Many of you might already be aware of the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Many of you walk past it almost everyday you come into uni. It is located just across from the main entrance to Redfern Station giving off an immediate scent of smoke from the open Sacred Fire which burns continuously day and night on a supply of only native wood. The ashes and coal from which that fire was originally lit back in March 2014 are from the Sacred Fire of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, also continuously burning on native wood since 1972. In this same year, the Whitlam Government handed back the land many now know as “The Block” to Aboriginal people under the guidance of the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC), founded by Uncle Bob Bellear. The Block had been home to the Aboriginal tenants from that time until the early 2000s when it was cleared for the purposes of redevelopment and commercialisation by the AHC, thus contributing to the gentrification of the Redfern area and forcing the removal of Aboriginal people off their land yet again.
Our University is allowing its name to be used to advertise the space for student accommodation. I do not have a problem with the University seeking out accommodation for its students. In fact, student accommodation is one of my main concerns as your President. I do, however, have a problem when that accommodation is in direct conflict with the agenda of the First Nations People as it is continuing the dispossession that so many consecutive Governments and White Australia Policies began. I, as a proud Gomeroi person, will not stand idly by as our University allows its name and resources to be used for such atrocious and racist policy and I ask you to visit the Embassy and learn more about the story. I encourage you, the members of our proud student body and key stakeholders of our University to contact the management and Dr. Spence himself to persuade the University Senate to reconsider their stance on what was, is, and always will be Aboriginal Land.
General Secretaries’ Report
Semester rolls on and Whitlam rolls in his grave. (Too soon?) Somewhere in a poorly lit Canberra office Chris Pyne is licking his lips and running a final spell check on a Word document named “ACTUAL FINAL draft – Dereg da unis round 3”.
Back in the SRC, we’re business as usual. Chiara and I have been assisting Laura Webster and Subeta Vimalarajah with Office-Bearer consults, working on closer collaboration with SUPRA and the USU, nagging the uni about policy and planning out the rest of the year.
It’s worth mentioning quorum (derived from Latin “of whom”, via Middle English). That’s the number of bodies you need in a room to have a meeting. For an SRC council meeting to go ahead you need 17 of the 33 elected councillors to be in the room. Now, these things happen once a month so it would probably be odd if half of the people who worked an insane amount of time to get elected to these positions didn’t bother turning up. But they haven’t bothered turning up.
The last three council meetings have been inquorate. Blame goes to all sides, but the real victims have been anyone wanting new, legible version of the SRC regulations; Office-Bearers wanting access to resources like megaphones and whiteboards; and the student populace asking “Who is Michael Spence?”. It’s a shame that the Council hasn’t had the chance to consider and discuss the work of Office-Bearers who have prepared extensive reports month after month. It’s a shame that the peak body of the only organisation dedicated to advocating for undergraduate students has failed to meet in the time since the University administration announced a massive restructure of the whole institution. It’s a shame that the reasons for Representatives missing meetings tend towards the absurdly juvenile. A full list of absent Representatives can be found in the last edition of Honi Soit.
Back to Chris Pyne. Dereg round 3 is happening this year, so is a significant shake-up of Sydney uni’s education. There’s no time like the present to remind those in power who should be receiving education and how much they ought to pay for it (clue: everyone & free). Join Chiara and I on the Law Lawns at 1 on Wednesday to do just that with the next National Day of Action.
Campus Refugee Action Collective
On the 4th of August, the Campus Refugee Action Collective (CRAC) held a forum entitled ‘The Truth From Manus’. In this forum, Nicole Judge, a former Salvation Army worker in both the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres. In a fascinating yet horrifying recount of her experience, Judge spoke of asylum seekers living in 50°C heat, using pit toilets and being denied free access to sanitary items.
She spoke of the 2013 decision by the Rudd government to disallow future asylum seekers who arrived by boat, to resettle in Australia. If found to be genuine refugees, resettlement in PNG would be the only option. Following this decision, a protest was held on Nauru by the asylum seekers that descended into a riot largely due to the aggravation by guards, some of whom beat asylum seekers with metal poles.
After witnessing an asylum seeker beaten to the point of unconsciousness by a guard, Judge reported the situation, but after being threatened with physical violence, she changed her statement and the original was shredded.
The recently introduced Border Force Act has not only legalised, but endorses this type of cover-up in an attempt to further shroud in secrecy the disgusting circumstances under which the asylum seekers are forced to live by the Australian government. However, thanks to people like Judge, we are able to gain insight as to the real situation within the detention centres and therefore further understand the repercussions of the Australian government’s current immigration policies.
Members of CRAC went down to the ALP national conference in Melbourne in the holidays to rally for refugee rights and encourage ALP members to break bi-partisan support of the current refugee policy. Approximately 40% supported the ban of boat turn backs, showing the, by no means unanimous support of boat turn backs within the ALP.
A grassroots campaign must and will be the way forward to a compassionate Australia that welcomes vulnerable people, respects them and encourages them to become and integral part of Australian society.
CRAC will collect student signatures on a large banner that reads “Students Against the Border Force Act” to add student voices to the doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers who are campaigning against the act.
If you would like to get involved in the refugee rights campaign, join CRAC on Wednesdays at 12pm on the New Law Lawns.
Welfare Officers’ Report
ello from the welfare department and congratulations on reaching the back nether regions of Honi (only the cleverest, nicest most glamorous people read this far.)
Two quick updates regarding our work:
First is the exciting news that the online version of “Your words, Your Stories” the collation of first hand student accounts of their experiences, both positive and negative, with drugs and alcohol is finished and soon to be released! Keep an eye on the Welfare Action Group facebook page over the next week or so and be the first to read real, candid, stigma breaking accounts by your fellow students on the role drugs and alcohol have played in their lives.
Speaking of the Welfare Action Group, if you haven’t joined the group on facebook already I urge you to do so. It’s full of tips on how to best manage work and study and a great place to get the attention of us Welfare Officers or your fellow students if you are having any welfare related issue in your own life or even just want to share a relevant event or helpful link.
If the issue you are facing is more personal in nature and you want to put into contact with an SRC caseworker please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up an appointment for you. If you want to contact the casework service directly please email email@example.com or call 9660 5222 between 9am and 5pm weekdays to book an appointment.
The second campaign in the pipeline for the Welfare department this semester is some multilingual materials advertising the (now expanded) casework and legal services available from the SRC so keep an eye out in the international student lounge and in the SRC office!
And remember 1pm this Wednesday the 19th on the New Law Lawns for the National Day of action to defend your degree! We’ll see you there.
Wom*n’s Officers’ Report
Hello there! It’s been a big fortnight for the Wom*n’s Collective and we’re really excited to report back on it.
On Thursday (13th August) we paired up the Sydney University Law Society and their panel ‘Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault & The Potential Inadequacy of the Law’ to raise funds and awareness about the closure of Hey Sis!, which we reported on the closure of a fortnight ago. We’d like to thank SULS for being so wonderful to work with. The event was packed out and the speakers were so informative and insightful. We ended up collecting quite a bit of money and raising awareness about the closure of Hey Sis!, as well as building a new and valuable on campus partnership.
On Friday (14th August) is/was the “Stop Taxing My Period Dance Rally”, the final event for a campaign that started three or so months ago with a measly online petition, that now has 101 000+ signees. In exciting news, Action Aid – an international anti-poverty organisation, has come out in support of the cause and has expressed their interest to collaborate with the Wom*n’s Collective on future projects and campaigns!
Radical Sex & Consent Day is also in the making. A few members of Wom*n’s Collective have been helping out on the sidelines. Arabella and I are really excited to be moderating a panel on institutional perspectives regarding sexual assault. There’s also a student debate planned on the topic that “That this house supports the rise of a culture that assumes sex positivity”, informed by Mariana Podestá-Diverio’s amazing article in Archer magazine ‘Enforced sex positivity and the need for self reflection in the queer community.’
Last but certainly not least, the investigation into sexual assault and harassment that started last year following the Alexander Wright case is starting to come together. With consultation from students, Sophia Barnes has put together a draft survey that will be presented to Elizabeth Broderick next week for independent administering. The launch is a little later than was initially proposed, but will be with a screening of ‘The Hunting Ground’, a US documentary about institutional responses to sexual assault – stay tuned for more details.
That’s all for now, until next time!
Vice President’s Report
I’ve been abandoned! Daniel has left Veep in my hands alone to go and pursue great things off in the United States, so I’ll be heading up this portfolio alone for the rest of my term (watch out!)
I’m going to be focusing hard on moving our academic transcripts to an online-accessible, yet still official format, which will hopefully be subsidised by the University. All this would mean for the Uni is a $12K setup fee, with a mere $6K annual fee: a negligible cost for the University that will make a huge difference to students.
This means that we’ll be able to scrap that $10 transcript fee, plus you won’t have to go in to pick it up: it’ll be all online. Things are looking in favour of this approach and I’m trying to get some time locked in to discuss this with Michael Spence and other relevant stakeholders to discuss this prospect soon.
If you’d like to get in contact with me to discuss this or any other issue, please feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org – this change is something that I wanted to bring through for all students, so if you have anything to add, I want to hear it!
In addition to this, I am going to be creating a comprehensive handover document for future Vice Presidents of the SRC. When I came into this role, my vision was to bring some clarity and accountability to VP and the council at large, which I hope to encourage by clearly and thoroughly outlining the expectations and responsibilities the role carries. Again, if you’d like to discuss anything with me, please do get in touch!