So it’s been a big week in the University and in Australian politics. We’ve seen the introduction of a new Prime Minister and a significant reshuffle of the cabinet within the Coalition Government. What does this mean? Nothing. It means nothing. It means the agenda of a neo-liberal government will continue to be pushed. It means education must still remain a conversation within the student body and remain a priority for student activists to get involved in defeating the money-grabbing attacks forced onto students by a majority of people who profited from a free education. It means there will still be little help for marginalised groups in the Australian society and that we have a responsibility to involve ourselves in demonstrations against this in the name of quality education and equality amongst our fellow human beings.
Our University has fallen in step with the Coalition Government on numerous occasions, including the Vice-Chancellor, himself, lobbying Federal Ministers for fee deregulation. When the bill to deregulate universities failed twice in the Senate, he pursued with his own agenda of moving our University towards four-year degrees, forcing the hands of students to gain even more debt than what they have with the current HECS system. There has been talk about improving the quality of equity scholarships to compensate for this however, personally, I find it unrealistic to have a limited number of students who are able to gain a quality education with assistance rather than having the integrity to step out of the comfort zone of the Group of Eight University network and join the many others around the country fighting for the right to a free education which would benefit all.
Wom*n’s Officers’ Report
Despite elections, the Wom*n’s Collective has powered on. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have been very committed to the Collective, I no longer fear turning up to a meeting with a full agenda and no-one to talk to! Xiaoran and I have been doing different projects this semester to accommodate our different interests and working styles. As such, I’ll try and report back on her work, but it might not be ideal!
Last Thursday Xiaoran held an Anti-Violence Fundraiser for Hey Sis! at The Settlement in Redfern, with a screening of ‘Black Panther Woman’, which tells the life story of Indigenous activist, Marlene Cummins. Cummins spoke at a panel after the event, along with other esteemed speakers—Karen Willis from Rape & Domestic Violence Australia, Moo Baulch and Mehreen Faruqi.
By all accounts it was a successful event, raising $350 for the Full Stop Foundation. Congratulations to Xiaoran and all those in the organising Collective. Xiaoran has also organised a workshop with the Women of Colour Collective on Race and Feminism, to be held before you read this!
As a perfect follow up to the Anti-Sexual Violence Fundraiser, I’ve been working with the Law Society to host a workshop, ‘Responding With Compassion’, which teaches people how to respond when someone discloses an experience of sexual assault. The workshop is being run by Karen Willis from the panel. It is $10 at the door to recoup our costs, but please email firstname.lastname@example.org if that cost would stop you attending. It will be held on Thursday 24th of September from 4.30pm-5.30pm in the Law Lounge.
Anna—one of the aforementioned committed Collective members, and I, travelled to Penrith High School last Monday. It was probably the shortest and most productive road trip I have ever been on. We got permission from the wonderful principal to run two intersectionality workshops at the school in October! We have also confirmed the same workshop at Leichhardt High School. Pretty keen to keep educating students on the joys of feminism, with the hope they will join SRC Collectives in future!
Wom*n of Colour Collective Report
This semester, the Wom*n of Colour Collective has been prospering along! We have a workshop planned with the Wom*n’s Collective for Tuesday 22nd of September, loosely based on a workshop I did for NOWSA, the conference for the National Organisation of Women Students Australia, in Hobart earlier this year.
The workshop is a Race 101 workshop, running through basic principles of racism and how it manifests, whiteness and white privilege, and white feminism. We hope to stress how thinking about these issues can provide a springboard for new ideas of how to engage with each other in organising spaces. We’ll be touching on the idea of white fragility too, and how emotional response can be deployed to prevent people being accountable for their whiteness. Organised by Shareeka Helaluddin, Aulina Chaudhuri and I, the workshop will be a great space for discussion!
Part of being a member of the WoC Collective (as well as the numerous other themed WoC Facebook groups…) is realising how important these communities can be as spaces to express ourselves and share our thoughts. The WoC Collective online space is one I trust more than others to have empathy and compassion for whatever experiences I might be going through. This acceptance and warmth is really strengthening and makes it possible to extend ourselves and help each other.
The Combahee River Collective Statement of 1974, written by an organising collective of black feminist women, has the powerful statement:
If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.
Though this statement is not necessarily cross-contextual, its sentiment holds in the potential that collectives have when they are focused around black and Indigenous wom*n, brown wom*n, and other wom*n who are marginalised by white supremacy in Australia and/or globally. Our connections to our politics through families, ethnicities, and identification with each other creates something powerful that can be used: political love and care for people and the world around us. WoC Collective will hopefully continue to operate from that place of political nurturing for any wom*n alienated from the whiteness and toxic masculinity of other political spaces.
Queer Action Collective Report
Honi Soit Candidate
The past few weeks we have seen some victories and inspiring action coming from the campaigns of the Queer Action Collective and Queerkats. After years of being lobbied, the USU announced All Gender bathrooms will soon be open in their buildings. Last Thursday, QueerKats hosted a rally/teach-in on Eastern Avenue as a part of an ongoing preferred names campaign. The rally was very successful, drawing a crowd and featuring many inspiring and enlightening speeches from students, staff and prominent figures. These events have demonstrated the potency of grassroots level activism. We will continue with our gender neutral bathrooms and preferred names campaigns as well as other campaigns to raise awareness and fight for issues relating to queer students at university and in society. This week is Bi-awareness week and Wednesday is Bi-visibility day. This is an important day to raise awareness of issues surrounding the erasure of Bi, pan and fluid identities in the queer community but also to celebrate the diversity that people of these attractions contribute to our community.