The Macquarie University Students’ Representative Council (SRC) have banned LGBTQI+ rights motions from being discussed in council meetings. The MQ Queer Collective (QueerCo) were also prevented from entering the meeting. The ban follows several months of student activists campaigning to move a motion calling on the SRC to oppose Mark Latham’s controversial Religious Discriminations Bill.
To contextualise, MQ SRC runs differently to USyd’s, the most obvious difference being that the MQ SRC is presided over by a Chairperson rather than a President. At MQ, the Chairperson is not democratically elected by the student body, and is not a student at all. Additionally, Honi understands that the SRC is largely composed of Liberals and Nationals, who maintain “a staunchly anti-activism viewpoint.”
The Chair’s justification for banning the motion was that “matters discussed by SRC must refer to matters affecting student experience at MQ”, implying that the Religious Discriminations Bill is irrelevant to students.
Amy Lamont is one of the elected student representatives on the MQ SRC Council who has been pushing for the SRC to support queer students against the Religious Discriminations bill for the past several months. Lamont criticised the ban on LGBTQI+ motions, noting that “Macquarie Students don’t stop existing once they walk off campus. The passing of the Religious Discrimination Bill will lower the bar for how LGBTI+ people should be treated in society”.
“This motion has been banned, not because it’s unconstitutional or that students don’t care, it’s because even discussing left wing issues gets in the way of what the Alliance (a faction of Liberals and other conservative bureaucrats) want their SRC to be,” Lamont told Honi.
Jay Muir, President of MQ QueerCo, spoke to Honi about the difficulties faced by queer activists who have had their voices blocked in MQ’s student representative body. Unlike USyd’s Queer Action Collective, QueerCo exist independently of the SRC and do not receive any support or funding from the SRC.
“What the SRC says is affecting students or not is just whatever they don’t want to talk about,” says Muir. “It will drastically change education and Macquarie has a huge number of students working to become teachers. Another reason is that Macquarie has a large and active queer community who will be affected by this bill.”
According to emails obtained by Honi, the Chair declined the request of QueerCo to attend the SRC meeting. The MQ SRC does not allow spectators, regardless of whether they are a student of MQ. All spectators must be approved by the Chairperson, who is neither a student nor democratically elected in a student election.
The Chair’s response to QueerCo read:
“The meetings of the SRC are closed to the public… It is the policy of the SRC to only grant waivers to this requirement in the circumstance that the SRC invites a guest to attend for the purposes of providing specific information or advice to the SRC. As such your request to attend has not been approved.”
Among those denied entry to the SRC were members of QueerCo, education activists and reporters from MQ’s student newspaper Grapeshot. Lamont also noted that “The [MQ] SRC was set up by management, similar to the Latrobe Student Association that is trying to replace the student union.”
The council’s decision to disallow QueerCo’s attendance and any discussion of the LGBTQI+ motion has incited further tensions with student activists at MQ. Further, this recent ban raises concerns around the MQ SRC regarding the opacity of their functioning as well as their unwillingness to support activists in their fight against queerphobia: an important function of student councils everywhere.
An open letter dissenting to the SRC’s decisions has been signed by over 180 MQ students. Despite the constraints of lockdown, Muir told Honi that QueerCo is hoping to team up with larger activism groups like Community Action for Rainbow Rights as they continue to fight the Religious Discriminations bill.
Speaking to the future of the campaign against the Religious Discrimination bill, Lamont said: “The SRC Religious Discriminations Bill needs to be fought in all the ways. We will continue the campaign too, but getting elected to this position was about raising the profile for activists on campus, not just to leave everything to SRC meetings.”
Sign the open letter support queer activists at MQ here.