Wom*n’s Department Report – Radical Sex & Consent Week and more..

Hello! There are a lot of exciting things to report back on, so I won’t waste words with a witty intro. A huge congratulations to Courtney Thompson and Victoria Zerbst for organising Radical Sex & Consent Week – it was a huge success! It was a pleasure to run the sex positivity debate and sexual assault/gendered violence panel. Thank you to all the students who attended the festival, helped organise it and the speakers who gave up the time to educate us. It was fantastic to watch SRC Collectives work so seamlessly with the USU!
As a follow up to the panel we ran at Rad Sex, we are working with the Sydney University Law Society (SULS) to run a workshop about how to respond when someone discloses an experience of sexual assault. The workshop is being run by Karen Willis from Rape & Domestic Violence Australia, please come along! It is non-autonomous and entry costs $10 to recoup our costs (the rest will be donated to the Full Stop Foundation to fight the closure of Hey Sis! we reported on a few months ago). It is being held on the 24th of September, from 4.30-5.30 in the Law Lounge. Please register via e-mail at usydwomenscollective@gmail.com.

We have been continuing our work with ‘fEMPOWER’ – our feminist education workshops for high school students. Anna and myself are going to Penrith high School to meet with their principal who is interested in running the program. We’ve also confirmed interest from North Sydney Girls High School. The hope is that we can run workshops at both of these schools by the end of the semester.

Most excitingly, the university is about to release a survey to collect information about sexual harassment on campus. This information will be used to help formulate university policy so that we can all enjoy a safer campus. This survey has been the product of over a years worth of work and is only happening because of the persistent lobbying of students. Look out for an article about it soon!

General Secretaries Report – Week 8

At this point naming the upcoming, but still distant, holiday a “mid-semester break” strikes me less as an administrative error or quaint hangover from a happier time and more as a cruel reminder that we are utterly beholden to the nonsensical whims of the University. Unless my maths fails me, as it very nearly did in first year before I took up philosophy, the halfway point of a thirteen week semester ought to be its seventh week. Having just survived week seven, we can now confirm that it not at all break-like.

With a hint of irony, mid-semester week included RUOK? day and a focus on mental health. Impending assessments and a while to go till the well earned break mean it’s as important as ever that we be aware of our own mental health and that of those around us. Few university students complete their degrees without experiencing or coming into contact with mental health difficulties and we would be foolish not to occasionally remind ourselves to be more aware of this. The University’s Counselling and Psychological Services, the University Health Service, and the SRC are all able to assist you or refer you to someone
who can.

In SRC land, Chiara and I have working away on a number of different projects. We have begun discussions with the Executive and Publications Managers about ways to improve the placement of ads in Honi Soit (because as boring as it is, any dollar spent on student activism and welfare is a dollar well spent). Collaboration with the USU and SUPRA to ensure our organisations are giving each other a leg up wherever possible continues. As does our participation in the Students Support Aboriginal Communities group, that is in the process of formalising a constitution and engaging with many of the Indigenous communities we visited at the start of this year on the Freedom Ride Anniversary.

Finally, Chiara and I have been elected to the Faculty Board of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Despite the historical impotence of many representatives to department and faculty boards, it is our hope that we can look out for the interests of Arts students over the next year. Take care of yourself; mid-semester isn’t that far away.

Disability Awareness Week

This week was disability awareness week, often these type of events are overlooked due to elections that’s fine, but it went quite well. We’ve received dozens of new members in the collective as a result. As it was awareness week let’s talk about awareness. It’s not known by a lot of people but 9/10 females with a mental illness have been sexually assaulted. That’s an abominable statistic. More often then not you’ll find a lot of the perpetrators of this abuse are people who are in positions of power i.e. support workers, medical professionals etc. As a result, a campaign has emerged to improve service delivery to women with disabilities. This campaign is called ‘stop the violence.’ It’s important that these facts are known as more often then not we will find that disability isn’t always in the common verbal discourse when people talk about marginalised groups.

The collective has had a big week this week as was said earlier disability awareness week was on and there where a host of events and stalls on campus regarding disabilities. We also hosted drinks at hetmans and will continue to do so fortnightly as a means of creating a stronger collective that can live on in the forthcoming years.

Time to VOTE in the SRC Election

As many of you would have noticed, it’s election season. There is a common vibe amongst the student body that this is the point where talking to campaigners becomes a chore rather than an insight into why the elections are being held and what you are voting for. The students, who you see and hear talking about the SRC and what they hope to do during their time on Council, should they be elected, believe strongly in student advocacy.

So why is this important? Voting is this election is important because it gives you, as members of the Undergraduate Student Body, the opportunity to voice your opinions on how your education and student experience should be executed. Without your support for the SRC we would not be able to have an established Legal Service to defend students who may be facing complex legal difficulties during their time at university. These can range from allegations made against you, to seeking legal advice, to dealing with tenancy issues. We would not be able to have our Casework and Policy team which assists student not only with administrative issues within the University, but also specific issues ranging from problems in your classes, or with your lecturers or tutors, job searching and Centerlink advice.

It is also worth noting that your Student Representative Council not only defends your rights as students such as fighting for a more affordable education and better services on campus, but also actively advocates for those in and around the outside community. We are the people who draw attention to the issues facing students on a public level. We are the people who advocate for the rights of asylum seekers, for Indigenous rights, for wom*n’s rights, for queer rights, for the rights of those with disabilities. We are the organization that will have your back and defend you to the best of our ability.

So if you are eligible to vote in the upcoming election on the 23rd and 24th of September, I strongly encourage you to take the opportunity to tell us what you want in your university and exercise your democratic right as a student of the University of Sydney. It’s what the SRC was originally established to do.