Sexual Harassment Officer’s Report – Week 8, Sem 1, 2016

When we talk about sexual harassment and assault, we have an unfortunate habit of universalizing, and therefore reducing, the quality of the discussion. We often fail to acknowledge the diverse and individual nature in which sexual harassment and assault affect us all differently.
An alarming amount of research highlights the disproportionate rates of sexual harassment and assault amongst Indigenous Wom*n. In 2012, it was estimated that an Indigenous Wom*n was 6 times more likely to be sexually abused than a non-Indigenous Wom*n and 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic violence.

Sensationalist media headlines feed us these statistics as a‘national crisis’ –but their reports frequently erase the multifaceted nature of Indigenous Wom*n’s lived experiences. In ‘Black Panther Woman’ (2014), Marlene Cummins
shares her experiences of sexual assault as a young woman, not wanting to report the crime in fear of further demonising the Indigenous men in her community. Although this documentary is amongst the few platforms that have given a voice to someone who might otherwise remain unheard, Cummings has said post-release that she was not given any counselling despite her trauma in recounting her assault onscreen.

Although Marlene’s story is one of inspiration and strength for all Wom*n, support for her story cannot just be empty rhetoric: experience teaches us that we must prioritise the services available for Wom*n, especially Indigenous Wom*n, in order to create a supportive network for those who have experienced sexual assault and harassment.

We need to give agency to Wom*n whose voices are overshadowed, listen to their stories and support them. As Celeste Liddle wrote last year, “Aboriginal women are strong. They are survivors who have borne the brunt not only of all policies of colonisation enacted upon our people in this country, but also the ripple effects and transgenerational trauma for several decades. They need to be given the space and support to address issues of violence within communities. Continuing the discussions on gender, and how this intersects with racism and poverty making Aboriginal women more vulnerable is imperative to tackling the problem of Violence Against Women”.

If you need help, advice or support or know someone who does, call 1800 Respect.

Wom*n’s Officer’s Report – Week 8, Sem 1, 2016

The Women of Colour Collective is currently in discussion upon whether or not to temporarily lift the unanimously voted on and passed moratorium placed on the facebook group. Our main focuses for this semester will hopefully be the creation of a constitution and regulations so that future OBs can adequately navigate the collective in the right direction.

The Women of Colour Collective has also discussed running a sexual assault campaign in the latter part of this year in conjunction with other collectives within the SRC.

A Race and Sensitivity workshop is also in development in conjunction with the Autonomous Collective against racism and will hopefully take place at the end of semester.

Overall the collective has been through quite a difficult time and is learning how to implement regulations and changes to ensure that breaches of autonomy do not occur again.

If you want to get involved with the Women of Colour Collective, you can find us on facebook at facebook.com/usydwomenofcolourcollective/ or come along to our fortnightly meetings held Monday 4-5pm.

Education Officer’s Report – Week 8, Sem 1, 2016

Another dire week for higher education in Australia. At USYD the forces of evil continue to press for staff and curriculum cuts. With the federal Budget approaching and a 20% cut to higher education funding, university management’s corporate agenda is only encouraged.

Management is cautious of the wins made by student and staff united campaigns over the years whether protecting jobs and knocking back proposed cuts. They want to silently cut back! But we have our ears to the ground. We suggested that the restructure and faculty mergers was a way for management to cut down on the courses offered at USYD and this reality is now proven with restructuring in biology well underway cutting down the first year courses offered from four to two.
While cutting back in some areas the University’s plans also threaten to increase the work load of its staff. The University has been unable to respond to critiques made of the new B.Advance Studies from the with the Arts faculty.

Not only is the new degree program designed to decrease enrollments in current three year programs inorder to justify future moves a compulsory four year degree structure, but its associated new 4000 level units place a huge burden on smaller and medium sized departments. They simply ask ‘how can we provide 4000 level units with the current funding and staffing arrangements’?

History suggests the likely solution will not be to increase the amount of staff and funding for the departments but to shift full time workers to casual and teaching only positions.

So what can we do about it? We do what we always do, we stand up and we fight back!

With our education under attack by both management and the liberals, the Education Officers have been busy planning the May 11 post budget rally, holding working bees and handing out flyers. But we need your help so make sure you get over to the Education Action Group weekly meetings 2pm Tuesdays on the
Law Lawns (if lost give me a message on 0432 236 668).

While the University has its spending priorities subordinate not to education quality but a competition for budget surpluses and prestige we need to be clear that the problem stems from federal policy. The government should provide a fully funded education system and needs to move away from neoliberal measures like fee deregulation, funding cuts and hiking up student contribution fees. On May 11 get to fisher library and march with us against fee deregulation’s $100,000 degrees, against a reduction in the HECs threshold and demand a free and fully funded education system!

Vice Presidents’ Report – Week 8, Sem 1, 2016

The University of Sydney stands on the stolen lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. Although we hear this phrase often in obligatory acknowledgements of country, it is worth pausing and reflecting on what this really means in the context of our learning and our relationship to the University as students.

The academy in general, and USyd in particular, are implicated in long histories of colonialism. Disciplines like anthropology and human biology were integral to the colonial project, legitimising discourses of Aboriginal people as ‘noble savages’ with inherent biological differences to white Europeans. Botany and agricultural research played a pivotal role in establishing settlement in Australia, providing the knowledge and techniques necessary for foreign crops and livestock to be grown here. The knowledge produced in academic disciplines is not politically or socially neutral – it is created to fulfil specific purposes dictated by larger realities of structural racism. As students, we should learn and remember this history.

Despite the lip service paid to ‘diversity’ and ‘cultural change’ in the University’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, university management is not sincerely committed to supporting Indigenous students. Gutting almost half of the units comprising the Indigenous Studies major last year indicates the University’s lack of support for Indigenous education. DVC (Indigenous Strategies and Services) Shane Houston’s decision to fragment support services for Indigenous students, moving them from the autonomous Koori Centre to the general Student Services Centre, undermines the history and value of the Koori Centre as a safe space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Creating safe spaces and providing support for Indigenous students within an institution that has historically marginalised and excluded them takes a lot of hard work, and does not happen overnight. It is the task of students, as well as university administration, to foster a safer environment. You can join the group Students Support Aboriginal Communities, who work on various issues in Sydney and around the state to provide funds and support for grassroots Indigenous projects. Keep up with the great work the Indigenous Collective is doing through the SRC. Think about how your studies can challenge, rather than support, the racist legacies of academia; and always remember that you are walking on Aboriginal land.

President’s Report – Week 8, Sem 1, 2016

This week’s edition of Honi Soit is the autonomous Indigenous edition and I strongly encourage everyone to read through and think about the articles and stories contained in these pages. Whilst we have come some way in terms of recognising the role of Indigenous peoples within the university community, through symbolic actions such as Welcoming and Acknowledging Country, devoting a week in semester to Indigenous culture, and (finally) having the Aboriginal flag flown permanently on main campus, there are still so many questions and challenges to face when it comes to reconciling Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of the university community. It is important to think about the rates of Indigenous enrolment and retention at Sydney Uni, and what lengths the university goes to in ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff feel welcomed on campus. This was identified as a key goal of Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence when he took on the role, and yet alongside this we have seen funding cuts and attempted closures of Indigenous learning and cultural centres on campus. Non-Indigenous members of the university community must ask ourselves: what does reconciliation really look like? How does it play out in our lecture theatres, classrooms, and boardrooms? Just how much are we prepared to challenge our prejudices and ignorance in order to achieve true reconciliation, rather than just a feel-good newspaper headline or advertising campaign? Hopefully, this week’s edition will take us further towards that goal and understanding. If nothing else, I can guarantee you’ll learn a thing or two from reading it. Enjoy and remember – always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

President’s Report – Week 7, Sem 1, 2016

It’s week 7 which means we’re officially halfway through the semester. Whilst the majority of assessments and exams still lie ahead, just remember that you’ve made it this far and you can sure as hell make it to the end.
From week 7, students can begin applying for a Discontinue Not Fail (DNF) for units of study – something the SRC won for students back in 2011. DNF essentially means you can withdraw from a unit without a fail grade going on your transcript, if you can provide evidence that you had reasonable prospects of passing the unit prior to week 7 but then your circumstances changed. The SRC casework team can help you out with any questions you might have about applying for a DNF or any other academic issues.
Meanwhile your SRC has been maintaining a strong and active presence on campus. Last Wednesday saw the SRC out in force attending the National Union of Students’ National Day of Action, protesting course fee increases and calling for full funding of higher education. Our welfare officers were also out on campus on Monday, offering students a quick and tasty study break with free Krispy Kremes for everyone who completed their welfare survey. And in the coming weeks, SRC officers and activists will be doing stalls, flyering, lecture bashes, and more to talk to students about the university restructure and the next National Day of Action protest on May 11. There’s also plenty happening in our collectives and action groups. So in between study, keep an eye out for your SRC on campus and come get involved, or get in touch with our office bearers on the USyd SRC website. We’re always keen to hear from you.
Lastly, in light of recent issues regarding alleged racism from a university staff member, I want to reaffirm the SRC’s strong commitment to a diverse, multicultural, and welcoming campus. We condemn racism and discrimination in all it’s forms. I want to remind all students that if you witness or experience any incidents of discrimination on campus, or directed at or from a student or staff member of the university, your SRC can help. Our free casework and legal team can provide advice and support and direct you through the university’s anti-discrimination and grievance policies and procedures. Everyone has a right to feel welcome here and your SRC stands with you.

Global Solidarity Report – Week 5, Sem 1, 2016

Justine Armin, Pelin Ersoy, Declan Maher and Michelle Picone

Memories of May 68 are being rekindled in France as students and workers have, over recent weeks, taken to the streets to oppose the dismantling of labour protections that would see workers be subject to the whims of their bosses. These reforms will allow bosses to increase working hours over the offical 35 a week and give them greater ease to fire workers, amongst other attacks. Strikes, high school pickets and street rallies with participants numbering 450,000 occurred across the country on March 9, against these reforms being pushed by a so called Socialist government. Subsequently on March 31, a national day of strikes and protests involved over a million participants.
Elsewhere, the leak of the Panama papers has revealed the depths of greed and corruption of the global elite – while workers and the poor face austerity worldwide, the parasites at the top of society get richer still. However, the immense power of ordinary people to fight back was shown in Iceland, where their Prime Minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, who was implicated in the scandal, was forced to resign after a whole 10% of the nation’s population came out in protest.
Closer to home, 30,000 people marched to the Australian embassy in Dili in Timor-Leste against Australia’s theft of Timor’s oil resources. Rallies were also held in several cities in Australia to demand an end to the theft of the resources of one of the world’s poorest nations by one of the richest. I attended the demonstration in Melbourne at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can find out more about the campaign on the Timor Sea Justice Campaign Facebook page.
As usual, our own government, in tandem with governments around the world, continues to attack education – Liberal minister for education Simon Birmingham has announced that fee deregulation never left the agenda, the threshold for the repayment of HECS debt will be lowered, and that the government will pursue the debt of deceased students. The Global Solidarity Office will be partaking in the speak-out against attacks on education on Wednesday the 13th of April at Fisher Library.

Education Officer’s Report – Week 5, Sem 1, 2016

Liam Carrigan and Dylan Griffiths

On the 6th of April, Education Action Group members staged a peaceful protest at the Howard Cup upon discovering that Higher Education Minister Simon Birmingham would be in attendance. Previously, Birmingham had confirmed that after being placed on hold fee deregulation remained government policy alongside media reports that a 20% cut to federal funding, a 10% spike in HECS interest, lowering the HECS repayment threshold and collecting the debt of dead students could all also feature in the upcoming budget.
As students, we do not want to let these attacks go unnoticed or stand back silently and let accessible, quality education be destroyed in this country. We converged outside the event at Fisher in solidarity with the marginalized and working class students who would be locked out of education should these horrific policies pass.
Upon being refused entry, we began to chant peacefully and affirmed that while we would not resist anyone entering we believed it essential that we protest the event as is within our rights. Unfortunately the organizers or riot cops – called preemptively to our arrival – did not agree. Within fifteen minutes we were violently removed from the scene by police. Multiple students were pushed, shoved, trampled, lifted by all fours and treated with excessive and cruel force. We had the right to be in our library on our terms and we have the right to mobilize for our rights. It’s pretty telling that the state will go to any length to silence students in their fight for a better future.
Maybe it’s because we have won before – students united have never been defeated. On our campus we won the fight against the cutting of 300 jobs, stood with staff during the strikes and are currently waging a campaign against the neoliberal restructuring of our University. Nationally, in 2014 and 2015 we beat back fee deregulation through a united student movement and strong leadership from the left that saw thousands mobilize and similar stunts to our protest at Fisher last night.
We have similar fights ahead, that will require a reenergized and militant student movement. The University recently released its 2016-2020 Strategic Plan. Once the bullshit has been waded through it presents itself as little more then a framework for the corporatization and neoliberalisation of our campus and its community over the next four years. There are indications of staff and course cuts, a willingness to allow the private sector to fund our University and degree restructuring that will increase student debt significantly. On a national scale we need similar mobilizations to those seen in 2014. On April 13th NSW will be partaking in the National Day of Action with a student speak out at Fisher Library in anticipation for and to support building a mass student mobilization against the budget in May.
It’s never been a better or more essential time to get involved in the fight back against attacks on education. Join the Education Action Group at 2pm on the New Law Lawns – we have proven we can still make a scene!

International Students’ Officer’s Report – Week 5, Sem 1, 2016

Hannah Elten, Alexander Shu, Jasmine Yu and Anqi Zhao

Last week’s announcement of the change of the graduation date for the International Management Master Programme has caused a lot of backlash amongst the international student community, something that has even been picked up by the media. The incidence reflects the University’s often inconsiderate attitude towards overseas students and their specific circumstances (such as the fact that family attendance at graduation ceremonies is rather difficult to arrange and requires significant financial commitment). And although we as OBs are currently trying to ensure that this does not happen again in the future, securing awareness the awareness on the side of University administration is something hard to achieve as long as overseas student representation stay as low-key as it currently is.

On a more positive note, there are two major events concerning international students happening this week: The Forum on the Travel Concession Campaign, mainly organized by SUPRA, on Wednesday the 13th, and the first meeting of the International Council to the USU on Thursday the 14th. Concerning the International Council Meeting, all Clubs and Societies Executives should have received an email asking to send an international student Executive member to attend. This is an amazing opportunity to engage with the USU decision-making process, as well as to voice important concerns regarding international students on Campus that the USU might be able to address. We strongly encourage every Club Executive to participate in this.

Another great achievement has been the publication of the first translation of an Honi Soit article into Mandarin just before the break – we hope that this makes the student newspaper slightly more accessible to a large portion of international students on campus, and that there will be future translations of articles centred on international students’ issues to come.

The next issue the SRC Overseas Department is going to address is the one of Student Housing, both on and off- Campus. This will include a survey conducted together with the SRC Housing Officers on the quality of living within the Terraces, and an effort to implement tenancy-rights workshops at the start of each semester for incoming overseas students.

Lastly, we would again like to encourage all international students on Campus to attend our Collective Meetings, held fortnightly on Wednesdays at 5pm. Since the start of the semester, we have continuously grown, and have had many important discussions on how to improve overseas students’ welfare on Campus. If you are interested, just contact us under international.officers@src.usyd.edu.au.

Queer Officer’s Report – Week 5, Sem 1, 2016

Evan Jones and Marcus Wong

This month has been extremely eventful and we are pleased to see some really fantastic engagement with the collective this year. Since the last report we marched in Mardi Gras, always a highlight of the year. We were pleased to see the hard work that went into organising was worthwhile. We would like to say thank you to the Australian Queer Students Network and the various universities who contributed to the float. We would also like to extend a special thank you to Dylan Lloyd, for their hard work, and without whom the float would really not have been possible.

It has been delightful to see members of our collective become very involved with activism this year, with representatives at the Fight the Restructure rally on the 16th of March, as well as at two rallies in support of the Safe Schools coalition. Last week was Transgender Day of Visibility where we held a sticker run for the ‘We All Need to Pee’ campaign, aimed at helping transgender students use the bathroom that they are comfortable with, as well as a photo campaign and chalking along Eastern Avenue. Despite being a peaceful event, we were followed by campus security that seemed unable to provide us with a legitimate reason to why they were tailing us. Overall we have had an incredibly promising start to the year and there will be a strong focus on maintaining the momentum from an incredible group of young queer students. Next week we will also be relaunching our sub-collective Queerkats (autonomous to people who are not cis-men) and hope that it will be met with the same success as QuAC.

We do have a lot of exciting things to look forward to this year, including Pride Week from the 12th-14th of April, and International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) on the 17th of May, and we’re pleased to be collaborating with various organisations on campus including SUPRA, the USU and The Ally Network on these events. Queer Collaborations (QC), an annual conference for queer students around the country, is also fast approaching, and will be held in Perth this year from the 4th – 7th of July. This will give our members a great opportunity to meet queer students across the country, and to learn key skills and obtain some wonderful knowledge around activism and queer issues. To prepare we conducted our first bake sale this week, which we are pleased to say was incredibly successful, earning enough to pay for a student’s entire registration, including accommodation and food for the week. Thank you to all of those who donated food, money or time to the sale.

If you have any questions or would like to get involved with the Queer Action Collective or Queerkats please email us at queer.officers@src.usyd.edu.au.