Posts for the welfare Dept

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after their Summer break, your SRC Welfare Officers are thrilled to get to work

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after their Summer break, your SRC Welfare Officers are thrilled to get to work on the myriad campaigns we have in stall for you throughout the year (the conception of which involved far too many glitchy cross-continental Skype conversations and cluttered Google Docs.) To break the ice and extend our appreciations for your efforts, we the Welfare Officers would like to recognise a few of the more exceptional feats of courage demonstrated by you, dear reader. We would like to congratulate those of you who managed to wade through the Turkish bath that was Eastern Avenue during O Week, along with the long-suffering stall coordinators who managed to stay alive during those three days, fuelled singularly by the double-espresso-shot-guarana-infused V energy drinks without suffering fatal heart palpitations (you know who you are. Shame.)

This year, the Welfare officers will be conducting several different campaigns for the student body to actively participate in and benefit from, including a wider range of multilingual services and resources offered by the SRC. We’re looking forward to expanding the ways in which we communicate with you in a way that every student can access, such as those lecture bashes you so fondly associate with us SRC-types. For the cash-strapped gourmands on campus, we are also planning on setting up an emergency food bank and student cookbook for those of you who can’t quite justify the just-shy-of-ten-dollars baguette from Taste. And finally, we will be running a combined drug and alcohol safety campaign to further educate students about recreational drug use and its presence in University culture, complete with a student-composed handbook of personal experiences.

Of course, we couldn’t forget all of you first year students who are able to read this because you are seated comfortably outside your lecture theatre having arrived early in a fit of optimistic eagerness; congratulations. A small word of caution, however, in the hauntingly dulcet tones of The Carpenters: “we’ve only just begun”.

Sexual Harrassment on Campus

The sexual harassment perpetrated by Alexander Wright is now well-known across campus. If you don’t know about it, check out Honi Soit’s reportage online. It is enlightening as a striking example of how the uni and wider society undermine and devalue the experiences of wom*n. This woman spoke out about her assault, put her hand out for help and some semblance of justice or action, and the university did nothing substantial. Yet when Alexander Wright’s identity is made public, the university jumped to protect his ‘privacy’. It is horrifying that an institution we get our academic enrichment from participates in and maintains the destructive patriarchal sexist conditions that we live in. Want to see evidence of rape culture? This is it.

The SRC takes sexual harassment very seriously, but has historically lacked the funding and infrastructure to provide services to those in need. Services like a hotline for anonymous reporting of sexual harassment on campus should be readily available, as well as an immediate point of contact for harassment that occurs in residential colleges or at university-run events. There is a severe lack of initiative in the university.

There are external services available to Sydney University students, such as the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Sexual Assault Service and the NSW Police Force online reporting service, but these should not preclude an internal set of services or a clearly stipulated university code of conduct. It’s also important to recognise that harassment can be subtle, or it can be labelled as a ‘joke’ or even as flattery, but sexual harassment can be incredibly pervasive and should be taken seriously by the entire university community. Further, we believe that any case of sexual harassment affecting members of this university community must be dealt with on a survivor-centric basis.

Keep your eyes peeled for an autonomous action speaking out about Wright’s reprehensible conduct and the uni’s neglectful mishandling of the crime. Also don’t forget Reclaim the Night will be on October 31 at Hyde park.

Lastly, if you or anyone you know has either experienced sexual assault or feels confused or unsure about an unwanted sexual experience and would like to speak to someone, please contact RPAH Sexual Assault Service on (02) 9515 9040 between 8:30am and 5pm weekdays or (02) 9515 6111 anytime if the sexual assault happened in the last 7 days.

SRC Welfare Officers say we must fight more than ever

The scenes of Joe Hockey’s face on television as he announced the 2014 Budget back in May now seem like a distant nightmare… but the scary reality is that they’re still haunting us to this day. As these reforms get debated in Parliament, now – more than ever – must we fight to ensure they don’t become a reality.

It has been heartening to see the fierce backlash to the Budget is still continuing in full force, evidenced by the National Day of Action on August 20 and the March in August last Sunday. It is now essential that we, as university students, put pressure on politicians in opposition to the deregulation of higher education and cuts to welfare services for students and the wider community.
Since our last report, your Welfare Department has been active in this fight, both on and off campus.

We’ve been involved with Students for Wom*n-Only Services (SWOS), a group working to fight the devastating reductions in funding by the State Government to wom*n-only refuges across New South Wales. SWOS worked with the SOS Women’s Services campaign to collect signatures for a petition calling for State Parliament to debate these reforms, and organised a candlelight vigil at Pitt St Mall on July 24 to raise awareness of the issue. Though the petition reached its target of over 10,000 signatures, many refuges still in fact face impending closure. Thus, the fight to save wom*n’s refuges must – and will – continue.

We’ve also supported the continuing action at the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy. For more information, feel free to contact us (at welfare.officers@src.usyd.edu.au) or the Indigenous Officers.
On campus, we were pleased with the overwhelming resistance to deregulation voiced at the Town Hall meeting on August 25. This sends a clear message to both University management and Federal Parliament that staff, students and alumni at the University of Sydney oppose the inequitable and unfair education reforms. We anticipate that these concerns will be echoed in Parliament, in favour of – in the words of the informal motion passed almost unanimously at the meeting – a “government-funded, quality education system for all.”

 

2014 Welfare Officers

SRC Welfare Officers highlight the unfairness of this government

In Australia, the common refrain is that representative democracy is what ensures outcomes for those who in any other political system would be oppressed. It comes as no surprise, then, that in 2005, after just 15 years of budding representative democracy for indigenous Australians, ATSIC was abolished- with Howard declaring that “the experiment in elected representation for indigenous people has been a failure.” Naturally, it failed because it offered an institutional challenge to white imperialism, rather than the supposed claims of indigenous democracy being “corrupt” and “male dominated.” For those who voted to abolish ATSIC, apparently these are idiosyncrasies that Australian Parliament has at no point suffered from.

And now, close to 20 years after the abolition of ATSIC, we have seen what a political landscape devoid of decision-making by Aboriginal communities has resulted in. Political gains have regressed to the point where Tony Abbott is now the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

His latest action in this capacity is to propose a budget that will starve the poor by destroying what remains of our already strained welfare state. Firstly, the Liberals want to shatter the universal healthcare system by introducing a Medicare co-payment – where we will have to pay $7 every time we visit a GP, the emergency ward, pathology or get an x-ray. In addition, the Abbott government wants to tighten welfare restrictions for the disability pension, while also introducing punitive measures for people under 30 on Newstart, such as a six month waiting period to start receiving payments. Now, a 24 year old on Newstart will lose $2496 a year while someone on $200,000 will lose $400 a year.

Discussion of land rights and treaties have been long abandoned, where instead we focus on preserving a welfare state that only makes possible a life of subsistence. In the supposed quest for a surplus, even this modicum of support for those who have been occupied for centuries could be slashed. This is an egregious injustice amongst one of many injustices that is arousing the political consciousness of students, who condemn this government’s agenda. This is not just one step in the wrong direction- but one of many.

Let’s halt them in their tracks. Join us outside Fisher Library at 1:30pm this Wednesday for an Emergency Budget Rally before we march to the main convergence at UTS at 2:30pm.

Brendan, Phillippa, Chiaria and Oliver

Your welfare is our business

Hiya! We’re Philippa, Chiara, Brendan and Oliver – your Welfare Officers for 2014.

There’s more to the student experience than what goes on within the four walls of a lecture theatre. The stressful reality many students currently face involves juggling work and study while subsisting on measly Centrelink payments, sacrificing meals in order to pay for textbooks and rent instead. On top of all this, welfare is in danger of becoming (yet another) casualty of the ‘Abbottoir’ – but not if we can help it.

A strong and united student voice is now imperative to ensure that fairness and accessibility are prioritised by both the University and Government alike. It’s simple: every student should be able to make the most of their University experience. Your SRC recognises this, and is here to ensure that your rights, wellbeing and safety come first.

When life starts to become more thorny than rosy, our free legal service and wonderful caseworker team are able to offer advice on everything from Centrelink to academic concerns to tenancy rights. If you have any problems at all, drop in for a visit (we’re located on City Rd, below the Wentworth building), or send a messenger pigeon over the interwebs (otherwise conventionally known as an ‘email’) to help@src.usyd.edu.au.
In 2014, we’re very excited to work in collaboration with students, collectives and fellow OBs to ensure that no student’s University experience is adversely affected by any issue on campus or beyond.

Over the holidays, we were active in supporting the fight to save Medicare against the Liberals’ proposed $6 fee for GP visits.
We have also been working with other groups to radically overhaul the newly introduced scholarship for low-income housing, which supports poor students in name only.

This year, we will especially focus on mental health (particularly the improvement of existing services and practical advocacy), student housing, unpaid internships, scholarships, expansion of free education resources for students at the SRC (such as lab coats and dissection kits), and drug safety.

Last but not least, the National Day of Action is on March 26. We condemn the proposed conversion of Start-Up Scholarships into a loan system, as it will only further bar financially disadvantaged students from being able to pursue their studies. Join us at Fisher Library at 12pm for a march down to UTS to fight the cuts to education and demand a more affordable and accessible education system for all!

We’re passionate about a wide range of issues and would love to hear from the very students we’re here for. Should you ever have any comments, questions or concerns, or if you’d like to get involved with our campaigns, shoot us an email at welfare.officers@src.usyd.edu.au or swing by the SRC for a chat.

We cannot live on Mi Goreng alone. (This report is not by the Welfare Officer Eleanor Morley)

You’ve probably already had this one yelled at you by a campaigner in a garish and ill-fighting t-shirt, but here goes.

This year’s SRC election is the most important in living memory. Because of Tony Abbott’s commitment to ending the SSAF, the election of a Liberal government presents an existential threat to every service the SRC can offer you when you’re in trouble, from legal advice when your boss is mistreating you, to the caseworkers who help you get Special Consideration, to the CounterCourse that helps you avoid the subjects that are just a little bit shit. I can only urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to vote for the candidate who’ll make sure that there’s still an SRC this time next year. That means a candidate who will be able to sit down with the Vice-Chancellor and convince him that continuing to fund the SRC is a worthwhile use of University money, and who won’t prioritise radical appearances over real results for students. No matter who you vote for, make sure your vote counts.

Even in these dark times of an Abbott government, however, everyday life goes on. This month, SRC Student Welfare have been fighting against your university’s excessive textbooks costs. It’s a massive joke that some faculties (looking at you, Science and Law) seem to expect their students to live off two-minute noodles just to afford the material they need to pass their courses, and this barrier to entry disproportionately affects the lower-SES, International and regional students who are already struggling with Sydney’s rising cost of living.

The interesting thing about these course costs is that they have very dubious legality, since your educational institution is *meant* to provide you with all these materials as part of your HECS fees. The University *claims* that you can *technically* pass the course by borrowing the textbooks you need from the library on a weekly basis, but given that they often provide three of four copies for classes of three or four hundred the claim is more farce than tragedy.

How could your university stop you from having to live off Mi Goreng to afford your textbooks? Other universities around the world have already adpoted policies that resolve this.

Second, they could stop telling you to buy textbooks you don’t really need. There’s no need to buy the whole book when you really only need that crucial paragraph in page 148. Next year’s CounterCourse will hopefully include a section about which subjects actually require the textbook, but your university could go one better by putting those particular pages into free online course readers instead.

Third, they could point you to ways you can acquire pretty much the same textbooks for a significantly lower price. Some so-called fifth or sixth editions are actually earlier editions with slightly different page numbering and an extra sentence here and there, so shopping online for an earlier edition or dropping by the SRC bookshop near the ISL is definitely worth it.

Nobody should ever have to live off Mi Goreng to afford textbooks. If you’d like to get involved in the fight against student poverty, shoot your Welfare Officers an email – we’d love to chat!

Eve Radunz speaks about the culture of sexual harrassment at university

The latest audit of the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) found that 27% of female students had experienced sexual harassment or assault, compare this to the 67% of female students who’ve had unwanted sexual experiences at civilian universities (from the National Union of Students ‘Talk About It Survey’). This disparity is incredibly alarming given the appalling treatment of women in the armed forces which is seemingly ingrained in the culture of national defence. The audit details the way in which the ADFA has made steps to change the culture of assault in the army; including a residential support program to increase supervision and information to residential cadets, an unacceptable behaviour survey which streamlines the reporting system for leaders and allows for swift action to be taken, and the development of an evidence-based sexual ethics induction program. Of course this is not a complete reflection of the armed forces, it applies only to the training of cadets, however if these important values and knowledge of what constitutes sexual misbehaviour are carried into the defence force by young cadets being trained up by the ADFA then the way forward looks a lot clearer.

Now let’s take a look at the culture of sexual harassment and assault in Australian civilian universities: women are being pressured, bullied and raped during college hazing; slut shaming and victim blaming is profuse; and on-campus safety methods and procedures are inadequate. The truth is that we are being educated in a dangerous environment and the fact that this is not being proactively addressed by our university administrations or our government is a testament to how sexual harassment is seen as an incurable disease of the human population. If this is what we are learning in university then how are we meant to shake that when we leave? We need to develop comprehensive reporting systems, we need to create convincing induction programs, we need to put the onus back onto the perpetrator and support the victim, and we need to do it now.

harrassment.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

 

Eleanor Morley implores you to get involved in the refugee campaign

A few weeks ago, Kevin Rudd announced that from now on, no asylum seeker who travels to Australia by boat will ever be resettled on our shores, instead they will first be sent to Manus Island for mandatory detention, with the aim of being settled in Papua New Guinea. I am writing this report to convince you why we should give a shit about the lives of refugees (not economic migrants, not ‘boat people: refugees), and why it is now necessary that we mobilise both here on campus and in the wider community to fight Rudd’s anti-humanitarian policy.

Modern Australia has a dark history; genocide, stolen land, stolen generations to name but a few. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past. Instead of building the foundations for a national apology in twenty years (considering the high rates of self-harm and mental and physical illnesses caused by mandatory detention, I believe this to be inevitable), let Australia treat those fleeing persecution with kindness, compassion and open arms. We should not turn our backs on those fleeing wars Australia has played a role in creating.
It is important not to believe the lies of deterrence our government is feeding us. Last year we were told that mandatory detention on Nauru and Manus Island was necessary in order to prevent deaths at sea. However, more refugees have arrived by boat to Australia since August last year than the previous year. The real catalyst for this policy is to feed in to a racist rhetoric initiated by Pauline Hanson and John Howard that Abbott has in recent years brought back to the forefront of political discourse. Instead of taking leadership and educating the nation on why it is people flee their homes to secure a future free from persecution, the Labor party has adopted this racist view, feigned as a humanitarian solution. But nothing we can do short of sinking boats could be worse than the conditions in war torn countries refugees are fleeing; thus, they will continue to seek asylum.

Rather than extinguishing the final glimmer of hope for a future, Australia should be a nation that offers safety; we should do what we can to ease the suffering of our fellow human beings. After all, imagine if it were your daughter, father, cousin or friend.
This is an issue that we cannot solve at the ballot box; both the Labor and Liberal Parties have offered abhorrent policy that are a blatant abuse of Human Rights. If you would like to get involved with the campaign to free the refugees, contact me at emor6283@uni.sydney.edu.au, come along to the Usyd anti racism collective every Wednesday at 11 on the New Law lawns, or the refugee action coalition every Monday night at 6 at the teachers federation building in Surry Hills.

Eleanor Morley

eleanor.m.morley@gmail.com

 

Eleanor Morley reports on threats to student welfare at the picket lines

Last Tuesday, I witnessed one fellow student have their leg broken, another held in a choke until they began to go limp, and another fall beneath a crowd and subsequently trampled for I can’t remember how long.

Were these the injuries suffered by students crossing the picket line on strike day?

No, they were injuries incurred by students holding a peaceful protest to defend the rights of their teachers. And who was the cause of these violent assaults? The riot police, who were invited onto campus by our very own Vice Chancellor, Michael Spence.

I believe it is the duty of the management of our university to protect the welfare of all students. Yes, including those who may disagree with the actions management are currently taking. Michael Spence can have no justification for putting the health of his students at risk. What did he expect was going to happen when he invited a squad of burly, thuggish riot police itching for a fight, onto campus?

Surely, one would assume that in order to require the presence of riot police, there would need to be some sort of, well, riot. Or that the wellbeing of those at university would be at risk. However, the actions of staff and students on the picket line was far removed from the accusations of violence, and in no way comparable to the brute force used by the police and riot squad. University management is not interested in protecting the welfare of all their students, but instead protecting themselves from criticism of their woeful Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

What has been perhaps even more shocking than the violence I witnessed last Tuesday has been the reaction from a small, but vocal group of students. To claim that a broken leg is an adequate punishment for calling someone a scab, or non-violently preventing them from entering the University is absurd.

The way in which this minority of  students has reveled in, and congratulated the violent actions of the NSW riot squad has been not only shocking, but incredibly damaging to the mental well-being of both those who were the target of police violence, and their friends who witnessed it. I urge those students who are publicly congratulating the violence to please stop.

This Thursday the SRC will be staging a rally, beginning outside Fisher at 1pm, and then marching to Spence’s office to hold him to account.

Police violence on campus is unacceptable, detrimental to the welfare of students and should not be tolerated by our Vice Chancellor for any longer.

Shame on you, Michael Spence.

Eleanor Morley

 

Emily France, Olivia Ronan, and Michael Rees explain what social justice has to do with your mental health

As semester hits its peak with essay season, student elections and the weight of exams just around the corner, students can be forgiven for forgetting the most important aspects of life: health, emotional wellbeing and self-nourishment.

While many of our policies pertain to financial or demographic disadvantage, we are pleased to announce our current work-in-progress; the introduction of professionally run support groups for students suffering mental illness and/or emotional challenges. An initiative proved successful by numerous London universities, we envisage a collaborative effort between the university and relative organizations such as the Butterfly Foundation and Beyond Blue.

As mental illness continues to be a leading factor for deaths of young people aged 18-25, there is no time like the present to proactively incorporate support services within the university’s largest student organisation. Free support networks run by relevant charities and mental health facilities already function throughout NSW. The Social Justice Office hopes to expand this through introducing a strictly anonymous, easily accessible branch on campus, so that students looking for peer support and guidance are afforded it.

As we intend to line up a number of relevant consultation meetings, the planning for our scholarship assistance program is also shaping nicely. We will be distributing an online survey in the very near future to accurately indicate areas of this policy which are most beneficial for the student body. We ask that all students keep an eye out for this, as any contribution will be invaluable for the opportunities of future USYD applicants.

SRC Social Justice Officer Report