Structures of oppression do not work in isolation

Structures of oppression do not work in isolation. Whatever white supremacy touches, it structures. So too, with queerphobia, misogyny and ableism: wherever they exist, they are at work structuring our relationships with each other and with the world. There is no space safe or free from them. This means, that for those of us at the intersections, the communities that are essential to our survival are also capable of causing great pain and doing great harm.

Our anti-racist organising will be nothing, unless we are actively trying to understand and organise against the many ways queerphobia manifests in our communities and our work. Our queer organising is nothing if our queer spaces are almost totally inhospitable to First Nations peoples and people of colour.
Our organising will be nothing if it is not always scrutinising the insidious nature of power.

‘Intersectionality’ is not a buzzword; it was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw as she deconstructed the way Black women experience marginalisation along multiple axes to show the way this affects their physical, and emotional safety and survival. So it is not a buzzword to be used for credit in our activist spaces; it is a framework of liberation that centres Black women, and it has given us a way to conceptualise a liberation that leaves no one behind.
We can start by making our communities safer: what economies of power circulate in our spaces? What norms are structuring how we live with and love each other?

Our goals should ultimately be bigger, but unless the communities we are working within are made safer, we are merely reinscribing oppression into the fabric of our activism.  I want my queer community, anti-racist and decolonial; and I want my anti-racism decolonial and queer.

The queer community at the University of Sydney has been kicking goals this year.

The queer community at the University of Sydney has been kicking goals this year. I think Queer Honi is the perfect time of the year to reflect on our successes and recognise what we’re working towards.
Pride Festival in week 2 of this semester was an incredible success, with many different corners of the queer community contributing to what was a very diverse and engaging festival. In the last couple of weeks, Queer Revue put on an incredibly clever show, The Nightmare Before Mardi Gras. The USU ran Radical Sex and Consent Day for the first time ever, which was a very visible, valuable, queer-inclusive event; basically it was what sex education should have been in high school. SHADES hosted the amazing afterparty, featuring some of Sydney and the University of Sydney’s best drag and burlesque acts. There are gender neutral bathrooms under construction in the Holme building by the queerspace. The USYD Queer Arab Film Festival has free screenings every Wednesday at 4pm. Our newly refurbished space will soon be ready for occupation. It’s a good time to be queer.

The university affords queer students a multitude of ways in which to engage with queer programs, and a huge focus of this year for the Queer Officers was to encourage a more accessible collective environment, as a more inclusive political organising space. Collectivism is so important to the queer struggle, without it my understanding of queer politics would probably be restricted to gay marriage. We need to ensure that our entire community is supported, heard, and respected. Community is super important. Queer Honi made explicit attempts to make this edition “intersectional”: as representative of the broad spectrum of queer identities in our community as possible, and their efforts should be noted. Intersectionality is the study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination, and discrimination. While it’s difficult, potentially impossible, to foster a collective environment completely free from -isms and -phobias, I’m confident in saying that the queer collective has taken important steps towards challenging the patriarchal and white supremacist perversions of our safer space, and I only hope that we can remain self-critical as this trend continues throughout the rest of the year.

There’s much more to look forward to this year in queer: between moving into the new queerspace, to Glitter Gala, to the Identity program currently being run at 5pm on Wednesdays in the queerspace, there are still plenty of opportunities to engage this year. Find us, “SRC Queer Department”, on Facebook, and send us a message if you’re keen to get involved.

Queerkat Collective Report

When Holly and I first talked about the idea of an autonomous non- cis male collective last year, I don’t think we ever could have imagined the huge success Queerkats would ultimately turn out to be. While both of us felt incredibly connected to and cared a lot about QuAC, we were both fairly dissatisfied with the cis male dominance of the collective and the lack of effort or success in fixing it or even acknowledging that it was
a problem.

That first Queerkats meeting was incredibly nerve-wracking! But so many people came along, many who we’d never seen before in QuAC, and there seemed to be a real sense of excitement for this new collective. Though numbers haven’t remained quite as high as those first few meetings, consistent attendance has led to the creation of a wonderfully vibrant and dynamic collective with such dedicated and amazing members. It has become more of a community than I ever could have expected or hoped for.
Beyond that, I am very proud of how active we have managed to be for such a new collective. Our most recent endeavour is planning an Art Party for the end of semester. To be held at the Red Rattler on Wednesday the 29th of October (Wk 13), it will aim to celebrate and showcase the creativity and scope of non-normative queer experiences. We are always looking for new perspectives! If you would like to submit an artwork or perform please contact the Queer Officers at queer.officers@src.usyd.edu.au.

Queerkats is obviously not perfect, and we still have a long way to go in terms of representing as many identities as we can. But it’s undeniable success just goes to show the number of wonderful people willing and eager to be involved in the queer community, if only it were open and welcoming to the diversity of experience that may fall under the queer umbrella. Queerkats will continue to work towards becoming a more inclusive collective, and I look forward to our community only growing as a result.

Twenty10 Article

Twenty10 Supports and Works with young people, communities & families of diverse genders and sexualities.

Twenty10 is a community-based organization that works with and supports people of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities, their families and communities, and includes the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of NSW (GCLS).  They aim to provide spaces where people feel and are safe, emotionally and physically and they offer support services right across NSW and their services are free and confidential.
Twenty10 offer specialised youth support for young people aged between 12-26 including:

  • Information, Referrals, Support & Advocacy
  • Case Management
  • Counselling
  • Drop in
  • Groups & Projects
  • Accommodation

They also provide a range of services that everyone over 18 can access, including the broader community. These include Information, Referrals, Support & Advocacy, Groups & Projects, Family Support Services, Community Education & Schools’ Support, Specialised Training and Support for service providers, Regional & Rural support and Telephone support.
You can find out more about Twenty10 by visiting their website or giving them a call. http://www.twenty10.org.au/
Twenty10: 02 8594 9550

The Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of NSW: 02 8594 9500

Youth Allowance: How to Qualify as “Independent”

Youth Allowance is a payment available to Australian full-time students who meet a certain set of criteria. Sometimes it is available to students who are considered dependent on their parents. However this is assessed on your parents combined gross income. There are a few ways of being considered independent, and therefore not assessed on your parents’ income, but rather your own.

The easiest way to be deemed independent is to be 22 years or older. If you come from a country area you may be able to claim independence through previous work. However this is fairly rare. You may also be able to claim independence by virtue of being in a marriage like relationship. You will need to have been in this relationship for no less than 12 months while sharing a home, sharing bills and income, having a permanent outlook to your relationship, and being able to show that your family and friends view your relationship as permanent. Another way to prove independence is to show that it is “unreasonable to live at home”.

“Unreasonable to live at home” is a specific term that has a particular definition. It indicates that there is extreme family breakdown or other similar exceptional circumstances. It may indicate that there is a serious risk to your physical or mental well being due to violence, sexual abuse or other similar unreasonable circumstances. It is also considered unreasonable to live at home if your parent/s are unable to provide a suitable home owing to a lack of stable accommodation.

Of course there are lots of details and conditions that you should know about.  Contact an SRC caseworker if you would like to apply.

Although a mouthful to pronounce, SULS’ DLA Piper Social Justice Conference addressed many current concerns

Although a mouthful to pronounce, SULS’ DLA Piper Social Justice Conference (#SJcon14) addressed many current concerns, including the background of imprisonment and racial vilification.
In her keynote address, Alison Churchill identified the effects of colonisation, dispossession of land, over-policing and child removal as being “inextricably linked” to the overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in our prisons.

Clearly it’s inaction (combined with destructive, ineffective action) permits these unsettling figures to persist.
The panel discussion focused on our government’s approach to racial vilification, with Tim Soutphommasane, David Rolph, Kirstie Parker and Kingsley Liu on the panel. All were in favour of the current protections allowing complaints against racial vilification retaining intact.

Race Discrimination Commissioner and fabulous Tweeter @timsout noted that while the law cannot singlehandedly end racism, it does have a role to play. He expressed deep worry over the “socially dangerous message” that the proposed reforms communicate to our community.

Importantly, the panel identified worrying discourse of “prosecution” and “conviction” surrounding the now infamous Racial Discrimination Act, exposing clear misconceptions about what is in fact a complaint-based system.
Concern for this lack of understanding about the scope of the legislation (did you know there are exemptions under the often overlooked s 18D !?) and its operation are clearly warranted, Dr Rolph pointing out that this inaccuracy fuels our “distorted and superficial debate on freedom of speech.” Despite the panel being in agreement, opponents of RDA provisions can hardly deny that this confusion is objectively problematic.
While most instances of vilification are unlikely to proceed to complaint, Parker, Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, said “it does provide a level of comfort to people” in affording Indigenous and other voices a medium through which to be heard. Unfortunately, discrimination and vilification against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remain at a disproportionately high level, and in the words of Parker, while it’d be nice not to need these protections, we’re “nowhere near being the fair…society we’d like to kid ourselves we are.”

You can contact the Indigenous Office Bearers at indigenous.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

2014 Indigenous Officers

How to apologise for doing something oppressive:

Another fantastic week at WoCo with Wom*n’s Self-Defence, Radical Sex and Consent, Film Screenings and our new Greivance Policies. Over the past few weeks we have had a chance to present workshops on apologising and calling out. So we thought we would put a little how-to guide in this very space!

How to apologise for doing something oppressive:

We have all been in the situation where someone has told you that you have done something wrong – maybe it was something that wasn’t just ‘wrong’ in the situation you were in, but something wrong in the sense that you were partaking in the systematic wrongs that people have to deal with everyday. Maybe you got called out for doing something oppressive.

Perhaps you didn’t mean it like that, or you hadn’t really thought about it in that way before…Maybe you are actually a strong advocate against racism/ trans*phobia/ homophobia/ sexism or the oppressive behaviour you are getting called out for – in which case you might feel quite ashamed, and unsure about the right way to respond.

So what should you do? Well obviously the best thing to do is apologise – but in a way that shows you realise that you have participated in oppression, and that you are going to think about how not to do that in the future. Also remember that it’s an opportunity to learn something new. Someone calling you out may serve as a reminder of something have forgotten or aren’t as sensitive to because you haven’t had certain experiences. Here’s a few guidelines to apologising constructively:

1.   Say “sorry”.
2.   Do not speak of your intention. No one who is committed to social change really seeks to hurt others, but your behaviour can be mapped on to systematic oppression as a result of living in this unequal world. Avoid classifying your apology with ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ as they put the blame on the person who has called you out i.e. “I’m sorry IF you’re offended, BUT I didn’t mean it like that.”
3.   Articulate and acknowledge what you did wrong: “I am sorry for perpetuating racist stereotypes which are untrue and harmful.”
4.   Say ‘Thank You’ and understand that calling out takes a lot of courage and can be one of the hardest things to do. Don’t ask the person who called you out for more information.
5.   Tell that person you are committed to changing your behaviour. “Thank you for pointing that out, I will do more reading about this and be more mindful of what I say in the future.”
If you would like to find out more about calling out and apologising there are some great youtube videos by Francesca Leigh (cescaleigh) and the internet has many many resources for self-education to learn more about negotiating privilege and oppression. Wom*n’s Collective will also be running workshops throughout the semester so contact us if you would like to get involved.

2014 Women’s Officers

SRC Welfare Officers say we must fight more than ever

The scenes of Joe Hockey’s face on television as he announced the 2014 Budget back in May now seem like a distant nightmare… but the scary reality is that they’re still haunting us to this day. As these reforms get debated in Parliament, now – more than ever – must we fight to ensure they don’t become a reality.

It has been heartening to see the fierce backlash to the Budget is still continuing in full force, evidenced by the National Day of Action on August 20 and the March in August last Sunday. It is now essential that we, as university students, put pressure on politicians in opposition to the deregulation of higher education and cuts to welfare services for students and the wider community.
Since our last report, your Welfare Department has been active in this fight, both on and off campus.

We’ve been involved with Students for Wom*n-Only Services (SWOS), a group working to fight the devastating reductions in funding by the State Government to wom*n-only refuges across New South Wales. SWOS worked with the SOS Women’s Services campaign to collect signatures for a petition calling for State Parliament to debate these reforms, and organised a candlelight vigil at Pitt St Mall on July 24 to raise awareness of the issue. Though the petition reached its target of over 10,000 signatures, many refuges still in fact face impending closure. Thus, the fight to save wom*n’s refuges must – and will – continue.

We’ve also supported the continuing action at the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy. For more information, feel free to contact us (at welfare.officers@src.usyd.edu.au) or the Indigenous Officers.
On campus, we were pleased with the overwhelming resistance to deregulation voiced at the Town Hall meeting on August 25. This sends a clear message to both University management and Federal Parliament that staff, students and alumni at the University of Sydney oppose the inequitable and unfair education reforms. We anticipate that these concerns will be echoed in Parliament, in favour of – in the words of the informal motion passed almost unanimously at the meeting – a “government-funded, quality education system for all.”

 

2014 Welfare Officers

As the legislation is debated in parliament in coming weeks, students will continue to protest to defend our education.

Last Monday evening Sydney university hosted the Town Hall style meeting to discuss the wider university community’s thoughts on fee deregulation and the other proposed attacks to higher education currently on the liberals agenda.

The consensus was overwhelming; out of 26 speakers comprised of various staff member, student representatives and alumni only one speaker spoke in open favour of fee deregulation (the speaker is also the the president of the NSW young Liberals so no surprises there). The other speakers shared moving stories of the struggle many students face in trying to access tertiary education, as well as addressing how fee deregulation will entrench a two- tiered US style education system.

This coupled with a student protest out the front of the meeting and heckling of the vice chancellor spread the message loud and clear: public opinion overwhelmingly opposes the neoliberal restructuring of our universities.

Despite all this, in the following days Vice Chancellor Michael Spence has proven what a sham his tightly orchestrated ‘consultation process’ is. He
has been singing the praises of deregulation in the media, and joined the other Group of Eight University Vice Chancellor’s in Canberra to lobby politicians currently opposed to the policy, which entered parliament last week.

Those heading the elite institutions have partnered up with Pyne in an attempt to attract only the most privileged students in society. Students at Sydney University will continue to protest not only the Abbott government, but our own VC as well, who has been responsible for a wave of attacks on staff and students in recent years.

The Education Action Group held a forum the following day to discuss the strengths of the campaign so far, and where we’re heading next. Senate member Verity Firth addressed the forum, reiterating the detrimental effect deregulation will have on equal access to higher education, as well as highlighting the current inequalities entrenched in the Australian education system.
National education officer Sarah Garnham also spoke about the national campaign, and in particular the leading role that Sydney has played, through active campus Education Action Groups and the NSW Education Action Network.

As the legislation is debated in parliament in coming weeks, students will continue to protest to defend our education. If you would like to get involved with the campaign, come along to the EAG meetings every Tuesday at 2pm on the new law lawns, or send us an email at education.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

2014 Education Officers

The institutional knowledge we have acquired throughout our term is passed on to our successors

In some ways, we are at a disadvantage when it comes to how the SRC is run and the fact that people are elected for a twelve-month term. Every December, a new batch of perky faces takes over the office, with their plans for the coming year and their ideas for improvements. For those of you who don’t know, the term span for office bearers, the President and Honi Soit editors is from the start December until the end of the following November. Inductions take place before uni starts, and the summer holiday period is a busy time for many office bearers.

This is a great way to ensure that as many people become involved as possible, and it also prevents activists from getting burnt out since their terms are capped at 12 months. After this, whether or not people want to continue their involvement is up to them, and some people do choose to stay involved. The downside is that sometimes the handover between office bearers – from one year to the next – falls short of delivering the relevant information to the new officers. This can be because of miscommunication or other factors.

James and I think it is very important the institutional knowledge we have acquired throughout our term is passed on to our successors. This includes information on the budget – and why we did it in a certain way –
as well as other things relating to finance, regulations, collectives, staff and matters regarding the executive. Accordingly, we have started to compile our handover documents. This will include formal information as well as advice on dos and don’ts for the 2015 General Secretary(/ies). It is important that office bearers share information with one another and work together. The SRC as a whole is reliant on smooth internal operations to ensure its ongoing operational stability. By compiling extensive handover information we can ensure that there is a rollover of information.

On another note, if you’ve left it until now to buy a textbook you weren’t sure you needed but have just discovered that you did need it after all, visit the SRC’s second hand bookshop in the Wentworth building, you might find what you’re looking for at a cheap price.

As always, if you have any questions about the SRC, or stuff in general, please email us at general.secretary@src.usyd.edu.au