Challenging Transphobia on Campus

It’s getting more common now to see symbols of support for the queer community, such as rainbows and marriage equality posters. But it’s rare to see something that directly addresses and concerns people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes, and that’s why we were really excited when Cat Rose emailed us about the anti-trans*phobia stickers. We knew they would be a really effective way to make the USyd community think more about trans* and gender-diverse issues, as they advocate for respectful behaviour in bathrooms, and send a clear message that any harassment based on gender presentation is unacceptable and must be reported.

Dishearteningly, people went to extraordinary efforts to remove the stickers, sometimes just hours after we had put them up. They were scratched off, drawn on, and in one case, covered in toilet paper. This behaviour is really disgusting. Now the vandalised stickers send an explicitly queerphobic message, potentially causing gender-diverse people to feel less safe in bathrooms. It is also extremely troubling that most of the vandalism has occurred in the female bathrooms, raising concerns about gender policing in women’s spaces. This is an issue that the Women’s Collective and the Queer Collective intend to jointly address. (EDIT: Unfortunateley, over the past 2 weeks, the stickers in men’s bathrooms have also been vandalised).

We expected the stickers to cause some controversy. Bathrooms breed a culture of ostracism for anyone who doesn’t conform to the gender binary, which is clearly defined by the normative symbols on men’s and women’s bathroom doors. We found that the stickers’ message “I’m here to pee, not to be gender stereotyped” elicited negative reactions in public bathrooms, in an appalling reflection of the trans*phobia in our society.

But the vandalism actually shows that this campaign is working, in the sense that the stickers challenge people to question their assumptions and prejudices about gender stereotypes. It also testifies the reality of these prejudices, sparking anger among allies. We have been approached on numerous occasions by people who want to express their support, and members of the Women’s Collective have been very enthusiastically helping us replace all of the damaged stickers. While this campaign alone can not change our culture, hopefully it will continue to challenge cis-normativity in our society

Eleanor Barz (SRC Queer Officer 2013)

Hannah Smith invites wom*n to Reclaim The Night in 2013

Hi all!
A quick update on what the Wom*n’s collective has been up to in the last few weeks of semester.

Last week, we held Knightess, which is a wom*n’s performance night aimed at redressing the underrepresentation of wom*n in the performing arts.
It was held at Hermann’s bar and was a fantastic night of music performances, drama and poetry. It was widely attended and was a great way of getting wom*n’s voices out there as well as raising the profile of the women’s collective.

We also recently voted to put an asterisk in the place of the ‘e’ in women in order to make our collective more inclusive. There will be more information and explanation around this decision at a later date.

Being the end of the year we also voted on new wom*n’s officers, Congratulations to our new representatives who you will be hearing from soon.
What is noteworthy is that our collective had it’s first contested election in recent history, We believe this is a testament to the strength of Wom*n’s Collective and the passion of the wom*n within it.

Finally, some of us are in the final planning stages of Reclaim the Night which will be held this Saturday, 26th October. If you are available to come along, please do. Reclaim is an annual protest against violence against wom*n and has been organised by two fantastic Sydney Uni wom*n this year.

It will begin with a picnic from 3.30 at Prince Alfred Park, Central and feature fantastic performers and speakers. The march will begin at approximately 7pm and will be an autonomous wom*n’s march.

Once again, if you wish to get involved or have question, feel free to get into contact with us at usydwomenscollective@gmail.com

Sarah Chuah gives us the run down on how to register with Disability Services at USYD

It has been a huge privilege being involved with the Disabilities & Carers Collective this year. Representing the interests of students with disabilities and highlighting carers’ issues in higher education has been incredibly satisfying, and meeting so many wonderfully strong, exceptional students who identify as having a disability along the way has been rewarding and inspiring.

As you are probably aware, ‘disability’ comes in many forms, and is an umbrella term for any impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions that arise as a result of a mismatch between personal, social and environmental circumstances.

The experience of ‘disability’ is lessened in an environment that accommodates for impairments. The majority of disabilities are not visible because in addition to physical disability, impairments may also be intellectual, psychological, neurological, medical, learning or sensory based.

At Sydney University there are around 1700 students registered with Disability Services. This figure is less than the total number of students identifying as having a disability at enrollment, which means it is likely that many students may not getting the support and provisions they need and are entitled to. Reasons for this are varied, but may include a fear of stigma or a reluctance to disclose information about the nature of their impairment.

If you are a student who identifies as having a disability, we would love to hear about your experience studying at Sydney University. We are collecting data through a brief online survey. You DO NOT NEED to be registered with Disability Services to complete this survey.
This anonymous survey data will be used to communicate students’ experiences and opinions with the University to inform policy and decision-making.
If you haven’t joined us before, please come along to our last meeting for the year on Wednesday 30 October 12 pm at  New Law School Seminar Room 442.
Carers will also meet for the last time in Week 13, with day and time to be confirmed. If you would like to be involved, send me an email for more information.

Tenaya Alattas defends the importance of un-glamorous grassroots activism

Of significance this year to the education department has been the 7 days of industrial action undertaken by staff at Sydney University.

There are many tensions inherent in the traditional narrative given by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and other SRC office bearers including assumptions about the desired return to some previous golden age, or the problems of a promised future itself. More so is the lack of ability to respond reflexively to this period of (class) struggle in anything but a celebratory light.

What one loses in this is the fact that many students failed to engage or even understand the basis of their staff on strike. This is not because students are stupid, apathetic or lacking in empathy.

But for many a student of more pressing concern is:  Where will we live? How will we be able to afford such expensive rent in Sydney? How will we find jobs that pay enough so that we can enjoy ourselves and still live in comfort? Will we pay for rent or food this week? When will we pay back our student debt? How?
So, who’s at fault for the poverty of student movement? Are the student politicians to blame whose activism propped up conveniently around election times? A spectacle largely consisting of drab bureaucrats-in-training seeking to undercut each other on who could deliver the most alcohol.

Is the left to blame? Did the pickets begin to feel like the ritualistic repetition of demonstrations without purpose, a rally or march, operating under a logic of registration of dissent, that if somehow the right number of voices were raised, we would change things.

As Education Officer I think it is important to impress that as a student at Sydney University, we have #nofuture. This is not as mighty or noble an idea of immiseration, nor is it a lofty ideal espousing a return to times once past of #freeeducation. Rather it’s the sober acknowledgement that ‘housing, higher education, debt, no future, your life getting worse forever, unless we do something together as a political project #jdemoley”. Privatising debt, deregulating fees, precarious insecure casualised employment (like that of our teachers) or minimum wage, no collective bargaining and no safety net.

Given that one of the first effects we’ll see from the Abbott agenda is a widening inability to meet basic costs of living, this means projects like eviction resistance, food projects, simple, less glamorous activities which are nevertheless the heart of building an effective resistance.

Lastly I would like to express my solidarity to all those arrested during the strikes. With 17 arrests, 11 court trials it not just the charges themselves, nor the outrageous prospect of being jailed for having the temerity to protest but the suspension of life between charge and verdict which is punitive.

Many of those arrested at the strike have not yet faced trial, meaning extraordinary gaps between charge and trial process. In this time, the very possibility of a future, a life, the ability to travel, or to study is suspended. So even if we have #nofuture as part of the left we must come to understand how vital it is that we defend those victimised by the courts, deprived of their liberty, that we do not sit licking our wounds. The strike is not ever over. So, on December 2, 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11 come to the Downing Centre to demonstrate solidarity with those arrested.

David Pink waxes lyrical on the role of the SRC in the resurgence of student activism

It feels strange to be writing this! Given this is my final report, I wanted to reflect on the tremendous achievements we’ve had over the past two years.
The SRC is a very different beast to the one I first became involved in. In my first year the SRC had been following a long course of being mostly concerned with the delivery of services to the student body – legal assistance, social work, secondhand books, etc.

These are valuable in and of themselves, but they neglect the true role of a student union, which is to organise the student body and campaign for student rights. A lot of first- and second-years getting involved in the SRC this year have no idea just how ‘dead’ student activism was in NSW when I came to uni in 2011.
This was the scenario: there was this strange mythology about the 3000-strong anti-VSU demonstrations of 2006 which viewed them as a glorious but bygone era of student protest, now as historically distant as the moratoriums of 1970s Vietnam War activists.

We were told that students no longer engaged with these sorts of tactics. The SRC didn’t organise rallies anymore. Its most recent demonstration had been in 2009 and was a flop: a 50-person march down George Street about student hunger which garnered little to no media attention or raising of student political consciousness.

The National Union of Students still organised so-called ‘National Days of Action’, but they had degenerated into ‘noodle day’ and the farce of my first year which involved a patronising sausage sizzle and the handing out of novelty cheques.

The enviro collective was still strong, and the anti-racism collective still did good work, but there was no broad-based education movement on campus. Students, even in the Arts and Law faculties, didn’t have any idea the SRC existed.

As an Education Officer at the SRC I was part of a team of people, including Tim Scriven, Freya Bundey and Evan Gray, who wanted to see the SRC transform into a mass campaigning union, which could mobilise thousands of students out to rallies and actions, empower and train people as activists, and co-ordinate students so they could take an active role in grassroots community campaigns run with the backing of the SRC’s huge financial resource.

I helped set up the Education Action Group (EAG), which had not met for two years, and in the wake of the university’s announcement of cuts to staff we opened up the direction of the campaign to any student who wanted to turn up.

We had literally no existing practice to go off, but the experiment worked. By having weekly meetings, daily stalls, lecture bashes, petitions, leaflet bombing and flyering against the cuts we turned out a thousand students to a demonstration within the first few weeks of semester.

We occupied the Dean of Arts’ office, then tried to occupy the Senate. There had not been an occupation in 10 years. The EAG started having meetings of 50 to 80 people and became an absolute powerhouse. The campaign worked and we helped save hundreds of staff from losing their jobs. Campaigns that actually worked were virtually unknown at that stage. This is all common practice now. Our alliances with staff unions, the NTEU and CPSU, have been absolutely essential. As we saw in the strikes, when staff and students unite we are unbeatable.

What we have now is a mass, campaigning union which students know about and actively participate in. We’re not at the 1970s yet, or even the 1990s, but we’re on the right course.

Now for the thank yous…

My biggest thank you goes to Casey Thompson. You have been an absolute powerhouse as Education Officer. You are literally the most organised activist I have ever met, the hardest working, the most consistently capable at getting things done. There is no one more principled than you. There is not a single person more politically certain about what she believes in.  Thank you for being an amazing partner and a fantastic student activist, a committed socialist and a daring fighter. I hope that we will be fighting together for the rest of our lives.

My second biggest thank you goes to my ideological inspiration: Tim Scriven. Tim, you are a creative and formidable intelligence, whose vision of a student movement which actually went out and organised demonstrations, occupations, and worked in a mass alliance between workers and students, is the absolute guide to everything I’ve ever done as an activist. You have helped me more than anybody develop as an individual, and discover my theory of change.
Thank you to all the other activists on the radical left I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Thank you to Evan, to Ed, to Tenaya, to Freya, to Erima, to Tom, to Kieran, to Brigitte.

You are phenomenal at what you do, and I have nothing but respect for it. Thank you to Dylan, Jen, John, Alisha, Robby, Todd and everyone else in Unity – I don’t always agree with you politically, but you’ve got good hearts and you’re wonderful people.

Thank you to Sydney Labor Students. I never thought that when all of us met in a Chinese restaurant at Haymarket, with a sick feeling at the bottom of our stomachs at everything wrong with NLS, that our dream of a more democratic student Labor caucus that cared about socialism and activism rather than careerism, would actually be realised. Despite the headkicking, we’re still here and no one will ever move us. I’d like to thank all the old hats, from Max, to the other Max, to Leon, to Jeremy, to Pete, to Alex, to the other Alex, to Chari, to Seb,  to Sam, to James, to Georgia, to Harry and to Vivian. I’m inspired by our first-years, like Pip, Max H, Chiara, Oliver, Naaman, Kenan, Harry and everyone else (sorry to anyone I’ve missed!).

Good luck to Jen as Pres next year. You have a huge job, but I’m sure you’ll be a fantastic student leader. Don’t take anybody’s flack. You’ll kick ass.

Access and Inclusion: Carers in Higher Education

Prepared by the Students’ Representative Council Disabilities & Carers Collective 2013

Contents

Introduction Carers Australia …………………………………..3
Disabilities & Carers Collective ………………3

Who are Carers?

Definition …………………………………………….4
Why do they care? ………………………………4
Three tips from carers …………………………..4
Caring in all forms………………………………..4

Carers & Higher Education 

How caring affects students ………………….6

The Solution

How Universities can help …………………….8

Recommendations

Recognition and awareness………………….10
Access and inclusion …………………………..10

Personal Stories

Anna. …………………………………………………5
Natalie ……………………………………………….6
Mel …………………………………………………….7
Yaz …………………………………………………….7
Teena …………………………………………………8
Claire …………………………………………………9
Sally…………………………………………………..11

Related Information & Sources…………….11

Contributors

Thanks to the student carers who took extra time out of their schedules to contribute to the creation of this booklet. Sarah Chuah, Jasmin Camdzic, Melanie Halliday and Teena Roberts. Thanks also to the Staff at the Students’ Representative Council University of Sydney for their support.
Special thank you to Carers Australia, Students’ Representative Council University of Sydney for financial assistance, and Kallumn Chase Pty Limited for kindly allowing us to use their resources.

Disabilities & Carers Collective
Students’ Representative Council, The University of Sydney,
Level 1, Wentworth Building, G01, University of Sydney, NSW 2006 disabilities.officers@src.usyd.edu.au | srcusyd.net.au/disabilitiesandcarers facebook.com/USYDdisabilities.carers

Contact

Sarah Chuah: 0419 193 994
Jasmin Camdzic: 0403 800 595

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Introduction

Carers Australia

In Australia there are over 2.6 million people who care for family or friends with a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness, alcohol or other drug issue or those who are frail aged. Over 360,000 of these are young carers between the ages of 15 and 25.

Many carers emphasise the positive side of caring. However, when inadequately supported, health and wellbeing can be adversely affected.

The impact of the caring role on participation in education can be significant. For example, young carers are less likely to have completed year 12 (or an equivalent) than their peers, and over 60 per cent of primary carers aged 15-24 years are not studying. Research shows that isolation and social exclusion are major issues for carers, and it is not uncommon for student carers in tertiary
education to withdraw from their studies and from the social aspects of university life due to the demands of their caring role.

This can have a significant detrimental effect on carers’ future opportunities, with those aged 20 to 24 years more likely than their peers to be unemployed or not in the labour force.

In order to complete their studies, students who are carers require: recognition and greater understanding of their caring role and its impact on undertaking study; flexibility to meet attendance and assessment requirements; and additional support to help balance their caring responsibilities with study commitments

Carers Australia warmly welcomes the initiative of the University of Sydney’s Disabilities and Carers Collective in developing this booklet to raise the profile of student carers and to identify both the need and the means to better support them during their time at tertiary education.

Ara Cresswell
Chief Executive Officer
Carers Australia

Disabilities & Carers Collective

This year we set out to raise the profile of student carers and campaign for carers’ right to equitable education. As primary carers, we see a serious deficiency in the support extended to carers
who value their education but often lack the opportunity and flexibility necessary to realise their educational aspirations and fulfil their potential.

The data gathered from our Student Carers Survey conducted this year reflects how many carers have substantial difficulty balancing their study and care commitments, particularly at times when their care giving demands are intensified. While many Australian universities recognise and support staff needs as carers, there is a consistent lack of formal acknowledgement and virtually no explicit policies addressing unique needs of student carers.

We have put together this booklet to bring student carers’ issues to the fore so that decision-makers may become aware of what it means to be a student who cares and how policy can powerfully affect carers’ capacity to move forward beyond the caring role through higher education.

Sarah Chuah & Jasmin Camdzic
Disabilities Officers 2013, University of Sydney SRC, Disabilities & Carers Collective.

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Who are Carers?

Definition

The term ‘Carer’ refers to anyone who provides ongoing (or likely to be ongoing, for at least six months) informal support, including help or supervision, to persons with disabilities, long term conditions, or older people.1 Examples of care may include domestic, financial, practical or medical management, personal care and emotional support.

Caring duties may be shared – this impacts whether a person is the primary or secondary carer for an individual and may be carried out on a part-time or full-time basis.

Why do they care?

The most common reasons for informal care-giving are a lack of accessible and sufficient services that are affordable, as well as a sense of family obligation and expectations of responsibility.4

Caring in all forms

Caring roles exist across a diverse range of relationships. Although some forms of caring, such as that within the traditional family unit may be more socially acknowledged, caring responsibilities may also arise amongst indigenous people with kinship relations, those with extended family networks, and those otherwise outside traditional heterosexual couple units, such as those caring for friends.

Those in non-traditional caring roles may experience difficulty in having their caring roles recognised, and may face discrimination as carers when their complex situations are not understood.

Three Tips from Carers

1. Carers are, above all else, people and their role in society should be appreciated. Value the duties carers performmand don’t belittle their contribution to their community, study, work or their family. There is no shame in being a carer unless their work is not valued and recognised.

2. When talking with us, be aware that the term “carer” is a label, and where possible use our given name or title and surname. For some carers, this label is seen as irrelevant or redundant, as significant caring commitments may be seen as inherent to their relationships with others.

3. We come from diverse backgrounds and perform many different roles apart from being a carer. Appreciate our individuality; recognise that we offer a wide range of experiences and have a varied range of talents. We are people first and foremost.

Key issues experienced by young carers include:5

• Lack of recognition and awareness

• Barriers to engaging in education

• Mental health – reduced emotional and social wellbeing

There are 2.6 million carers in Australia3

Anna* 26, Part time University of Sydney cares for her partner’s mother

During my six years at university I have been the primary carer for my partner’s mother through her treatment for bowel cancer, heart failure, kidney failure, tumours, persistent and acute leg ulcers and numerous aggressive infections.

These conditions mean that whilst attending classes and undertaking assessments, I must also supervise medication administration, carry out personal care needs such as bathing and household tasks including cooking, cleaning and shopping. As her health fluctuates I must also be present at medical appointments, and apply medical aid at times of increased need. Accessing support during times when my care needs are intensified through my university’s special consideration policy is difficult and impractical, because each time something happens (which is often) I must obtain a medical

certificate from doctors or submit a statutory declaration. In the past I have had great difficulty getting a doctor’s certificate when it is not my own illness that is being attended to (or the main priority in critical situations), and finding a JP to witness a statutory declaration is an added stress because it is often time consuming when I am already short on time.

My caring duties take away time from studying and socialising, and really affect me psychologically. I find myself distracted, and frustrated, being unable to focus on learning material at crucial times. I believe that carers undertaking tertiary education should be fully acknowledged and supported in their efforts by their educational institution.

“Care-giving is rewarding at times… but contributes to the feeling of isolation from other students.”

Carers’ work allows persons with disabilities or long term illness to remain in their community, and older people to ‘age in place’.2

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Carers and Higher Education

How caring affects students Carers experience lower rates of education participation, success and attainment than
non-carers.6

While caring can be a very positive and rewarding experience, care-giving responsibilities can also place substantial emotional stress and practical demands on the carer most, if not all of their time, restricting the
amount of time that can be dedicated to study. This can also result in student carers withdrawing from social engagements, adding to the feeling of isolation and
preventing the creation of a support network of peers.

Student carers share their stories…

Natalie*, 19, full-time, University of Sydney cares for her mother and grandmother

I provide care for my mother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder eight years ago, and for my grandmother who has dementia and also lives with us. Mum has been unable to work the past five years and struggles with motivation to do things most days.

I often find myself doing the majority of domestic duties including the household cleaning, laundry and cooking because my mother is unable to do these things well. I also help my mother organise her day, write shopping lists and decide what domestic duties need doing on any given day.
In addition to this I manage my grandmother’s appointments and accompany her to them when needed.

I don’t consider myself a ‘carer’ as such – I’m just really fulfilling my duties as daughter and granddaughter, however providing this support takes a large emotional/psychological toll, especially around exam periods when I get very stressed, angry, and frustrated. At times I feel that I’m not reaching my full potential, but you learn to cope.

As I try to balance my care commitments with university, casual employment, and a social life, studying can become very stressful. The hardest times are when my mother is hospitalised.

Visiting my mother in hospital is distressing in itself, and especially difficult with the added burden of having to carry out absolutely every domestic duty during this time. Sometimes I miss lectures because of my family’s needs but always try to catch up at a later date.

“I believe my university education is essential to my future and will lead me to be able to assist my family in more ways.”

I think a formalised adjustment system should assist carers with more flexible attendance arrangements. I believe all lectures should be recorded for the times when it’s simply too hard to get to class, and more subjects’ content should be available online.

I believe these formal adjustments would be an excellent way to acknowledge all the people out there who are carers, whose studies often come second to caring for another person, and would also be a great way for them to get support, if they need it.

Limited education and employment opportunity resulting from one’s caring responsibilities means that many carers must rely on income support after they cease their caring role.7

Mel, 26, part-time, University of Sydney cares for her mum

I care for my mum full-time whilst also completing a postgrad research degree, part- time. My mum has a rare autoimmune disease that has recently caused her to go blind, lose feeling in her hands and feet, have recurrent infections, a colostomy, seizures, impaired memory and cognition.

Mum sometimes finds it hard to communicate with people and has poor balance causing her to fall a lot, which makes it hard for her to dress and bathe herself. With her loss of vision, she is also unable to get food, drinks and do her medication by herself. Mum’s health often deteriorates quickly and dramatically, so we have many trips to the hospital and ICU. Because of this she needs someone with her all the time. Living as part of a busy family and with someone who needs 24 hour care means that I often have to miss meetings

and conferences and don’t make adequate progress on my study.

“In the past I have had to suspend my degree and considered withdrawing many times as a result of my caring role.”

Caring for someone who requires so much help and whose future is so uncertain takes a considerable emotional and physical toll,
making it hard to concentrate on my studies. It also impacts on my ability to interact with my friends who are my support network.

Yaz, 40, part-time, University of Sydney cares for his disabled parents

I began providing care for my parents at 15 years of age when my father went blind from

glaucoma – this was a traumatic time for my family with the added burden of losing our main source of income.

Completing high school was a struggle as my mother’s health also began to fail and my caring duties increased. After a number of years I made the decision to enroll in university in order to improve the quality of life for both myself and my parents. I found myself relishing an environment that valued knowledge and critical thought, however during my degree, my mother’s health issues became increasingly difficult to manage, and without adequate support, the responsibility fell upon me to provide essential medical care.

During this period I did not acknowledge my role as a ‘carer’ and despite my efforts was unable to access community support services. Around this time I was also diagnosed with the same disease that caused my father’s blindness. Without any external support, my psychological health suffered and I finally withdrew from my degree.

After many years of struggle with my mother’s recurrent illnesses I now acknowledge the significant contribution I have made to my parents’ well-being and have managed to return to Sydney University.

Since re-enrolling, my father has developed dementia and I am battling my own difficulties with glaucoma, but despite this I am determined to complete my degree.

My experience caring for my parents has been difficult, but has shown me that I have the capability to navigate through trying circumstances and successfully accomplish what I set out to. It is my hope that other student carers out there need not struggle along as I have for many years, but instead find support from their communities and universities.

Carers need acknowledgement as well as moral and practical support so that they can reach their full potential, despite the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves.

“Due to the high level of care that was needed, I was unable to attend classes and manage my study workload but felt reluctant to seek help from teaching staff for fear of stigma and negative attitude.”

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The Solution

How universities can support carers Greater flexibility in course delivery is often needed for carers who find attending classes on campus, completing assignments and studying for exams overwhelming and monumental tasks when emotionally and physically exhausted from their care commitments.

University policies should accommodate the needs of carers by incorporating flexibility in terms of attendance requirements, assignment deadlines and the provision of out-of-school learning options, such as online lecture recordings or notetaking services.

Student carers feel they would greatly benefit from targeted university support including:

• Formal recognition

• Increased awareness of student carers’ presence at university
• Flexible education arrangements

• Financial support such as scholarships or bursaries

• Social networks for carers on campus

“Student carers should be given academic support; someone to liaise with lecturers and supervisors on their behalf, especially in times of crisis, and to help with tutoring, time management and organisation.” Mel, part-time student carer

Teena, 60, part-time, Deakin University cares for her husband

I am a full-time carer for my husband who has cancer and cardiac failure. While at present this does not entail personal care it does require considerable emotional and supportive care. I am required to attend all medical appointments and to administer medication on a strict routine. Some days are good and I can achieve my study commitments while other days I achieve none. Studying off campus has allowed me to juggle all commitments and still achieve good marks. Although it is a juggle, the faculty I am with has always shown tolerance and support when things are bad which has assisted me in continuing to learn and develop. It is invaluable to one’s sanity and academic achievement that the role and duties of carers

are fully acknowledged and appreciated by all areas of the tertiary sector.

“Carers play a very unique role and it is important that the support and tolerance shown to me by my faculty, such as assignment extensions, be available to all student carers.”

Claire, 23, part-time, University of Wollongong cares for her best friend and father

I care for my best friend of 18 years who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, and my father who has bowel cancer. I started studying at UOW in 2009 following my HSC where I expected to study full-time for 3 years, graduate, and find work. This has not yet happened. Five years later I am still studying on a part-time basis due to my caring responsibilities.

My father is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy to treat bowel cancer. He
got sick very suddenly in June last year and underwent radical surgery followed by twelve months of aggressive therapies. Dad needed round-the-clock care for the six weeks following his operation which coincided with final exams. Since then his needs have fluctuated, typically increasing with chemotherapy treatment every three weeks. In addition to this, my best friend from kindergarten has cerebral palsy and relies heavily on me for community access.

Caring for my dad and best friend means that I often must miss classes and exams, submit assessments late, and struggle to achieve the results I am capable of. I managed to pass three of the four subjects I have attempted in the last year, however, most were bare passes in comparison to my general high distinction average.

As it is my father’s illness which is affecting my studies, I have found it impossible to obtain special adjustments, as the university’s policy requires me to constantly provide medical certificates, which at the end of the day are too difficult to obtain given that I am spending all my time and energy looking after my dad. I considered deferring but decided not to as university was the only part of my life that was just for me. University helps me thrive on a personal level – I have a disability and mental health condition myself and need to stay focused in order to survive.

“A formalised adjustment system for carers would greatly benefit me.”

I currently have a reasonable adjustment document which allows me certain considerations when I am myself unwell – a similar system would be fantastic for carers attending University. With such a system, I could as a carer happily provide the initial documentation from my father’s specialist, and then not need to worry about continually obtaining medical certificates throughout the session.

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Recommendations

“ Only four per cent of primary young carers between the ages of 15 to 25 years remain in education compared to 23 per cent of young people in the same age group.” 8

Recognition and awareness

Formally recognise carers in university policy by 1 encompassing a broad consideration of caring
circumstances and addressing the impacts on study that can result from caring duties.

Facilitate greater recognition of student carers 2 amongst staff and students by providing relevant
information on the unique and valuable role carers play in society and the complex issues they may face in an education context.

Ensure teaching staff are appropriately resourced 3 and informed about university policy for student carers to effectively encourage equitable access to education.

Gather demographic data upon enrolment to 4 widely assess carers’ involvement and continued engagement in higher education.

Access and Inclusion

Provide resources specific to carer needs to assist them to successfully negotiate their studies, including:

Flexible study arrangements to accommodate the 1 often unpredictable and unique nature of care-giving.

Support services such as a caseworker/2 liaison officer to mediate between carers and their lecturers and/or supervisors, to help with alternative study arrangements, time management and organisation.

Direct financial assistance and scholarships to assist with the financial issues faced by student carers.

Support networks and groups on campus to encourage carers’ participation in university life, strengthen social support and target carer isolation.

Related information & sources

Carers Australia: www.carersaustralia.com.au

State and Territory Carers Associations:
Carers ACT: www.carersact.org.au/ Carers NT: www.carersnt.asn.au/ Carers NSW: www.carersnsw.asn.au/ Carers QLD: www.carersqld.asn.au/ Carers SA: www.carers-sa.asn.au/ Carers TAS: www.carerstas.org/
Carers Victoria: www.carersvictoria.org.au/ Carers WA : www.carerswa.asn.au/

Related Sources
Commonwealth of Australia (2011) National Carer Strategy, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

Prepared by the Students’ Representative Council, The University of Sydney Disabilities & Carers Collective 2013 srcusyd.net.au/disabilitiesandcarers facebook.com/USYDdisabilities.carers

References

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2008) A profile of carers in Australia.
2 Commonwealth of Australia (2011) National Carer Strategy.
3 ABS (2009) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers.
4 Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA ) (2009) Young carers in Australia: understanding the advantages and disadvantages of their care giving (Social Policy Research Paper No. 38).
5 Cass, B, Brennan, D, Thomson, C, Hill, T, Purcal, C, Hamilton, M, and Adamson, E (2011) Young carers: Social policy impacts of the caring responsibilities of children and young adults.
* Name has been changed to maintain privacy

6 Cass, B, Brennan, D, Thomson, C, Hill, T, Purcal, C, Hamilton, M, and Adamson, E. (2011) Young carers: Social policy impacts of the caring responsibilities of children and young adults.
* Name has been changed to maintain privacy

7 FaHCSIA (2012) Young carers in receipt of Carer Payment and Carer Allowance 2001 to 2006: characteristics, experiences and post-care outcomes (Occasional Paper No. 47).

8 Carers Australia, Young carers research project, 2002, p. 2.

 

Casey Thompson explains potential changes to tertiary education under the new Government

The recently elected Abbott-led Liberal/National Coalition government will dramatically restructure education policy. Whilst Abbott’s final policies have not yet been announced we have a reasonable expectation of the nature of these policies due to Abbott’s, and other Coalition members’, comments on their education policy intentions in the past.

1. The Coalition has stated it will uphold the Labor Government’s $2.3 billion worth of tertiary education cuts (which were intended to fund the Gonski review that Abbott, however, will not fund). (As reported by Stephanie Peatling in the Sydney Morning Herald on April 22, 2013). It has been estimated by USYD management that these cuts will translate to the removal of $50 million worth of annual government funding to Sydney University.

2. Abbott has indicated he will likely deregulate fees for tertiary education, seeing an expected 25% increase in costs.  The Government currently regulates the maximum amount that a tertiary institution can charge an individual for a degree – they place a ‘cap’ on the fees we can be charged. Abbott has suggested he wishes to remove this so that universities can charge students as much as they desire. The costs of subjects has already been increasing however, in the past, it has had a level it could not exceed. The Coalition will allow students to be charged more for a less high quality degree. This will make university education inaccessible to those who are not wealthy.

3. The Coalition has indicated it will very likely privatise the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS). This will mean your HECS loan will no longer be provided to you by the government but instead by a private capital firm. Unlike the government, these firms have as their primary interest profit maximisation, and thus HECS loans will become subject to the same treatment as all personal loans – repayments will include a market-set interest rate. This will mean that if you are charged $2,500 for a subject today, you will be repaying a much greater amount as interest has been added. A Bachelor of Arts graduate currently takes almost a decade to repay their debt; this timeframe will be extended as the debt is ever increasing. This, coupled with the deregulation of fees, will lead to an American-like education system where students are graduating with $100, 000+ worth of student debt. Many American graduates are unable to afford basic life necessities after university as the majority of their income is dedicated to repaying their student loan.

4. Christopher Pyne, the current Minister for Education, will not structure funding and policy in a way that will attempt to improve the quality of education. When commenting on school education  Pyne has claimed that he does not believe that large class sizes are a barrier to quality teaching and has said that attempting to reduce class sizes to improve the staff to student ratio would be a “waste of money” (as stated in an ABC LateLine interview on  July 16 2012).Pyne has in fact stated that he intends for our education system to have less teachers and that at least 43 000 Australian educators should be sacked (as reported by State School Teachers’ Union of Western Australia).

The Education Action Group (EAG) meets each Tuesday at 2 pm on the New Law Lawns and is currently organising a campaign in opposition to the Coalition’s education plans. Please feel free to come along and share your thoughts. You can also find out more about us on

Facebook at  www.facebook.com/SydneyUniversityActionGroup

Emily Rayers explains the implications of Zoe’s Law for women’s reproductive rights

On Wednesday October 16, Dr Linda Atkins, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who specialises in ultrasound and prenatal diagnosis, is set to speak on campus about the impending “Zoe’s Law” – a bill that is currently under debate in NSW Parliament.  This bill is the first of its kind, aiming to give legal recognition of foetuses after 20 weeks.

Atkins will be speaking out against the Foetal Personhood Law. But Atkins is not the only one – the Campbell Review made recommendations against changes to pre-existing laws and the Bar Association wrote a letter expressing their condemnation. Numerous groups have also spoken out against this Bill, including NSW Women’s Electoral Lobby, Family Planning NSW, Community Legal Services, National Rape and Domestic Violence services. There has been a lack of consultation about the bill with experts and the community (in particular the women’s sector, community, legal and health organisations). It is particularly concerning that MPs have not been given the full opportunity to hear from these sectors before making a conscience vote.

The foetal personhood law named “Zoe’s Law” was originally proposed by Fred Nile against the wishes of Brodie Donegan, the woman who the bill was inspired by. Donegan was hit by a car which resulted in the loss of her pregnancy. The death of Donegan’s unborn daughter, Zoe, was categorised as an act of ‘Grievous Bodily Harm’ and the person responsible for the car accident was let off with a light sentence. What Ms Donegan went through was a tragedy, and I am terribly saddened by her story. However, countless organisations in the medical, legal and social services are speaking out against the revised bill which Ms Donegan helped to shape. There are several unintended consequences of the bill being debated currently, which will have serious impacts on the lives of women in NSW.

– The bill establishes personhood for a foetus

This would be the first legislation introduced in NSW that draws a distinction in personhood between a woman and the foetus. This has been used to set a precedent in other jurisdictions, such as in the United States, to prosecute women who have acted contrary to the interest of the foetus. It creates legal rights for a foetus separate from the mother and can allow these rights to come in conflict with those of the mother. This is sufficient reason to believe this bill is an infringement on women’s bodily autonomy and agency, and even a step towards ending women’s right to choose abortion.

– The bill has the potential to undermine women’s reproductive rights

As abortion is in the Crimes Act in NSW it is in a precarious position. Giving personhood status to a foetus may affect the lawfulness and accessibility of abortion in NSW, particularly for procedures carried out later in a pregnancy.

– The amendment is unnecessary

The current legal frameworks are sufficient. The amendment to the legislation, implemented in 2005, allows a charge of Grievous Bodily Harm against a mother to be brought against an offender who causes the harm or destruction of a foetus. This can carry a sentence of up to 25 years. The legislation has subsequently been reviewed and found to be sufficient (by the Campbell Review). This is not to say that the sentencing brought against the person responsible for Zoe’s death are adequate, however the offender was not sentenced to the full penalty available under current laws.

If you would like to hear from a medical professional on this issue, or have questions, come along to Dr Linda Atkin’s talk on Wednesday 16th October 5.30pm-6.30pm (venue TBA – check the Facebook group ‘USyd Women’s Collective’ or event page, check the blog at usydsrcwomens.blogspot.com.au or email usydwomenscollective@gmail.com to find out). Debate on this bill continues the next morning, Thursday October 17.

Sarah Chuah lets you know what’s happening in Carers Week

This week is Carers Week, a time to raise awareness and celebrate the 2.6 million people in Australia who devote their time to looking after a loved one who couldn’t manage without their support. Student carers are at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to participating in higher education, with only 4 % of 18-25 year old primary carers remaining in education compared with 23% of their same-aged peers.

Disabilities & Carers Officer Yaz Camdzic and I have been extremely busy leading up to this week, preparing for our student carers campaign to be heard at a national level.  The week began with a Morning Tea for Carers on main campus, where we also launched our booklet that was based on survey data collected earlier this year.  Access & Inclusion: Carers in Higher Education is targeted towards decision-makers, equity and student service providers at Australia’s 39 universities, and aims to raise awareness and push for support for student carers in higher education.

We have also been working alongside Australia’s peak organisation for carers, Carers Australia, who generously provided funding for our booklet, and Young Carers NSW who we shared a stall with at Carers’ Day Out on Tuesday, the country’s largest event for carers held in Martin Place.  This was a fun day and fantastic opportunity to get our message out to key figures.

We are extremely encouraged by the enthusiasm that was been expressed to us from stakeholders across the country – we look forward to seeing what comes out of this project and pushing on further with our campaign for student carers’ recognition and support.

For a copy of Access & Inclusion: Carers in Higher Education or for more information, contact me at disabilities.officers@src.usyd.edu.au. There is also a PDF version available online at www.srcusyd.net.au/disabilitiesandcarers.

David Pink argues for reform of the National Union of Students

The state branches of the National Union of Students are generally regarded as mere ‘paper tigers’: organisations that have in place complex, bureaucratic structures, plenty of office bearers, but no real capacity for general co-ordination of the activities of student unions in their respective states. In NSW we have a state branch which has plenty of potential and plenty of enthusiastic office bearers, but no real capacity to contribute to the student movement.

I should preface this: this has been by far the NUS’ most productive year since I began my involvement in the student movement. The National President and National Education Officer have taken an active effort to organise grassroots student campaigns against the higher education cuts, and the huge demonstrations we’ve seen in Melbourne and Sydney have been largely driven by a revitalised NUS. I have nothing but respect for Jade Tyrrell and Clare Keyes-Liley, and I applaud their moves away from how the NUS used to operate. At times it used to seem like NUS was just a handful of people who sat in an office in Melbourne and wrote press releases. The ‘bad old days’ are over.

I do see serious problems, however, with the NUS’ focus on a top-heavy organising model, which relies on a sole National Officer to be the one person with responsibility across the country for organising NUS campaigns in their divisional issue (Education – Welfare – Queer – Women’s – Disabilities, etc.) There is necessarily a limit to how much organising a single National Officer can do in a vast geographical landmass like Australia – it would be very difficult for a National Officer to fly around the country and visit enough campuses that they could substantatively organise the student body in a way that would be meaningful. Campus visits are valuable, but organising requires weekly, sometimes daily, contact with the constituency – and that is unfortunately impossible for one person. No trade union would adopt this model – if we compare affiliate campuses to workplaces, it would be recognised as impractical for a single national organiser to be responsible for organising every section of the union at every workplace.

I believe that the solution is in geography: we should empower the state branches.

The first step is to give them back their funding. Before Voluntary Student Unionism (when, admittedly, the NUS had a lot more money) at the very least the State Branch Presidents were paid a half-time stipend, which gave student organisations a local representative of the NUS who they could rely upon to actively co-ordinate cross-campus education campaigns as their job. Australia is too big a place for the National Officers to micromanage a national day of action, so it makes sense for responsibility to be delegated to a dedicated organiser in each capital city.

A case study is the NUS West Australian branch, which has a stipended State President. NUS West is a vibrant organisation, which, unlike NUS NSW, has a very real role in co-ordinating student activists in that state. We should have a serious discussion about the relative merits of stripping the vast majority of National Officebearers of their stipends (minus, of course, the President, Education Officer and General Secretary who perform the essential work of a national student union), and adopting an area-based organising model with a paid organiser in each state.

We should also bring back State Conference.

National Conference is problematic: it exists as the peak representative body for student issues to be debated, and it fulfils this purpose, but it is usually far too expensive for most students to travel down to Melbourne every year for up to two weeks just to have their voices heard. Bringing back a two-day NUS State Conference would be a very interesting experiment in participatory democracy. In the case of NUS NSW, holding it at somewhere like UTS or Sydney University would allow not just delegates and factional hacks, but also give regular students from metropolitan Sydney the opportunity to attend and determine the democratic direction of an organisation which they could see in a concrete sense and identify with. There is already provision in the NUS Constitution for State Conferences, so this is something perfectly legitimate.

NUS NSW State Branch should have funding. In times past, 33% of each student union’s affiliation fees went directly to state branch. This meant that the state organisations could afford to rent office space where the state exec could organise from, sometimes employ secretarial and policy staff, publish newsletters and have money they could use to run campaigns. Obviously, since Voluntary Student Unionism, there is far less money in student unions.

How could we concretely move forward? If the SRC at USYD agreed to give temporary occupancy to the NUS NSW state branch of an office in the SRC complex, I believe that as a first step there would be the beginning of state-wide co-ordination of student union activity. This is an idea that should be considered. Secondly, the major student unions in metropolitan Sydney (UNSW SRC, UTS SA, USYD SRC) have the financial capacity several thousand dollars each to the NUS state branch. As a one-off grant this would ensure that NUS NSW would cease to be a ‘paper’ entity – it could in a very real way resource itself and begin to organise NSW students against an Abbott government.