves and their studies, but they are also looking after someone else. Yet, these students seem to be completely forgotten and left to fend for themselves because the system is not designed to take their needs into consideration.”
While SUPRA will focus on postgraduate students, the recognition of the importance of representing carers at USyd marks a significant moment in advocating for their needs at the University.
Honi Soit is interested in talking to more students with caretaking responsibilities about their experiences at USyd. If you would like to share your experience or have any further information about student carers, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send us a message on Facebook or Instagram.