Last week myself, the casework team and the Women’s Officers were busy responding the University’s botched sexual assault reporting portal. In case you haven’t been following the news, the University of Sydney has developed an online portal for students to report their experiences of sexual assault, and has been criticised by the SRC as “unethical and irresponsible” due to a series of egregious flaws. The portal was thrown together in less than a month in order to be released in time for the anniversary of the Australian Human Rights Commission ‘Change the Course’ report.
It also sets word limits on survivor’s stories, only current students and staff can lodge reports, and has no clear safeguards around which staff can access the portal’s sensitive data.
It is clear that this portal is not trauma-informed and does not restore power and control to survivors. Placing arbitrary restrictions on how survivors express themselves undermines survivors and exacerbates trauma.
Total anonymity is not at all ensured, as students must access the portal through their university log-in, with no sense of clarity as to who is accessing survivors’ reports. This also excludes members of the public who may need to report, such as a year 12 student raped at a college formal.
The portal also asks survivors for their gender, sexuality and post-assault therapeutic history.
This is an intrusion and irrelevant to how the University processes the complaint. Students should not feel like their ability to lodge a complaint is conditional on their willingness to have their privacy violated.
Asking about therapeutic history is as appropriate as asking about what medical services they might have accessed post-assault such as STI testing or abortion.
The primary purpose of the reporting portal is for survivors to lodge complaints – not to survey them for internal data analysis purposes.
The Students’ Representative Council pushed for the University to delay the release of the portal and to consult with experts and staff in its development. University management failed to act on any of the major concerns, instead pushing ahead with releasing the portal.
As a result of the rushed release, the portal was released with additional flaws – a student was transferred to the staff not student reporting options. And the link to the reporting portal was broken for days after the Wednesday 1 August release.
We are now in talks with senior management to find out how this occurred and will continue pushing for our recommended changes to the portal, including consultation from experts.
Finally, nominations for the SRC’s annual elections are officially open. These elections will determine the new President of the SRC, the editors of Honi Soit, the councillors for the 91st SRC Council as well as your delegates to the National Union of Students. If you have ever wanted to get more involved in the SRC this is your chance. You can visit srcusyd.net.au/elections/ for more information.
Feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any concerns or wish to get involved with the SRC. I wish you the best of luck for the year ahead and look forward to seeing you on the streets!
Jazzlyn Breen and Ray Prout
Hello semester 2, the queer action collective would just like to reiterate to all conservatives reading this that we are still angry communists intent on destroying all that is good.
Over the break members of our collective attended 3 separate conferences; the National Education conference in Adelaide, Students of Sustainability conference in Melbourne and Queer Collaborations in Queensland. These conferences provided the opportunity for student representatives and collective members alike to acquire new information which will aid them in their future activism and leadership. The opportunity to connect with activist and student leaders on a national level is an opportunity which will allow for grater organising and activism across campuses in the future.
In week one of uni collective members and office bearers attended and spoke at the National Day of Action rally against sexual violence on campus. As a collective we continue to provide our support to survivors. We condemn the universities lack of real, meaningful action to stamp out sexual violence on campus.
Our plans for the rest of the semester include interaction with the anti Ramsay centre campaign. As a collective we understand that it was western imperialism and capitalism which allowed homophobia and transphobia to grow and spread throughout the globe. It was spread to places such as Australia and the countries of Africa which previously enjoyed a wide gender diversity and freedom of sexual expression, but now carry the colonial legacy of homophobia which exists in laws and social norms. These imposed structures erase the indigenous cultural acceptance of diverse gender and sexual identities. This is just one of the reasons we are opposed to a centre buying a slot in the education system to teach content which is “not merely about Western civilisation but in favour of it” as explained by Tony Abbott, who happens to be a director of the Ramsay centre.
As a collective we will also continue our support of refugee activism as the crisis of offshore detention centres continues to remain unchanged and as horrific as ever.
In love and rage,
Jazzlyn Breen and Ray Prout
Disabilities & Carers Officers
Robin Eames, Mollie Galvin and Ren Rennie
In 1979, Joan Hume led a protest of wheelchair users and supportive allies at the opening of the inaccessible Eastern Suburbs Railway, the first of its kind in Australia. The premier who presided over the opening later said that the protest inspired him to introduce the first wheelchair accessible taxi service in Australia.
In the 1990s, Bronwyn Moye led a protest of Sydney wheelchair users who blocked off Broadway to protest bus inaccessibility.
In 2015, after years of campaigning and a petition with 10,000 signatures, ONE lift was installed at Redfern station. The other 10 platforms are still inaccessible.
Our buses and trains are only (partially) accessible because of the work of our activist forebears. The work isn’t done yet! 45% of Sydney’s train network is still inaccessible to wheelchair users. Much of our public transport infrastructure is designed in a way that is dangerous for people who are blind or have low vision, due to things like lack of audible announcements and haphazard placement of tactile paving.
We’re hoping to organise this semester around public transport inaccessibility in general and Redfern station inaccessibility in particular. If you’d like to get involved, keep an eye on our Facebook page (USyd SRC Disabilities Collective & Caregivers Network) and the Lift Redfern Station Campaign – Make Redfern Station Accessible Facebook page.
In brighter news, we’re delighted to announce that for the first time ever the Disabilities Collective will be producing an autonomous issue of Honi Soit. The issue will be released during Disability Inclusion Week (3-7 September). If you’d like to be involved in the editorial team, or you would like to write or create art for the issue, chuck us an email at email@example.com. We’ll be posting a Facebook event soon with a call for editors & contributors.
Love & solidarity,
The 2018 Disabilities Collective Officebearers
Robin Eames, Mollie Galvin, and Ren Rennie