Indigenous Report – Wom*ns Editon

Putting together last week’s Indigenous Honi saw me focusing and reflecting on my cultural heritage and identity. However I realised that my Aboriginality is only one important aspect of my identity. As an Indigenous wom*n, my identity is not only shaped by cultural influences but also by the way in which society views and understands my gender. In writing this piece I began to reflect on what I know about Aboriginal wom*n and more specially Aboriginal feminists. My conclusion was, not very much.

The history of feminism in the Australian context is more often then not dominated by the narrative of white feminists. The ‘first wave’ feminist movement was shaped by the desire for wom*n to gain the right to vote — a brilliant movement that changed a lot of people’s lives. However, did all wom*n get the vote through the suffragette movement? No. Aboriginal wom*n did not gain their rights to vote until the 1960s.

Similarly during the ‘second wave’ feminist movement wom*n fought for their rights to their own bodies and the legalisation of abortion as well as more government support for childcare. At the same time, Aboriginal wom*n were forced into sterilisation as their children continued to be taken away from them.

This is by no means a way of diminishing the work and suffering of white feminists but rather a way to critique past movements in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of why an intersectional approach to feminist and wom*n’s rights work is needed. Wom*n cannot hope to achieve equality while neglecting the needs and suffering of Indigenous Wom*n, Trans wom*n and Queer Wom*n.

I want to acknowledge the incredible spirit and courage of our Aboriginal mothers, sisters, cousins, and friends. I want to acknowledge the continual suffering of Indigenous wom*n as their land, culture, rights, and children were taken from them.
I also acknowledge the great steps indigenous wom* have and are taking to connect with their culture and make real change within the community.

Lastly I want to acknowledge the wom*n within the Indigenous collective and encourage them to continue to celebrate our culture and identity as we continue to break down barriers and understandings of what it means to be Indigenous wom*n.

The statistics say it all about wom*n and education

For Wom*n’s Honi, I thought I’d talk about exclusively wom*n’s education things and that brought me around to how much graduates who identify as wom*n earn.

Let’s have a little guess at how much less than men they earn? $500 a year? $3000? Nup, it’s a whopping $5000 less than graduates who identify as wom*n earn in comparison with their male counterparts.

Trans wom*n earn even less comparatively, and there’s barely been any research into it because it’s easy to ignore gender issues if you’ve never had to deal with any.The truth is, trans people are ignored by everyone. In fact, just last year at their annual conference, the National Union of Students (NUS) made the incoherently ignorant decision to pass a motion to remove the asterisk from wom*n for their collectives.

Let me just say that the asterisk is there in order to protect wom*n from discrimination and hate based on the very term they rely on.

Trans wom*n will be the ones who want to join a collective with an asterisk in its name in order to seek support and friendship, and the fact that NUS decided to try and strip all collectives of this statement of solidarity is disgusting.

The excuse given by the wom*n’s officer and member of Labor right faction Unity who moved the motion was that explaining the reason for the existence of the asterisk was too hard.

She managed to ~explain~ to an entire conference floor of students that the asterisk alienated “women” from collectives and was unfair because who even remembers why the asterisk is there and who can even be bothered explaining it because that’s not the entire reason you were fucking elected campus Wom*n’s Officer or anything.

A member of NLS spoke against moving the motion based on NOWSA’s definition of wom*n (a little bureaucratic but ok) and a Grassroots member also spoke out against the motion in defense of trans people, but it passed anyway.

Then someone from Unity got up and started talking about how stupid the asterisk was. And read out a list of words that had ‘men’ or ‘man’ in them to derisive laughter from the Unity cohort.

Because gender issues are funny right?
Especially if you’ve never had any.

Let’s burn transphobic organisations to the ground, starting with NUS.

Wom*n of Colour Autonomous collective is continuing to provide an important space

Just over a year old, the Wom*n of Colour Autonomous collective is continuing to provide an important space for individuals that negotiate race and gender as important aspects of their identity. The collective has a strong online community, where anyone that identifies as Indigenous or marginalised by White supremacy is invited to join.

This year started with an open call for any members by Tabitha and Shareeka (2014 office bearers), to come forward to assume this very role. I initially shied away from such a position, but then realised I wanted to actively contribute to a space that provided so much comfort, openness and learning. As a medical science student I often found race and gender to intersect with interpersonal interactions with tutors, peers, lecturers that left me alienated and frustrated. It is testament to the collective’s supportive and encouraging presence that I am in this position, and I am very grateful.

To crack things off we had an intimate screening of Brandy’s Cinderella ft. Whitney Houston and Keeping up with the Kardashians, which was a chance to meet some new faces. Following the devastating earthquake in Nepal in April, the Wom*ns Collective and WOC collective organised a film-screening fundraiser of Manakamana, and relief donations, which are being sent through Disaster Support Nepal. For any readers who wish to contribute with monetary donations, Mitrataa Foundation and Guthi Australia are both grassroots organisations that are contributing to disaster relief in various areas affected.

This year holds some exciting new plans, such as working on a zine, as well as with other collectives such as the Muslim Wom*ns Collective & Indigenous Collective to strengthen and expand our commitment to intersectional feminism.

As this collective is a space for solidarity, strengthening our radical form of entitlement to facilitate our voices being heard, not marginalised or silenced as it regularly is in other political and social contexts is vital. You can keep up with events by joining the ‘Usyd WOC Autonomous Collective’ Facebook group, and following us at womenofcoloursydney.tumblr.com.

Residential College Report – Week 12

Congratulations to the recently elected Union Board Directors Michael Rees, Jack Whitney, Atia Rahim, Marco Avena, Tiff Alexander and Shannen Potter! The above are all capable and experienced representatives who will serve the USU well. However this year we regret that there was a lack of representation from the USyd Colleges, as none of the above elected Directors (to our knowledge) are associated with one.

As all Residential College students are Union members it is important that we have a say in its direction, especially as the fight goes on for transparency, greater representation of marginalised groups (including wom*n, queer and ethno-culturally diverse people) and as Sensitivity Training is extended to all student leaders.

Again, we congratulate the new elected directors, but call on Residential College students to stay involved in Union programs and to continue casting a vote in coming years to decide the direction of your union. On another note, though in a similar vein, all four Residential College Officers encourage College students to broaden their involvement in the SRC’s various initiatives in the (inevitable) lead-up to this year’s SRC election, which will take place some time around September.

The SRC does great things for student welfare and has strong roots in activism. Above and beyond all obscure factional alignments, all of the current SRC Office Bearers in the departments for Wom*n, Queer students, Ethnic Affairs and the Environment have been autonomously preselected by their collectives, which are open to anybody with an applicable identity/interest.

For evidence of the amazing work of these Collectives, you need not look past this incred Wom*n’s Edition of Honi Soit, or the ongoing fossil fuel divestment campaign, Fossil Free Usyd, of which many of the recent USU Board Director candidates came out in support.

For more information, please get in touch with us at residential.colleges@src.usyd.edu.au. Cheers!

International Students’ Officer’s Report – Week 12, Sem 1

The international students’ collective has been trying to plan more activities for students. In the middle of May, an event of meeting and greets for both members and non-members of International students collective has been created by International Student Office of SRC in International Student Lounge. Free food and drinks were provided in the event. The main goals of creating this event are: firstly, introduce SRC and international Student Office to students so that international students could get better services and enjoy a better university life; secondly, we aimed to introduce further plans of international student office in the rest of the semester; thirdly, students who had better ideas or problems would be encouraged to share with members and non-members so that better services could be provided to university students.

We were glad that many students have come to enjoy food and drinks. This could not only be an official event for the office to introduce working plans, but also a relaxing place for both international students and local students to communicate and share ideas about their university lives.

Another program worthy to mention is that a basic introduction passage of Australian university’s politics was made in the corporation with Australian Chinese Youth Associate (ACYA).

This project aims to share basic knowledge and situations of university politics in Australia so that more international students were able to get involved in the university activities such as campaign of SRC and USU. The article has been spread both officially in ACYA’s network platform and social network websites. We hope more and more international students could feel free to be involved in university wide activities.

Please do not be hesitated to contact with International Student Office of SRC if you have any concern. Email address: international.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

Wom*n’s Report – Indigenous Editons

The Sydney University Wom*n’s Collective acknowledges that our activism and meetings take place on Aboriginal land. Those of us who are non-Indigenous recognise our complicity in the continuing colonisation of Aboriginal land. As feminists, we know that our fight for equality is meaningless if the experiences and contributions of Aboriginal women are not centred and recognised. We understand that the structures that oppress women, trans and non-binary people, are inextricably linked to those that have oppressed Aboriginal people.

We regret that the history of feminism has consistently failed to recognise the place of Aboriginal women. We note that in Australia, when the suffragettes claimed to have won the vote for all Australian women in 1902, this did not include Indigenous women. It was not until 1962 that Aboriginal women were given the right to vote with Aboriginal men. We as a collective do not recognise 1902 as the date of women’s suffrage in Australia, but 1962. This pattern repeats itself through history. Little space in history has been given to Aboriginal women who have lost their families to the Stolen Generations and who have constantly fought colonisation whilst having their culture forcibly stripped from them. We look to policies like the Northern Territory Intervention that illustrate how governments have paternalistically claimed to be “protecting” Aboriginal women whilst furthering their neo-colonial agenda.

Beyond history, we look to the current state of feminism. When the pay gap is quoted and provokes anger, it is rarely qualified by the effect of race. We know that the pay gap does not represent the structural disadvantages Aboriginal women face—we cannot even find the statistic that does. When Rosie Batty recently spoke out about domestic violence, feminists commended her. When Aboriginal women like Amy McGuire want to do the same thing, they must fear that their concerns will be used as a weapon against their community. These are not isolated areas in feminism; we can see this pattern repeated in every “feminist” issue.

Stereotypes about aboriginal communities are still pervasive and ridiculous, particularly those that suggest Aboriginal culture is inherently sexist. The Aboriginal feminists we know are strong, powerful activists. We look to our own community at Sydney University and to the amazing Aboriginal women we know. In the SRC we specifically recognise Madison McIvor (USYD Vice President) and Laura Webster (SRC Executive). Thank you for being wonderful friends, activists, feminists and educators. We are humbled by your greatness and cannot wait to see all the wonderful ways in which you will both make the world a better place.

Campus Refugee Action Collective Report

Events of the last few weeks demonstrate the extent to which, if it goes unchallenged, cruel refugee policy will be the bipartisan standard. The Campus Refugee Action Collective (CRAC) held a pro-refugee speak-out outside opposition leader Bill Shorten’s pre-budget address on campus in recent weeks, where we spoke to many attendees, including Labor members, about the need to end offshore processing. After his address however, Shorten made clear that a Labor government in power would be determined to stop the boats. He even refused to rule out boat turn-backs. Shorten uses the same flawed ‘saving lives at sea’ argument as the Liberals. Stopping boats doesn’t save lives, it kills.
Treasurer Joe Hockey seems to think stopping the boats has a somewhat different effect. After the recent budget, Hockey said that the Liberals’ “have stopped the boats…As a result, we are saving more than $500m from closing unnecessary detention centres and…the costs of processing new boat arrivals.” Savings certainly could be made by closing unnecessary detention centres: refugees could be welcomed and processed in the community, saving the government more than $7 billion on offshore detention.

Instead, the Liberals’ real strategy for saving ‘costs’ is to bully and bribe our poorer neighbours. Alongside a coincidental $40 million “aid” packet, Australia has hitched a deal with Cambodia for refugee resettlement. CRAC held a forum on campus last week to expose the true nature of the ‘Cambodia solution’. Cambodia is the 48th poorest nation in the world and has repeatedly refouled refugees– a group of Uighur refugees, from Muslim minority persecuted by Chinese govt. were sent back to China– the next day China handed over $1 billion in aid.

The Cambodia deal is essentially a way for the government to plug up the holes in its offshore processing system which has been in crisis since day one. But the contradictions in the government’s policy are insurmountable – the boats continue to arrive, because asylum seekers are just as desperate now as they were before. We should not be shifting our responsibilities on to desperately poor countries, effectively bribing them to cooperate with Australia to undermine international human rights treaties.

The Campus Refugee Action Collective is campaigning to end offshore processing and mandatory detention. To turn the tide on public opinion and pull down the fences, we need to build the campaign everywhere. We encourage all students to get involved with us – we meet every Monday 11am in the SRC.

Vice President’s Report – Indigenous edition

There’s a page on Facebook called ‘USyd Rants’. True to its name, it is an anonymous clearinghouse for the disenchanted and disillusioned. It is a strange psyche: its currency of approval, likes, ensures that the opinions widely liked are widely shared. Its anonymity ensures unpopular posts disappear without any criticism directed to their author, and successful posts flourish – with their creator, inevitably, accepting accolades from an adoring Facebook public.

Hundreds of rants are posted each day: from tediously specific condemnations (“[t]o the people sitting in the back third of the room in BUSS1030 on Tuesday afternoon”) to strangely generic commentaries on life (“Is God Dead?”, a question I can only imagine was posed either by an extraordinarily angsty teen or a second-year Philosophy student seeking ad-hoc essay help).

Unfortunately, its coverage doesn’t end there. Safe in its namelessness, USyd Rants is a petrie-dish for the self-declared ‘disenfranchised’ to sound off on feminism (“fuck feminism!” is a regular contribution), international students (“Stuck with ANOTHER international student in my group, FML”), and even Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (“Lazy fucking Abos near Redfern, stop barking at me”).

For this Indigenous Honi, I thought it was important to reflect on this unique form of discrimination. Comments that are – in any other context – vile and unacceptable – comments we would never attach our name to – can be shared quickly, freely, easily, with no harm to personal reputation whatsoever. Discrimination – whether it is subtle or even unconscious, or anonymous and caustic – is real and entrenched.

Gendered violence is at crisis-point; international students are routinely exploited, and promptly abandoned, by our own University; and the Redfern Tent Embassy faces imminent eviction. You don’t need to look at ‘USyd Rants’ to see it. I wish you did. I want to believe that these ‘rants’ are rare and repressed; reading this Honi, I fear that they are not.

Thank you to Madi McIvor – the editor of this Honi, and my brilliant co-Vice President – who has slaved for weeks over this edition: it is uncomfortable, illuminating, and shocking at all once. Sometimes we need to be. I hope that you, too, realise that this – the way we consider, think about, and treat others – must change.

President’s Report – Indigenous Edition

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we are often told that we are the problem. We are what is wrong with society and we should just conform to the dominant structure “because it works”. The fact is that it doesn’t work.

Many of the people who use this line are often people who really have no idea what kind of lifestyle we live on a day-to-day basis. You often hear “I can understand why children were/are being taken away by their families because there’s nothing they can do to benefit them.” Or, “Nobody wants to see communities being closed down but we cannot afford to continue to fund them if they choose to live that lifestyle.”

The thing is, I would probably believe these excuses if, in the process of making these statements, the current government hadn’t actually doubled the national deficit and simultaneously cut funding to the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Aboriginal Medical Service, Aboriginal Housing, or had not cut the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme (ITAS) last year.

You see, while the people who hold our living conditions in the palm of their hand tell us what is best for us, there were 701 Aboriginal deaths in custody in the space of 7 years with a 150% increase since 1991. On top of that our youth suicide rate has increased putting us as the highest suicide demographic in the world.

Most will tell us that we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get to work. Well… we would if there were employment opportunities and health services for us. We would if there wasn’t a fear that we would be detained for infringements such as offensive language rather than actual criminal offences in public so many non-Indigenous people take for granted. In fact while everyone is jumping up and down about police brutality in the U.S.A, Aboriginal people are 8 times more likely to be subject to the same circumstances in this country.

If you see these same issues that I see and the same demographic of people consistently living below the poverty line in a 1st world country like this one, ask yourself if we are actually the problem.

So you can’t be scammed? Think again.

A scam is a trick to take your money directly or indirectly by getting your personal details. There are new, imaginative scams being hatched everyday. They even target low income earners like students and come in many forms including mail, e-mail, telephone and door-to-door.

Fake websites can easily be set up to look like the real thing. Giving your personal details to anyone should be handled with a large degree of caution. Even leaving your phone number to be called back by a sales rep can end in harassment or worse.  Ask yourself why they can’t give you their direct number for you to call them. How many websites have you supplied with your name, address and date of birth in order to win a competition?

Some of the more recent scams have included lotteries, sweepstakes and competitions. Some are obviously fake, like the Nigerian millionaire dying scam, but some are very subtle, like the competition to win a new mobile phone or an iPad. Some scams involve government departments like the tax department asking you to confirm your tax file number so that you can claim your lost superannuation. Some involve people pretending to be from a large computer company offering to help you rid your computer of viruses.

Banks have very strict rules about how they identify you to speak to you. However, they do not seem to be so strict about contacting you and asking for your details. Ask who they are and call them back on the number you find yourself. Do not give any details, no matter how incidental, until you are sure of who they are.

Mobile phone ring tone offers are another potential scam. Once you sign in or subscribe, you may not be able to sign out. This will lead to huge phone bills.

Health and medical scams may offer products or services that will cure your health problems or offer a simple treatment. Often these cures and treatments do not work. The diet industry is littered with scammers.

Follow these golden rules to avoid being scammed:

  • Don’t respond to offers, deals or requests for your personal details. Stop. Take time to independently check the request or offer.
  • Never send money or give credit card, account or other personal details to anyone who makes unsolicited offers or requests for your information. Get a receipt for any money you do spend.
  • Don’t rely on the glowing testimonials they provide: find solid evidence from independent sources (not those provided with the offer).
  • Never respond to out of the blue requests for your personal details.
  • Always type in the address of the website of a bank, business or authority you are interested in to ensure you are logging into the genuine website.
  • Don’t open unsolicited emails.
  • Never click on a link provided in an unsolicited email as it will probably lead to a fake website designed to trick you into providing personal details.
  • Never use phone numbers provided with unsolicited requests or offers as it probably connects you to fakes who will try to trap you with lies.
  • Don’t reply to unsolicited text messages from numbers you don’t recognise.
  • Always look up phone numbers in an independent directory when you wish to check if a request or offer is genuine.
  • Don’t dial a 0055 or 1900 number unless you are sure you know how much you will be charged.
  • If you are scammed contact the SRC Legal Service or the NSW Fair Trading. You can also lodge a complaint online.

For more information, visit www.scamwatch.com.au