ASK ABE: Centrelink payments cut off

Dear Abe,

I hope you can help me with a problem I have with Centrelink. I am in my third year of my health science course and I am on a Youth Allowance payment. Even though I didn’t receive anything previously, they say that the one year I did at another uni doing a similar course counts towards the amount of time I’m allowed to study and my payments will run out in the middle of the year. Is this true? And if so, what can I do?

Healthy Now

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Dear Healthy Now,

The basic formula for the “satisfactory progress” (or maximum allowable time for completion for Austudy) of your course is the normal length of your course plus the length of one subject. For example, for a Bachelor of Arts course that would be 3 years plus 1 semester. If you had completed the previous course, you would be allowed the full 3 years plus 1 semester. If you withdrew from the course, because of “special circumstances beyond (your) control”, you would also be allowed the full 3 years plus 1 semester. However, if you did not complete the previous course, and you did not have special circumstances causing you to withdraw, the amount of time allowed would include the time spent at the other course.

So to answer your question, if you had special circumstances (with documentation) you would be able to study for 7 semesters in this degree and be payable. If you did not have special circumstances, you would be eligible for 7 semesters minus 2 semesters (from previous study).

If you were on an Austudy payment this answer would be completely different!
In terms of alternative payments for the period not covered by Youth Allowance you should talk to an SRC Caseworker to see if there is another payment available.

Abe.

The Mythical Rainbow Family

by Moo Baulch

Rarely does a week go by without some level of debate raging in the Australian media on queer themes as diverse as whether girls should be allowed to marry girls, homophobes should be given airtime and if Penny Wong’s Kitchen Cabinet appearance helped or hindered the cause.

Regardless of where you sit on the gay marriage/civil partnership spectrum and whether you think “It Gets Better” speaks to lesbians in Lakemba or not, it looks as if we’re closer than ever to achieving complete equal same-sex rights in Australia. So, as the queer ‘lifestyle’ becomes more mainstream, and Mardi Gras drops the “gay and lesbian”, it’s time to start having some honest conversations about the way that we treat each other within the mythical rainbow family.

It’s not easy to begin talking about the not-so-fabulous things that occur in our communities and relationships—domestic violence (DV) for example. How do we contextualise it in a queer framework? Let’s begin with an important statement. Most queer relationships are loving and respectful. Some are about power and control. Just as some men abuse women, so some of us also abuse one another. Research suggests that DV in same-sex relationships occurs at rates comparable to the wider population. The effects on the victim are similar—isolation, fear, intimidation and the cycles of explosion, remorse, pursuit and honeymoon before the violence recommences.

There are precious few prominent models of healthy LGBTIQ relationships. Those new to the queer world may therefore find it difficult to picture what a healthy relationship looks or feels like. Sometimes it can be hard to decide whether what’s being experienced is abuse or just the usual conflict that occurs periodically in most relationships.
DV can be packaged in a number of different ways—it can be financial, emotional, psychological, physical, social, sexual or cultural. It may involve overt threats of violence or feature a subtle controlling of how someone might make decisions about their daily life. An absence of physical violence doesn’t mean that a relationship is not abusive. Ultimately DV is the exercise of power by one partner over another with the intent to control.

But there are some fundamental differences in the dynamics of queer DV. Abusers may manipulate their victim into believing that this is the way all queer relationships are, that the rules are different, that no-one else will want them or support services will not believe them if they ask for help. Abusers may threaten to ‘out’ their partner or disclose their HIV status. They may also threaten to withhold medications or control finances to limit a partner’s movements. They may use regular put downs in public or private which target a person’s expression of gender, appearance or sexuality. They may isolate their partner from their friends or family or they could threaten to harm pets. They may also threaten self harm or suicide or blame their partner for their own anger, health, condition or behaviour.

Discussing the existence of bullying, sexual racism, misogyny, DV and the prejudice in our own communities is challenging, especially when we live in a society or culture that sometimes may seem to only just accept us. But it’s the measure of a maturing LGBTIQ community if we are able to create space and nurture a culture of diversity that fosters open, honest dialogues on these sticky subjects. We have a responsibility as friends, ethical bystanders and as part of the alphabet-soup family to speak up and ask if someone is ok or let them know we are there. It’s not an easy thing to do but it could help someone who really needs it.

There are a number of LGBTIQ-friendly places to get help if you’re in an abusive relationship. If have experienced DV or want to support a friend, visit http://www.anothercloset.com.au/
In an emergency call the Police 000

The Safe Relationships Project provides statewide LGBTIQ domestic violence legal support. Ph: 02 9332 1966/1800 244 481 http://www.iclc.org.au/srp/
ACON’s Anti-Violence Project supports LGBTI people who have experienced DV. Ph: 9206 2116 or 1800 063 060 http://www.acon.org.au/anti-violence/
The Transgender Anti-Violence Project supports gender diverse people in NSW who have experienced violence. Ph: 9569 2366 or 1800 069 115 http://tavp.org.au/
DV Line is free, confidential and staffed 24/7. Ph: 1800 65 64 63

Moo Baulch was the LGBTI Domestic and Family Violence Project Officer at ACON’s Anti-Violence Project.

Defend Civil Liberties on Campus Campaign

Following a well-documented student protest at a talk given by Colonel Richard Kemp on campus, several students face disciplinary action from the University and an academic faces the sack. Accusations of anti-Semitism at the protest encouraged a witch hunt, for which student protestors and a member of staff in the audience are being punished. Importantly, an inquiry into the protest has found that the staff member’s conduct did not constitute “anti-Semitic behaviour”, but they still face dismissal or other disciplinary action for allegedly not treating a university visitor “with respect, impartiality, courtesy and sensitivity”.

The threats to these staff and students represent a significant threat to our civil liberties at university, and the political freedom that is vital to the university community. The University of Sydney has a long, proud history of demonstrating dissent, and a disgraceful recent history of punishing students who engage politically on campus. Too many times in recent history have student protestors ended up brutalised on and banned from campus for asserting their freedom of speech and freedom to protest, whether that be by demonstrating against war crimes, conservative governments, or supporting staff striking for fairer work conditions.

Interestingly, the University also disallowed a Socialist Equality Party (SEP) forum against militarism to take place over the ANZAC day weekend. The university reportedly bowed to pressure from groups associated with ‘The Great Aussie Patriot’ to cancel the event, which has links to the fascists at ‘Reclaim Australia’. The University feared disruption of the event, and formally uninvited the SEP; a risk they were apparently prepared to take when it came to Richard Kemp’s lecture. Give ‘Defend USYD Civil Liberties’ a like on Facebook, and come to their student and staff meeting this Wednesday from 1 – 2:30 PM in the General Lecture Theatre, Main Quad.

Also come to Education Action Group meetings at 1 PM on Tuesdays on the New Law Lawns. The next major action for education movement in NSW will be on May the 12th, 2 PM at Town Hall, called by the NSW Education Action Network – rally against education cuts, course fees and cuts to welfare. We know the score by now and have a pretty good idea what to expect from this government, and will be ready to strike back as soon as the budget is announced.

David Stokes

launching ‘Your Stories, Your Words’ welfare campaign

On this day in history, in 1967, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army. Ali, a Muslim, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service. Your Welfare Officers are not professing to such lofty heights of bravery or subversiveness, however I think it is important that we as a student body are able to recognise and applaud acts of defiance against situations that force upon us feelings of discomfort or shame. I have been lucky enough to receive several accounts of these acts through the recently launched Your Stories, Your Words welfare campaign. We have asked that any student who has encountered drugs or alcohol come forward and submit their stories – positive or negative – about their experiences to raise awareness about the reality of recreational drug use.

The submissions that I have already received have been incredibly moving, with stories of students who have stood up to aversive experiences for their health, their relationships and their wellbeing. Our theme of courage extends to the efforts of our Welfare Action Group, seeking to address the concerns of first-year students who are battling against the often daunting experience of transition into university academic and social life. What I have learnt from this campaign and from those who have been engaged in the Action Group, is that we feel we can stand up for ourselves when we have a support group who are willing to catch us when we fall. At Sydney University, the SRC and its Office Bearers are here to act as your support group. If you are interested in submitting for Your Stories, Your Words please go to http://tinyurl.com/welfarecampaign, or to attend the Welfare Action Group meetings, keep an eye on our Facebook page: ‘Sydney University Welfare Action Group’. You don’t need to be a world heavyweight champion to fight for your rights and wellbeing, and in those times that you feel like hanging up the gloves, remember you have a student body who are here to fight in your place until you’re ready to get back in the ring.

Eden Faithful

Let’s talk about CONSENT. Listen up!

So far this semester we have heard at several on-campus events, such as Pride Week, that consent is an ambiguous concept.
So we’ve decided to insert an analogy for consent here, which will hopefully make it easier for students to understand.

Consent is like a cup of tea. If you offer someone a cup of tea, and they decline, then don’t make them tea. Don’t get annoyed or angry at them for not wanting tea, and don’t force them to drink it.

They might accept your offer for a cup of tea, but when the tea has arrived they decide they no longer want the tea. Yes, that’s a little annoying that you’ve gone to the effort to make someone the tea, but they still do not have to drink that tea.

Sometimes people change their mind in the time it takes to make a cup of tea, and that’s okay.

If someone is unconscious, then don’t make them a cup of tea. Unconscious people don’t want tea, and they can’t tell you whether or not they want tea. Trust me on this.
If someone was fully conscious when you offered them a tea, and made them the cup, but has since passed out in that time, then you should just put the tea down and make sure the unconscious person is safe. Don’t make them drink a cup of tea. They’re unconscious, they don’t want tea.

If your friend comes over to your house and said yes to a cup of tea last week, does this mean they want a cup of tea? No, they may want a cup of tea, but they also might not. Just because they previously said yes to tea, does not mean they will always want a cup of tea every time you see them.
It may seem silly to spell this out, and in fact it is. It’s incredibly frustrating to have to compare tea to sex, just so people will understand that CONSENT IS ALWAYS NECESSARY.

I hope this clears things up.

This analogy was created by Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess, and can be found on her blog: rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com

Monique Newberry

Erasing Academic Transcript Fees and Student Councillor Accountability

Hello everyone, Madison this week! I’ve been in contact with the student centre about erasing those $15 fees for our Academic Transcripts and we’re off on a journey to investigate an online official transcript system. This would cost the University about $18K initially and $6K annually; these are negligible costs for the University which is GREAT for internship and job applicants!

At this stage, we understand that the system would make your access to transcripts unlimited, free and super easy.

As a reminder, current USyd students applying for internal honours positions, scholarships etc. do not need to purchase their transcripts, as they can be accessed internally. This information will be communicated to faculties to ensure no students are wasting money on hard copy transcripts where is is unnecessary.

I’ve also just launched COUNT, an initiative about councillor accountability which I hope will re-inject some of the spirit of service and transparency back into student politics. I’ve compiled all of our councillors’ candidate statements and goals into a spreadsheet (in short, I’ve written down the reasons why they were voted in) and some of the Executive team will be meeting with myself and each councillor to talk about how we can support them in achieving the goals they were elected to work on! Hopefully this will also increase Council meeting attendance, too.

I really want to see all of your SRC working for you and putting all of their great ideas for your university experience into amazing realities.

Madison McIvor

Farewell to Ray Jackson, President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association

Last week the black movement lost one of its strongest fighters for Aboriginal rights. Uncle Ray Jackson passed away peacefully in his sleep on the night of Thursday 23rd April after attending a regular Indigenous Social Justice Association Meeting.

Uncle Ray was the President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association and put most of his efforts into battling Aboriginal deaths in custody. He had been instrumental in organising many direct action events to challenge the authority of the state and his involvement and support for the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy will be missed.

During my time as NSW Indigenous Officer, Ray helped me build the Stop the Intervention Campaign and gave me the knowledge and wisdom that an Elder is expected to pass down to the younger generations without hesitation. Since then I had joined Ray in many areas of activism such as the Land Rights and Sovereignty movements, along with the recent Sniff Off campaign targeting the overuse of sniffer dogs in heavily black areas such as Redfern.

Obviously, being a political activist, people saw Ray as either an obstacle or a comrade. Clearly, I saw him as a comrade. He was a teacher and uncle to many, a driving force behind the peoples’ motivation to seek social justice, and he did not get caught up in corporate greed to become a mere pacifier for the mob to keep us quiet.

He will be missed.
Please respect that cultural sensitivity must be used around areas of significance such as Aboriginal organisations in Redfern and the Tent Embassy during sorry business.

ASK ABE: Discontinue NOT Fail

Hi Abe,

I had an absolutely shocking time last semester and failed every subject I attempted.  I have previously had an excellent record, but had a lot of family problems last semester.  Is there any way that I can have last semester wiped off my record so my bad marks don’t spoil my record?

DS-

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Dear DS,

If you had a serious illness or misadventure (your family problems may be described as this) that was out of your control, became worse after the deadline for DC (end of week 7) and seriously affected your ability to study, you can apply to have those fails or absent fails changed to DC (Discontinue Not Fail) grades. You will need to be able to explain how your illness or misadventure affected your study. Naturally you will need documentation from a doctor or counsellor, a community leader or someone else who knows about the issues your family have been dealing with. Remember that this is not just a method to “clean up” your transcript, but rather for students who have not had a genuine opportunity to demonstrate their competency in the subject.

You may also consider talking to an SRC caseworker about having your HECS/fees refunded. The deadline for applying for a fee refund if you are a local students is 12 months, but it’s so easy to forget that you’d be better off dealing with that straight away too. Fee refunds for international students have only recently been changed by law. Talk to SRC HELP for more information.

Abe.

As a University of Sydney student you have many assessment rights. Policies entitle all students to full information about course goals and requirements and this information must be given to you before the end of the first week of a course. Information you are entitled to includes:

  • assessment criteria
  • attendance and class requirements
  • weighting – breakdown and calculation of assessment marks
  • explanation of policies regarding ‘legitimate co-operation, plagiarism and cheating’, special consideration and academic appeals procedures
  • early and clear statement of sanctions and penalties that may bring your mark down, and fair application of these penalties
  • balanced and relevant assessment tasks
  • fair and consistent assessment with appropriate workloads and deadlines
  • written consultation before the halfway point of the unit if assessment requirements need to change
  • changes must not disadvantage students
  • adequate arrangements to cater for disabilities and other requirements
  • access to staff out of class time at reasonable hours
  • fair and relevant marking procedures
  • anonymous posting of results (or arguably de-identified at least)
  • timely return of assessments
  • helpful feedback
  • access to exam scripts up to six months after the result
  • enough time for remedial learning when there is reassessment

Appeals – University Procedures

If you believe a mark or University decision is wrong and you want to appeal you must lodge an appeal within 15 working days.

The first step is to talk to the person who made the decision – often your lecturer or subject co-ordinator. See if you can go through the assessment and discuss your performance with them. Make sure you know how the mark was worked out – including any scaling or marks deducted or changed for reasons not directly related to that particular assessment. This may mean attending an exam review session or making an appointment with your lecturer. Your questions and concerns may be resolved at this stage, helping you understand how you can improve in the future. Alternatively, you may feel the matter is still unresolved and wish to continue with your appeal.

  1. Make your appeal in writing and make sure it is easy for other people to understand
  2. Listen to or read staff comments and reasons for a decision closely. Keep these in mind when you write your appeal letter.
  3. Base an appeal on a process matter rather than an academic judgement.
  4. Know your desired outcome
  5. Familiarise yourself with the relevant policies
  6. Know who you are appealing to: Lecturer/Unit of study Coordinator; someone higher in the appeal chain within the Faculty; and then the University Student Appeals Body (Academic decisions only, and only where there has been a breach of process); You must be given reasons for each person’s decision.
  7. If you cannot resolve appeals internally, you may be able to approach external bodies eg. NSW Ombudsman, the Anti-Discrimination Board etc.
  8. Administrative decisions made outside of the Faculty have appeals to different people. Speak to the SRC for advice.

Your Appeal Rights

According to University policy, appeals should be dealt with:

  • in a timely manner
  • with confidence
  • impartially and not disadvantage you in the future
  • procedural fairness
  • free access to all documents concerning your appeal

For help drafting your appeal talk to an SRC caseworker.

Student Housing Report – Supporting student and public housing

Miller’s Point is classic Sydney-town. Today, it’s primarily made up of public tenants in state housing. For decades, it’s been home to a vibrant community with families that can trace a rich history back to the working-class homes of dockworkers and seamen.

And it’s under threat. The Baird State Government is intent on selling off the community housing in the area and handing over the ‘prime waterfront property’ to private hands and developers. While the state government claims it will reinvest the proceeds into public housing, there is no clear plan for such projects.

In the 1970s, the community was saved from similar sell-offs by the Green Bans of Jack Mundey’s Builder’s Labour Federation (BLF), where labourers refused to work on the proposed projects. Now, however, there are mainly the fierce residents and local supporters.

Why does this matter to students? Because the same process that fuels these sell-offs fuels rising rent prices around uni and shifty landlords packing a dozen international students into a four-bedroom townhouse. The inner city is becoming gentrified. The Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy is a similar campaign for public housing and against private development.

The University will be building student accommodation—to the tune of 4000 beds. The fear is that they will make ‘financial’ decisions in light of local rent rates rather than ethical decisions for students. The challenge is to make them do right by us.