Trouble getting your equipment bond back?

The SRC Legal Service recently assisted Christine Joseph and other undergraduate students at the Westmead Centre for Oral Health (WCOH).In 2011 over one hundred WCOH and Dentistry students were asked to lodge a $300 bond. The bond is mandatory at the start of the degree to all undergraduate Oral Health students. A receipt number was issued by the Centre to each student. The Centre staff verbally advised that this UGP bond would be returned to the students upon completion of their subject, provided they were “‘liability free’.

To be ‘liability free’, the students needed to promptly submit an ‘End of Year Clearance’ Form at the end of their degree in 2013 by a tight deadline nominated by the Centre. A memo was sent out to the students accordingly. Failing to follow the Centre procedure could mean  no ‘clearance’.

The students were also told by the Centre that the refund process usually takes approximately six weeks. Despite ongoing follow up by the students directly with the centre, and some intervention by the University faculty, no refund was paid almost six months after the students lodged their clearance forms. SRC Legal understands $31,500.00 UGP funds refundable to the 2013 graduates were held by the Centre on an interest free basis.

After SRC Legal took up the issue, the Centre responded to process the refund within a day.

If you experience a similar problem or know someone who has, please come and have a chat with our friendly solicitors at the SRC Legal Service. We are an independent free student legal service provided by the Students’ Representative Council for undergraduate students at Sydney University. We strive to empower under-represented uni-students. You can find our office on level 1 (the basement, Wentworth building, City Road.

To see an SRC Legal Service Solicitor call 9600 5222 to make an appointment.

ASK ABE: Plagiarism

Dear Abe,

I was really pushed for time so I used something I read in an article for my assignment without putting it in the bibliography.  Now I’m in trouble for plagiarising.  My friend told me that if I tell them I didn’t mean to do it that I wouldn’t get into trouble.  I wanted to check what you thought.

Short Cut

Dear Short Cut,

You are already in trouble because you plagiarised.  The first thing you should do is talk to an SRC Caseworker about your situation.  We generally find it best to tell the truth about what you did and why.  Make sure you are diligent with future assessments, as the penalties become significantly more severe.  Be prepared to accept a zero for that assignment as a minimum penalty.  This usually means failing that subject.  Note here, that it is just as bad to copy from your own previous assignment, as it is another piece of work, without using correct referencing.

Abe

Have you been overpaid by Centrelink?

If Centrelink writes to say you’ve been overpaid Youth Allowance or Austudy and owe them money don’t ignore it.  Deal with it straight away and quickly.

An overpayment occurs if you get paid too much. Check their letter. It may be because they think you have not declared your correct income or have not told them that you have gone part-time (i.e less than 18 cp per semester)

Check the facts. Check your University or financial records to see if you really have been overpaid.  You may need to ask for a copy of your Centrelink ‘file’ too.

If the debt is legitimate, check that it is the correctly calculated amount.  They deal with thousands of people everyday.  It would not be unheard of for them to make a mistake. Did they get the dates and amounts right? If they got it wrong then appeal.

If you have had a problem (“breach”) with them before you may also be charged a further 10% penalty.  They can give you this penalty also if you have been reckless or misleading when giving them information. You can appeal a 10% penalty too.

Ideally you would pay off your debt as quickly as possible.  Talk to the University’s Financial Assistance Office to see if they will give you an interest free loan.  Paying them quickly will show Centrelink that you genuinely want to mend the error of your ways.  But if you have no way of paying it off, negotiate a payment plan with them.  They can also take it out of your on-going Centrelink payment. They may want to take more money than you can afford.  Be prepared to explain to them how this will cause you financial hardship by outlining how much you spend on things like rent, food and medication. The main thing is to keep in contact with them.

If you have deliberately given incorrect information that has caused an overpayment, this is a serious issue.  For example, if you have been working, but have not declared you income, and you have accumulated a debt of over $10, 000 (or lower in some other circumstances) Centrelink will not only have you repay the debt but also try to prosecute you for fraud, which can carry a sentence of up to 12 months in gaol. The SRC strongly recommends that you consult with an SRC caseworker before talking to Centrelink. In general we suggest you only consider answering questions in writing, and do not answer any questions in a recorded interview.

If you have been overpaid because of a mistake that they made, not due to incorrect or false information from you, then you may be able to keep that money even though it is an overpayment.  There are some reasonably rare occasions where you may be able to get your debt written off or waived (cancelled).  Of course there are conditions.  Talk to an SRC caseworker about this too.

To see an SRC Help Caseworker
call 9600 5222 to make an appointment or email:
help@src.usyd.edu.au

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!