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Fahad Ali discusses the Significance of Mardi Gras

In 1978, gay and lesbian activists came together here, on this campus, to organise a protest against violent persecution and discrimination that would become the first Mardi Gras. A group of 500 courageous men and women marched down Oxford Street, burgeoning in size as revellers responded to the call: “out of the bars and into the streets!”

In 2013, we celebrated the 35th Sydney Mardi Gras. The queer rights movement has come so far in the years since those brave activists gathered together to fight against the cruel injustices that they faced. This year we marched together for the first time as a united Sydney University community in a float put together by the Queer Action Collective, SHADES, Queer Revue, and the USU’s Queer Coordinators. The float was a triumphant celebration of what we can achieve when we work together. On behalf of the Students’ Representative Council, myself, and my co-organizer Eleonora Kazantzis, I would like to thank everyone who volunteered or participated in the float. We are a community of passion, pride, and power, and we must never forget that.

Though much has changed for the queer community, it is shameful that we still have to stand up against queerphobia from those institutions that are sworn to protect and serve. In ’78, our community chanted: “stop police attacks on gays, women, and blacks!” This message is chillingly relevant to us today. Sexism persists both in the military and the police force. Indigenous Australians suffer police brutality every single day. And the countless cases of targeted police violence and unwarranted strip searches throughout and after the Mardi Gras is a clear indication that there is a systematic queerphobia ingrained within the police force.

I commend Cat Rose, Karl Hand, and Community Action Against Homophobia for organising the rally against police violence that was held last Friday. I would also like to extend my thanks to queer and allied students from Sydney University who attended the rally, marching behind the Queer Action Collective banner. There have been attempts to vilify and discredit the organisers. This is not a new phenomenon—every single liberation effort in history, including women’s, Aboriginal, queer, and black liberation, has been attacked in precisely the same way. We will not back down. We will not be intimidated. We will continue the struggle until we have achieved a world in which all can live in safety and freedom.

If you are interested in joining the fight for a better world, get in touch with me at queer.officers@src.usyd.edu.au. Remember, there is a diverse and exciting community at Sydney for you to explore, including the active and social Queer Action Collective, the theatrical and fun Queer Revue, and the up-beat and high-energy party group SHADES. Feel free to send me a message if you’d like any information on any of the queer groups on campus.

Education Officers Report

On Thursday the 7th of March over two hundred staff members, and several hundred students, came together to form picket lines around the university. The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) led the industrial action against university management’s proposed Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). The EBA plans to strip staff of their conditions and destroy the high quality of education that students expect, and deserve, from the prestigious University of Sydney (a university with a budgetary surplus of $93 million).

The student solidarity contingent was organised by the Education Action Group (EAG). The EAG is a collective of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) that runs all of the education campaigns that keep our university strong. Last year the EAG organised the fight back against the proposed cut of 340 academic and general staff. The campaign was a huge success with thousands rallying on Eastern Avenue and the majority of the staff jobs being saved. The EAG is calling on all students who value their staff, and their education, to once again join us in 2013. Last Thursday was just the beginning of the current campaign. The NTEU will most likely be taking rolling industrial action (i.e.: more strikes will take place over the coming weeks, and they are likely to be longer in duration than Thursday’s 24 hour stoppage.)

If you don’t want to join your fellow students and staff during these strikes, please at least skip class (and take a few days off to chill out from study!). You may wonder how missing a lecture or tutorial could ever be good for your education. These protests are needed if we are to preserve the high quality education that we receive here, if we are to stop overcrowding of classes and a decreased quality of teaching and academic support, throughout our entire degrees. We’re here for several years. A few days off to send a strong message that we won’t pay for low quality education, is worth it to get a high quality degree. If you really are concerned with missing out on your education then this is the movement to join, because if you don’t, our degrees will be devalued and we’ll miss out every day of the year. Fight for the quality working conditions our staff deserve and the quality education that we deserve.

Women’s Report

Emily Rayers reports back on women’s collective

It’s been another busy week for the Women’s Collective! We hope you have all started to settle in to your classes and timetable and are looking forward to the semester ahead.
Our first meeting took place on Wednesday, and we had so much new interest that we were practically spilling outside the door of the Women’s Room! It was fantastic to catch up with old members, meet so many new members and, hear some really great ideas for activism and social events through the coming year. Don’t let the lack of space deter you from joining us at our next meeting – there is always room for more enthusiasm around women’s issues and we have a place in our ranks for every woman on campus.

As you are likely aware, International Women’s Day occurred last Friday – an annual event which has been an international celebration for over 100 years. Much of our time last week was spent at various events celebrating the achievements of women, remembering how far we have come and remembering that we still have much further to go in women’s activism.
The Women’s Collective hosted a stall on Friday at the IWD festival hosted by the USU and had a fantastic day. The combination of sunshine, fairy floss, fabulous tunes from Eirwen Skye and the company of so many wonderful women made for a perfect way to celebrate! Huge congratulations go out to the USU Women’s Convenor and Women’s Collective member, Eve Radunz, who did an
amazing job organising everything despite lots of unexpected setbacks on the way!

Many of our members also attended the Sydney-wide International Women’s Day march on Saturday. After catching up over some yummy homemade snacks we wandered over to Town Hall and joined hundreds of other Sydney women to raise awareness for and push for action to end violence and discrimination to women. There was a huge turnout for the march and it was not only a great success but a LOT of fun to march with friends and alongside the UTS and UNSW Women’s Collectives!

The Seen&Heard festival continues this Thursday evening at The Red Rattler in Marrickville, showcasing films produced, directed or largely influenced by women. For more information see their Facebook event ‘Seen & Heard Film Festival 2013’.

As always, if you would like to join the Women’s Collective feel free to come along to our meetings at 1pm Wednesdays in the Women’s Room at Manning house. Alternatively request to join our Facebook group ‘Usyd Women’s Collective’, tweet us (@SRCwomens) or phone the SRC on 9660 5222.

Positive about the numbers

Well, that was a surprise. We actually shut down the university for a day.

It was an undeniable success. Between 300 and 400 people manned the pickets, and we turned away thousands of students and staff from entering the campus. We had an energetic rally of all the pickets at 12 (with 400 people meeting at City Rd footbridge), and then had a spontaneous student march on the Quad.

There was some debate throughout the day about the intensity of the picket lines. Some folks thought they should be symbolic, focused on persuading people to turn around, others thought they should be physical – focused on non violently physically blockading people, as well as talking to them. At various points people tried to pull me into that debate, I avoided being drawn in as best I could, and focused on providing support to the pickets rather than trying to tell them what to do, which wouldn’t have worked and would have only alienated people.
Perhaps the best bit was that after a certain time very early in the morning, not one person was able to get a car into the law car park. After traffic started banking up and affecting city road, the police had no choice but to close the entrance off. This was due to the action of a small picket outside the law school.

I’d like to make something very clear: the point of industrial action isn’t to try and gain support for the union’s cause. This is the fallacy of awareness campaigns. It’s not about convincing an apathetic student mass to view the EBA slightly more positively. That doesn’t make a difference.

The entire purpose of the strike was to shut down the university as a functioning enterprise for the day. We succeeded. I don’t apologise for making students and scabs feel uncomfortable if they decided to cross the picket line

This is the tactic via which workers have won every victory in pay, rights and conditions ever.

Building a fighting student movement

Welcome to Sydney Uni! My name is David Pink and I’m your SRC President for 2013.

The Students’ Representative Council is the peak representative body for undergraduate students at the University of Sydney. The SRC exists to defend and advance the interests of USyd students.

We are YOUR student association and we have a long history of fighting for student power. We stand for a free, fair and funded education, universal student unionism and a society free of discrimination and oppression.
We work with the National Union of Students who represent students at a university and government level. Our collectives are the hub of student activism on campus.

Our staff provide vital services, such as SRC HELP (academic, Centrelink and tenancy advice), a secondhand bookshop and a FREE legal service. We also publish Honi Soit, the only weekly student newspaper in the country.
My job is to make sure that your voice is listened to at every level of the university. I sit on the most important university committees (including Academic Board and the Senior Executive Group – Education Committee) and meet with university officials including the Vice-Chancellor on a regular basis.

You are coming to university during a time of tremendous changes. Federally, the Government has not done enough to reverse the Howard’s cutbacks and rationalisation of education. Fortunately after Howard, the student movement has seen some successes: the repeal of domestic undergraduate full fees was our biggest success of the past the five years, and the introduction of the Student Service and Amenities Fees to replace Voluntary Student Unionism was a step forward.

Sadly, Abbott’s education policy includes such wonderful things as fee deregulation and the abolition of post-study work visas for international students. Scary.

On a local level, management has been waging a year-long war to complete the logic of economic rationalism that has already conquered every other academic institution in the country. Last year, they tried to cut over 350 academic and general staff. The staff union (the NTEU) and the SRC managed to put that to a stop, but round two begins in March with a proposed teachers’ strike on the first day of semester.

The SRC stand in solidarity with our teachers’ efforts to fight attempts to strip back their conditions in the next Enterprise Bargaining agreement.

This is what the SRC would like our education system to look like:

Free Education: No HECS! No fees!

Fair Youth Allowance: Where ALL students live above the poverty line and 18 as the fixed age of independence.

Funded Education: An increase of 20% in base funding by the federal government in higher Education.

Real Student Representation: Students representing students at all levels of the university, including the SEG and more student representation on Senate.

Affordable Student Housing: No rents over $200p/w for accommodation owned and managed by the university plus an increase in the number of university owned beds.

An End to Overcrowding: A cap on tutorial sizes of 15 students per class.
An End to Voluntary Student Unionism: The SSAF is a start, however universal membership would guarantee our continued success fighting for your rights!

Fair Treatment of International Students: Full transport concessions, as well as a accessible post-study work visa

A University Free from Discrimination: No racism. No sexism, ableism, and equal opportunity for students from all backgrounds,particularly indigenous students.

I actually believe in a ‘user pays’ funding system. When we graduate businesses and governments use our skills – they should pay.

David Pink
2013 SRC President