President’s Report: Jen Light
Where are we at with the Liberal’s Higher Education budget?
It has been 3 months since the Liberals announced their budget that would see the greatest attacks not just on funding for higher education, but a complete targeting attack on students.
To recap the budget proposed:
– The deregulation of University fees, meaning that Universities have the ability to charge whatever fees they like. This will lead to a two-tiered US style system, and Universities could charge $100,000 or more for a Law degree. Students will be dealing with life long debt.
– A reduction of at least 20% of commonwealth funding per student. Another cut to higher education.
– The introduction of commonwealth scholarships. This is a scholarship that will supposedly ease the burden of fee deregulation and allow more students from low socio-economic backgrounds to attend university. However in reality the Government will not be putting any money towards the scholarship. Universities are stipulated to put 20 cents per dollar received from fees towards this fund. However Universities do not have to put this money away until they break even on the 20% funding cut.
– The implementation of an interest rate of up to 6% on HECS repayments, while lowering the income threshold required for beginning repayments. Currently HECS has no real interest rate attached to it, only that of CPI. The implementation of a HECS interest rate would mean that you would be disadvantaged if you chose to study Law and then work for a NGO, you would be disadvantaged if you were a women because on average you will earn less, you will be even more disadvantaged if you are a woman and chose to have children.
In short Australia’s next will not be able to see a higher education as a right, but will have to make a strategically life long decision of debt at the age of 18.
We are currently waiting for the senate to return in late August and the Liberal Government to put forward the higher education bill to really understand what we will be dealing with.
General Secretary’s Report: Mariana Podesta-Diverio
DO NOT EVER WRITE IN LIBRARY BOOKS. EVER. NOT IN PENCIL, NOT IN BLOOD. DO NOT DO IT. Okay.
A timely reminder, fellow students: the SRC has a second-hand bookshop in the Wentworth Building, near the Food Co-Op and the International Students’ Lounge. There’s a range of used textbooks for different courses, so before you rush into purchasing an $80 political economy tome, check whether there’s an edition at the bookshop for a quarter of the price. I have saved a significant amount of money doing this. Fellow students, shop around to get a good deal on your study materials. Remember, you might not always need a textbook for a subject so ask around – classmates or Facebook friends may have done the course before, and they may be able to tell you whether it’s worth purchasing that copy of Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions for your modern science philosophy course (it’s not, I gave my unopened copy to a friend enrolled this semester).
James and I repeat this so frequently we should invest in frequent-repeater cards so that we get every eighth repetition free, BUT: THE SRC HAS A FREE LEGAL SERVICE. AND CASEWORK SERVICE. FREE. Academic advice, housing help, you name it – our talented and dedicated caseworkers and lawyers can help you.
Now I want you to take a deep breath – promise me you will do this – and imagine a tiny white piece of cork on the middle of a giant pin board. Think about it for a moment, and forget the ridiculousness of the first part of this report (god, I am so sorry, but I can’t change), because it’s taking a serious turn. Okay, now forget the pin board because it was never relevant to begin with. Physical wellbeing is an integral part of balancing life and studies while you’re at university. Sleep is a huge part of this. Eating well and exercising are also lauded as the pillars of good health, but they’re parroted so much by glossy brochures and daytime television shows that it’s hard to continue to give a fuck – the words and concepts become somewhat meaningless. But there are little things you can do that take little effort and make a difference.
How many of you out there are insomniacs? You? Good, this is for you: I have two tasks for you. Your homework for this week, if you please, is to stretch out as many of your muscles as possible before going to bed. This can be done with a background of soft music, an audiobook, or a bewildered partner. Also, I challenge every person who reads this to refrain from using any screens – laptop, TV, iPad – within two hours of going to bed. The science behind this isn’t as interesting as the results for those of you who have a hard time dozing off. I’ll allow (lolz, “allow”, who even am I?) very brief phone checks (text messages, setting alarms) within the hour before bed. But the rules are clear. No screens.
A note for regular readers of my report: smash capitalism, the patriarchy, racism, and the state. Free education and health care for all. Oh, don’t pretend like you didn’t read my report for your fortnightly dose of alienating far-leftism. You’re not fooling anyone.
Education Officers’ Report: Ridah Hassan and Eleanor Morley
The Abbott government is planning to launch an attack on welfare that will be detrimental for many students. Many students already live far below the poverty line, and are forced to work long hours, eating into their study time. What we need is more, not less, welfare provisions, an idea that has been clearly rejected with the Liberals class war budget.
Abbott’s work for the dole legislation proposes under 30s will have to do 25 hours a week of community service if they are to receive unemployment benefits. In addition to this they will have to apply for 40 jobs a month. This policy is clearly serving a political rather than economic service, as economist across the country claim there is no evidence of such program’s reducing unemployment. This is part of the Liberal governments ideological attack on welfare.
Mining billionaire Twiggy Forrest has provided the government with his recommendations for an overhaul of the welfare system (I guess now they’re not even pretending in whose interests this budget lies). The most worrying recommendation is for the expansion of welfare quarantining. Under this system recipients of welfare are presented with a basics card, rather than a money transfer, which can only be spent as certain shops and prevents the purchase of certain items including alcohol and cigarettes, and does not allow for a cash withdrawal.
The most dangerous change to welfare in Australia is the “earn or learn” policy. Under 30s will have to wait 6 months after they apply for welfare to begin receiving payments, and will be monitored under certain regulations during this period. This will force thousands of young people across the country into abject poverty and homelessness, as they have no way of feeding or housing themselves.
The next big opportunity we have to fight these cuts is the National Day of Action on August 20. All across the country students will be marching to defend their education and oppose the myriad of other attacks facing students in the budget. Last semester hosted the biggest student demo in Sydney in almost 10 years, now we have to step it up! If you would like to get involved in the campaign, join the Education Action Group which meets every Tuesday at 2pm on the New Law Lawns. The EAG will be hosting a number of events in the lead up to the NDA, so there is plenty to get involved with!
Wom*n of Colour Autonomous Collective Conveners’ Report: Shareeka Helaluddin and Tabitha Prado-Richardson
A few weeks ago my [white] friend asked me about this collective and what we did. “So… is it, like, a political group?” “I don’t really get it… what’s the point?” Admittedly, my first reaction was internal screaming at the thought of having to justify what I do and pretty much validate my identity as a wom*n of colour – a tiresome and, surprisingly, an all too common task. Instead, I decided to take the time to explain why the existence of this collective is important not just to me and the other wom*n of this group; but also for the progression of truly progressive and conscientious activism and polities.
Our collective may not come across as politically inclined, at least in the conservative sense. Rather, our politics manifest themselves in varied creative and visceral ways that is as much introspective as it is externally communicated. The creation of a safe and empathetic space for wom*n of colour allows us to nurture an uncompromised sense of self that informs intersectional activism. So far on campus, it has proved to be the only space that is a haven from daily oppression whilst being understanding of broader structures that affect how I navigate the world, straddle tradition(s), and defy assimilation.
This group has taught me that a wom*n of colour’s self-love and validated sense of self can be fuel for activism and used as a tool of resistance. A woman of colour’s self-love is political and radical: it unsettles the status quo because by choosing bravely to dismantle the narratives of racist aesthetics against us.
This group has taught me the importance of acknowledging and appreciating different forms of activism and how I can act on political inclinations and defy racism, sexism and other oppressive ‘isms,’ in ways that are safe and of solidarity. It is something that translates to facets of my life – political or otherwise. It has given me the strength to call out out the fallible nature of other groups that I have been a part of, in the hope and idealism of establishing truly inclusive, empathetic and conscientious spaces on and off campus; that takes into account the experiences and oppression of numerous identities.
The Wom*n of Colour Autonomous collective is a safe space for wom*n who identify as of colour, from an ethnocultural background, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or otherwise marginalised by white supremacy. If your identity falls in line, you are welcome to join our Facebook group. We hope to be holding a little autonomous event soon, it would be lovely to see you there!
Mature Age Student Officer’s Report: Omar Hassan
The Australian Union of Jewish Students is launching its bizarre and offensive defence of Israel’s atrocities in Gaza this week. AUJS claims to represent all Jewish people, and yet the vast bulk of its activities are dedicated to promoting Israel and Zionism on campuses. One of its campaign materials shows poorly photoshopped images of Australian universities with rockets falling on them, with the tagline; “What would you do?”.
Well, if our universities were stolen from us, if we were forced to live on half-rations in the Carslaw toilets, if running water, electricity, and access to the outside world was periodically cut off, we would probably do what the heroic Palestinian Resistance fighters do.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Gaza University has been bombed as part of Israel’s 4 week long campaign against the population of the Gaza Strip, a campaign which has targeted hospitals, disability centres, schools, UN buildings, mosques and more.
Israel claims self defense, and yet the death toll is 1300 civilians lost on the Palestinian side, and just three on the Israeli. It has now occupied 40% of the tiny Gaza Strip, and there are Op-eds in mainstream Israeli publications calling for genocide (seriously, google it).
All three mature age officers are proud to stand with the people of Palestine in this difficult moment. Long live the resistance!
On another note, the national day of protest against the Abbott government (Aug 20) is fast approaching. It is shaping up to be an important date for the future of higher education. The Senate is sitting the following week, and if the changes to fees ate passed it will be am historic defeat for students. Don’t let that happen! Bring a contingent from your class, paint your own banner or placard, and let’s show the government that we are going to fight them all the way!
Queer Officers’ Report: David Shakes, Elsa Kohane, Edward McMahon and Holly Parrington
Pride means a lot to the queer community: it’s a deadly sin that only some of us are lucky enough to reclaim. If you’re queer, pride is not a birthright; instead it must be fought for. It’s hard to take pride in yourself in a society that understands the way we are as an aberration, harmful to our families, ourselves, and our prospects for the future. Many of us will never be able to take pride in queerness. But for those who can, celebrating difference and diversity against the rigid confines of social conservativism is a tool of empowerment and subversion.
This week is the USU’s Pride Festival, and from the 5th-7th of August, queer organisations around campus (QuAC, Queerkats, SHADES and Queer Revue) are collaborating in conjunction with the USU Queer Coordinators to put together a series of events to celebrate pride. The event can be found on Facebook, and the full itinerary is on the USU website. Look out for a variety of workshops, performances, and social events. The SRC Queer Officers are incredibly proud of all the hard work queers on campus have put into running such a vibrant festival. Many of the events will be autonomous, but sometimes we’re down to party with cis hetero people too, and we’d encourage everyone to (where possible) come out and celebrate the pride of the queer community at the University of Sydney.
As we enter the second half of the year, we remind all people who are queer or questioning that you are always welcome in the Queerspace, especially for Queer Action Collective meetings which will take place at 1pm each Monday in the Queerspace (Holme building). Queerkats, the autonomous group of queer non-cis men, will continue to meet at 1pm on Thursday. As renovations in the Holme building are soon to be completed, we look forward to a new and improved space. Greater accessibility, greater anonymity, and the inclusion of gender neutral bathrooms will all hopefully make for a safer space for queer people on campus.
Mini VP Report: Laura Webster
I have stolen these few lines to publically sing the praises of my co-Vice President, Max, for essentially chastising Vice Chancellor Michael Spence in the middle of a 4 hour meeting with 20 University executive members. In a glorious blaze of glory, Max informed Spence that as long as he refuses to stand up to the Government and Group of Eight Universities, we will continue to question his every move, chant outside his office until he really begins to fight for the accessible and affordable tertiary education that is our right.
Eds: Our apologies to Laura for mistakenly not including this in last week’s edition.