Fight Racism – Get involved in the Anti-Racism Collective (ARC)

A lot has been happening around refugees in the past couple of months, but nothing’s changed with Morrison and Abbott, who continue to bolster their anti-refugee narrative

Recently, Scott Morrison has come out announcing the release of children from onshore immigration detention centres. But his announcement is incredibly deceptive as it only refers to children and their families who are already living in the community – all the Liberal Party is doing is transferring the ‘status’ of these refugees from being held in community detention, to being put on bridging visas. This announcement came at interesting timing as Morrison just last week, faced a Human Rights Commission inquiry regarding the eroding mental health of children locked up in detention. The timing of his announcement is without a doubt an attempt to dampen the increasing backlash towards Operation Sovereign borders and and all that it entails.

Also significant, 2 G4S guards have been charged with the murder of Reza Barati after an investigation by the PNG Police. But true justice for Reza and his family, doesn’t end with two employees of the Australian Government being charged with murder; that is just the beginning. Justice will be served by destroying the brutal detention regime that enabled his murder in the first place and by exposing to everyone that no matter who he points the finger to, Scott Morrison is the one ultimately responsible for his death.

The Abbott Government have used refugees as a scapegoat and a spearhead to try and pass through their viscous budget that attacks the most vulnerable in our society. With the Liberal Party’s attacks on students, pensioners, universal healthcare, welfare recipients, the disabled, the unemployed and almost everyone else, it’s clear that the enemy isn’t refugees, but the politicians sitting in parliament.

ARC EVENT:

The Anti-Racism Collective (ARC) is hosting its first forum of the semester next week on WEDNESDAY 3RD SEPTEMBER 1PM in NEW LAW LECTURE THEATRE 026 with special guests MARK ISAACS, a former Salvation Army worker on Nauru and author of ‘The Undesirables’ and DR LOUISE BOON-KUO, a law professor at Sydney University with a specialty in refugee law. We will also have a dedicated refugee activist from ARC talking about what students can do to fight back against Operation Sovereign Borders. Come along for a great discussion!

ARC meets every Monday 12pm on New Law Lawns. All welcome! It’s never been a more important time to get involved in the campaign. For more info, check out our Facebook page, ‘Anti-Racism Collective Sydney Uni’ or contact Gabby on 0416 488 258. Stand up fight back!

We read the Murdoch press. A horrible, horrible mistake.

I made a huge mistake this morning.

A horrible, horrible mistake.

I read an article published by the Murdoch press.

Yes, nothing good can ever come of this, but while I was reading about the recent symposium held by the Australian Human Rights Commission on Free Speech, it popped up on screen and I couldn’t help myself. Needless to say, it was a bad decision and I spent the next 20 minutes hiding in the supply cupboard at work screaming next to boxes filled with Papermate pens. When I finally returned to my desk, I was greeted by Christopher Pyne’s sneering face on The Bolt Report ranting that students are leeching off tax payer’s dollars while a clip of Tony Abbott was rolling in the corner. Keeping in line with this spectacular morning, I am now waiting for Joe Hockey to strut through the doors demanding my first born child.

Now, this “Free Speech” forum was called in response to Abbott and the Attorney General George Brandis’ now thankfully dropped amendment to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act which reads that it unlawful to: “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people because of their race or ethnicity”.

The draft bill would have removed the protections for offending, insulting or humiliating someone based on the assertion by Abbott and Brandis that this law stifles free speech, with newly installed Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson also voicing his support for the amendment. These changes have come up against very vocal opposition from Labor and the Greens, human rights lawyers and over 80% of the Australian public – even Liberal MPs threatened to cross the floor. If this isn’t a testament to the ridiculousness that would have been changing 18C, then nothing is. Conservative journalist Michael Sexton has written numerous articles for the Murdoch Press in support of repealing these protections with an ever present theme of “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”.

Why would these repeals have been so dangerous? Claiming that free speech should allow individuals to be able to say whatever they please, regardless of the harm and trauma it may cause, is opposed to international human rights law and the slightest amount of common sense, decency and courtesy. It completely ignores individuals’ rights to not be vilified or discriminated against because of their race, gender, class, sexuality or religion. Wilson claims that equality can only be reached through the repeal of Section 18C and he is disappointed the repeal is not being pursued, but in what world does repealing laws against discrimination and hate speech produce equality?

Despite the fact that we think repealing these protections against racial vilification under the guise of ‘free speech’ is absurd, it is easy to see how these upper class, heterosexual, white cis-males think it is a logical decision.

here’s message from National Union of Students Education Officer Sarah Garnham

After another successful national day of action for education, here’s message from National Union of Students Education Officer Sarah Garnham who has been overseeing the campaign so far: Well done to all the students who came out to protest on the August 20 National day of action against the deregulation of fees, escalation of interest rates, and massive government funding cuts to education.

The day was an enormous success. We showed that despite the budget being released many months ago and the concerted efforts of the government to distract attention away from it, students are still angry and motivated to protest.

Further it shows that while it’s great that the ALP, the Greens, and PUP have come out to say they will votedown all of the government’s “reforms” to higher ed, students are healthily distrustful of their word and we will continue to protest until we actually see Pyne’s education package defeated in its entirety
in Parliament.

The protests received a lot of media attention, particularly over the burning of effigies of the loathsome Christopher Pyne.
Pyne himself, in his usual smug and idiotic way, yet again promoted our campaign when he said on the afternoon of the national day of action: “Does asking students to pay only 50% of their total fees really warrant burning effigies?”

Well yes it does Chris. Because not only do we stand for free education but also, your reforms will see students paying double if not
triple what they currently do.
Your reforms will also see poor people and women paying considerably higher fees due to enormous interest rate hikes. Your reforms are about setting up an education system which only benefits the rich and where vice chancellors can make super profits off the backs of already struggling students. Your reforms are about setting up a US style education system. There is over 1 trillion dollars worth of student debt in the US and are cent study showed that 94% of college graduates find their debt repayments “unmanageable”.

We will continue our campaign against Pyne and the Abbott government and we will be organising another National day
of action in the near future.

If every undergraduate votes in this election, it’s likely that Godot will turn up.

You should vote in the upcoming SRC election – not in order to elect the best candidates for the job (Councillors, Honi Editors, President), but rather to ensure the worst candidate does not get elected. This simple recipe can prevent catastrophe.

I campaigned for Tom Raue approximately 600 years ago, when I was in second or third-year (it’s all a blur because I discovered subsidised alcohol that semester) and have been involved in every USU and SRC election since then. This is not because I’m a total hack, it’s because as soon as I hear about the sorts of characters who are running for positions, their policies, and preference deals, it makes my blood boil so much that my nasal capillaries expand and my sensitivity to the bullshit espoused is so great, I find myself once again wearing a coloured shirt and campaigning for the person I sincerely believe will
do a good job.

What I’m saying is: I’m not going to add to the chorus of voices telling you that you should care about voting because your vote counts and it’s important to have a say and not enough people vote and its really important and please vote. Instead, think of it this way: shit people will get elected unless enough undergraduates inform themselves and use their vote to stop this from happening. Say no to shit people!!! Say no. Scratch under the surface of ridiculously unachievable campaign promises and say NO.

These two approaches are the same thing, but my advice here is the funky 3D glasses perspective, the Cool Version, the Fonzie of voting. Maybe it’s a bewildering and worrying load of crap, but hopefully its so strange that it sticks with you as you contemplate whether to take five minutes out of your day to fill out a couple of sheets of paper about a month from now. Plenty of time to plan for that five minutes!

Either way, it doesn’t matter. It’s not like you have a stake in what happens come election day. It’s not like part of your SSAF money funds the SRC. It’s not like it makes sense for you to participate in the only opportunity you have all year to determine who runs your representative association.

If every undergraduate votes in this election, it’s likely that Godot will turn up.

Let’s do it for Godot.

Participate in the SRC Elections!

I know I have been writing a lot lately about the SRC elections but as these elections loom my Presidential term begins to wind down. I think about the SRC and the amazing work it does for so many students and how lucky we are at Sydney University to have the ability to have an independent student organisation. Last week it was stated that the Liberal Government is planning to introduce a bill to the senate for the abolishment of the SSAF (Student Service and Amenities Fee) which could potentially destroy our organisation. Our independence is something that
we always have and always will fight for.

Our SRC has a proud history of independence from the University since day one. I love our editorial independence so Honi Soit can say what students want to say rather than what the Administration thinks we want to hear.

I love the independence of our case- work service because it is a no-brainer. A student isn’t going to go for help to a service they think is part and parcel with the people they are having problems with. As a 21 year old whose been screwed over in one of her classes, I get that lecturers are more likely to side with an unscrupulous tutor they have to work with than a student they’re never going to
see again.

I love the fact we have a free and independent legal service so that students have the option to get help if they get in trouble with the law. The beauty is, its confidential and intended for you so your parents don’t need to know, your boss doesn’t need to know, and neither does the uni if you get
into trouble.

However, obviously there is another side to it as independence comes with responsibility.
I can tell you being involved in running a one and a half million dollar organization is a big ask. Independence means we ask under- graduates to make the big calls on whether we stay in the black or go into the red, whether we put freedom of speech above potential legal action, or whether we stretch our legal service defending our activists out fighting for your education. Students aren’t always going to make the right decisions. However, the truth is,
it is your money and at least you’ll know the decisions are being made by people who actually live in
your world.

Disabilities and Carers – Accessing Support and representation

If you are a student with a disability there are a huge range of supports that you can access by registering with the university’s Disability Services. It is not compulsory to disclose your personal circumstances to the university, however, by registering with Disability Services, you can avoid struggling needlessly with your condition whilst individually negotiating assessment protocols. Instead, Disability Services provides support through a formalised mechanism which maintains your privacy around your exact circumstances to your teaching staff while advocating for the necessary adjustments you are entitled to.  If you are considering registering with Disability Services or would like to seek independent advice in doing so, you can make an appointment to see an SRC Caseworker by calling 9660 5222 or visit the SRC at Wentworth Building Level 1 for a Drop-in visit on Tuesdays & Thursdays, between 1 and 3pm.
Carers

Our Access & Inclusion for Carers in Higher Education Campaign is continuing into semester 2 this year. When this campaign launched last year, we sought to raise awareness at the national level about the barriers that young and mature-aged students with significant caregiving responsibilities face in accessing and successfully completing an Australian university education. The campaign this year has focused on advocating for carers’ support in universities within NSW, particularly those in the Sydney area and above all Sydney University. With the recent launch of the NSW Carers Strategy 2014-2019, the support and transition of primary and high school student carers into higher education is a major objective, and will likely see numbers of young carers reaching university increase. For this reason, it is ever more important that universities are prepared and willing to support this valuable group in realising their full potential through education. We are particularly impressed with the momentum with which the University of Western Sydney is moving toward the implementation of meaningful support for their student carers.

Seeking Student Involvement

We have formed a Student Consultative Group and are encouraging students to get involved and give their input in the development and progress of the university’s current Disability Action Plan. The first meeting is coming up soon and will meet again in October. The Disabilities & Carers Department is also looking for students who are interested in helping plan some activities throughout the remainder of the semester. We are looking to hold some picnics in Victoria Park when the weather warms up, and also a gardening and art workshop so students can get together for some food and fun activities to encourage everyone to take the occasional break from their studies when assessments kick in. If you would like to get involved in any of these activities, send us an email at disabilities.officers@src.usyd.edu.au.

Queerkats is a fabulous new collective created this year as a subset of the Queer Action Collective

Queerkats is a fabulous new collective created this year as a subset of the Queer Action Collective. Queerkats aims to create a safe and welcoming space that acts as an alternative to spaces and groups that are often dominated by cis men (cis men being people who were assigned male at birth and agree with that assignation). At the beginning of the year we were defining ourselves as a ‘non cis male’ collective, but this definition has proved insufficient, and we are currently workshopping a better and more inclusive definition. At the moment we are defining ourselves as a queer collective for those who identify as women (trans, cis, butch, femme, transfeminine), nonbinary folks (genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, androgynous, bigender, demigender, polygender), people who are gender diverse (including non-Western and indigenous gender identities such as two spirit, hijras, and third gender), intersex people, trans men, and anyone who experiences oppression for their gender identity. We’re still working out a definition that fits us, but part of our concerns stem from our desire to define ourselves by what we are rather than what we are not.

So far this semester we have already organised and created a magnificent zine made up of collaborative work from our community. This was for the USU’s Pride Festival, and aimed to showcase the voices of people who aren’t usually heard in mainstream society. The party to launch it was super successful, with spoken word performances, readings from the zine, and lots of rad queer dancing.

Continuing on from this great start, we have a lot of exciting plans and ideas. We will be starting up a fortnightly workshop/social event on Tuesdays, the first being a poly discussion group held Tuesday from 5-7 in the Queerspace. In the future this time can be used in a variety of ways, from dry events, to potluck dinners, to drinks, to informative workshops and skill shares, and movie nights. During this regular event and beyond, we will be working towards a celebratory Art Party to showcase the creativity and scope of non-normative queer experiences, to be held at the end of the semester. We’re also hard at work organising the production of Queer Honi, which we’re hoping to make a particularly inclusive and intersectional issue.
Queerkats meet 1pm Thursdays, and we always love to see new faces!

Students will be wishing Education Minister Chris Pyne an UNhappy birthday

Last Wednesday we celebrated Chris Pyne’s unhappy birthday, after all lizard people age too. We wanted him to know that even on his special day, we won’t let up in our campaign against his higher ed. reforms. So exactly one week out from the next education protest on August 20, the Education Action Group set up a stall on Eastern Ave, handed out a bunch of cake, and got the word out about the upcoming protest. Students also signed a card to Chris, mostly leaving an impressive array of insults and curse word combinations. My favourite was the eloquent “m8 get fucked.” Truer words have never been written.

Later that day, the cross-campus education action network organised a protest at NSW Liberal Party HQ. We brought our card, sang happy birthday and even brought a cake to cut and share. The security thugs and NSW pigs were the most discourteous party hosts we’ve come across though. They tried to steal our banners and physically force us out, then even threw the cake in the bin. Bastards. Nevertheless, we occupied the lobby for a while and made our message clear.

This Wednesday is the next national day of action for education. So far this year we’ve disrupted live TV, countless Liberal party love-ins, rallied in our thousands and refused to be silent in the face of the Liberals’ attacks on higher education and welfare. Our protests have made a real impact on the public debate with Labor, the Palmer United Party and the Greens all committing to block the cuts when they hit the Senate. The National Tertiary Education Union also recently published research results which found that around 69% of people oppose the deregulation of fees, making it among the most unpopular measures in the budget. The campaign is also hitting Chris Pyne personally; he now sits on a 50% disapproval rating which gives him the title of most unpopular government minister.

There’s a real chance that we could win, and that the reforms could be trashed. But it’s important to keep fighting and putting pressure on the opposition parties to keep their word.
So join us next Wednesday, Aug 20, 1.30pm outside Fisher for another day of action for education and sticking it to the Liberals.

SRC ELECTIONS: look for candidates that represent the diversity of our student body.

Each year thousands of students vote to elect a new group of representatives to run the SRC. For many students, perhaps most, this is their only interaction with the SRC. Many students are not even aware of the SRC, or the services and representation the SRC provides, as anyone who’s worn a lurid shirt during elections can attest to.

This is due to the fact that in many ways the SRC is a democratic anomaly. It’s a weird conflation of a student union with some form of representative democracy. It acts pre-emptively in a representative fashion but is also beholden to its council members and the wider student body. It provides behind-the-scenes help in the form of services but also publically negotiates with the university. The SRC operates on many fronts, many that are less visible, and it is from this that many students can attend the university and remain unaware of its purpose.
Despite the lack of knowledge about the SRC within the student body, SRC elections remain an important aspect of the organisation and are a reaffirmation of the principles on which it operates. In conducting an election each year the SRC brings in a new wave of students with new concerns and ideas.

That being said, like most elections, some candidates are better suited than others. Candidates with organisational experience have a better understanding of the organisation they will have to oversee, as well as a better idea of what the SRC can actually do. Year after year candidates run on impossible platforms that are never achieved. As students, you should hold your representatives to account. Further to this, the SRC is an organisation that has prided itself on diversity. In ensuring that students of any cultural, socioeconomic, religious or sexual background can become a part of it, the SRC has ensured that it best represents the diverse concerns of the USYD student body.

As elections approach, I encourage you to find out more about your SRC, to question the experience of the candidates running, and to look for candidates that represent the diversity of our student body.

SRC Elections: Why should you care? And why should you vote?

So a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the upcoming SRC elections; nominations closed on the 20th August and it is now time for the campaigning to start.

Why should you care? And why should you vote?

Well out of 32,000 undergraduate students there is a voter turnout of approx.  4000students. This can be attributed to the voluntary voting system and the fact that there is no physical incentive. But I will ask you PLEASE VOTE.

The SRC is the peak body at Sydney University representing all undergraduate students and it is up to all undergraduate students to choose who will be their next SRC president, councilors, and Honi Soit editors.

Student Elections can be overwhelming, annoying and seem completely irrelevant to your day-to-day life. This is partly true but I will tell you this. Who you elect will be responsible for the for a $1.5 million budget, will be the head of the legal service, will negotiate funding from SSAF (student services and amenities fee) and ensure that the irreplaceable services like the casework and legal service are up and running to help you out when you need.

The President of the SRC is responsible for sitting on many University committee meetings. This year I have been pushing to ensure there are no longer 100% exams for any subject you do, that lecture recordings and slides will become an opt out system instead of an opt in system. As well the SRC has been fighting for fair and affordable student accommodation, so that all students are able to live while they are at University.

Prominent former Presidents of the Sydney SRC include a Prime Minister of Australia, Cabinet Ministers, and Members of Parliaments, State and Federal, Justices of the High Court of Australia and the Supreme Court, including a Chief Justice of New South Wales and a Court of Appeal President.
It is important to make your voice heard and vote during the election season.

The elections will start on 8th September and the elections will be held on the 24th and 25th September. Hope to see you voting