The Mythical Rainbow Family

by Moo Baulch

Rarely does a week go by without some level of debate raging in the Australian media on queer themes as diverse as whether girls should be allowed to marry girls, homophobes should be given airtime and if Penny Wong’s Kitchen Cabinet appearance helped or hindered the cause.

Regardless of where you sit on the gay marriage/civil partnership spectrum and whether you think “It Gets Better” speaks to lesbians in Lakemba or not, it looks as if we’re closer than ever to achieving complete equal same-sex rights in Australia. So, as the queer ‘lifestyle’ becomes more mainstream, and Mardi Gras drops the “gay and lesbian”, it’s time to start having some honest conversations about the way that we treat each other within the mythical rainbow family.

It’s not easy to begin talking about the not-so-fabulous things that occur in our communities and relationships—domestic violence (DV) for example. How do we contextualise it in a queer framework? Let’s begin with an important statement. Most queer relationships are loving and respectful. Some are about power and control. Just as some men abuse women, so some of us also abuse one another. Research suggests that DV in same-sex relationships occurs at rates comparable to the wider population. The effects on the victim are similar—isolation, fear, intimidation and the cycles of explosion, remorse, pursuit and honeymoon before the violence recommences.

There are precious few prominent models of healthy LGBTIQ relationships. Those new to the queer world may therefore find it difficult to picture what a healthy relationship looks or feels like. Sometimes it can be hard to decide whether what’s being experienced is abuse or just the usual conflict that occurs periodically in most relationships.
DV can be packaged in a number of different ways—it can be financial, emotional, psychological, physical, social, sexual or cultural. It may involve overt threats of violence or feature a subtle controlling of how someone might make decisions about their daily life. An absence of physical violence doesn’t mean that a relationship is not abusive. Ultimately DV is the exercise of power by one partner over another with the intent to control.

But there are some fundamental differences in the dynamics of queer DV. Abusers may manipulate their victim into believing that this is the way all queer relationships are, that the rules are different, that no-one else will want them or support services will not believe them if they ask for help. Abusers may threaten to ‘out’ their partner or disclose their HIV status. They may also threaten to withhold medications or control finances to limit a partner’s movements. They may use regular put downs in public or private which target a person’s expression of gender, appearance or sexuality. They may isolate their partner from their friends or family or they could threaten to harm pets. They may also threaten self harm or suicide or blame their partner for their own anger, health, condition or behaviour.

Discussing the existence of bullying, sexual racism, misogyny, DV and the prejudice in our own communities is challenging, especially when we live in a society or culture that sometimes may seem to only just accept us. But it’s the measure of a maturing LGBTIQ community if we are able to create space and nurture a culture of diversity that fosters open, honest dialogues on these sticky subjects. We have a responsibility as friends, ethical bystanders and as part of the alphabet-soup family to speak up and ask if someone is ok or let them know we are there. It’s not an easy thing to do but it could help someone who really needs it.

There are a number of LGBTIQ-friendly places to get help if you’re in an abusive relationship. If have experienced DV or want to support a friend, visit http://www.anothercloset.com.au/
In an emergency call the Police 000

The Safe Relationships Project provides statewide LGBTIQ domestic violence legal support. Ph: 02 9332 1966/1800 244 481 http://www.iclc.org.au/srp/
ACON’s Anti-Violence Project supports LGBTI people who have experienced DV. Ph: 9206 2116 or 1800 063 060 http://www.acon.org.au/anti-violence/
The Transgender Anti-Violence Project supports gender diverse people in NSW who have experienced violence. Ph: 9569 2366 or 1800 069 115 http://tavp.org.au/
DV Line is free, confidential and staffed 24/7. Ph: 1800 65 64 63

Moo Baulch was the LGBTI Domestic and Family Violence Project Officer at ACON’s Anti-Violence Project.

ASK ABE: Discontinue NOT Fail

Hi Abe,

I had an absolutely shocking time last semester and failed every subject I attempted.  I have previously had an excellent record, but had a lot of family problems last semester.  Is there any way that I can have last semester wiped off my record so my bad marks don’t spoil my record?

DS-

——————————————-
Dear DS,

If you had a serious illness or misadventure (your family problems may be described as this) that was out of your control, became worse after the deadline for DC (end of week 7) and seriously affected your ability to study, you can apply to have those fails or absent fails changed to DC (Discontinue Not Fail) grades. You will need to be able to explain how your illness or misadventure affected your study. Naturally you will need documentation from a doctor or counsellor, a community leader or someone else who knows about the issues your family have been dealing with. Remember that this is not just a method to “clean up” your transcript, but rather for students who have not had a genuine opportunity to demonstrate their competency in the subject.

You may also consider talking to an SRC caseworker about having your HECS/fees refunded. The deadline for applying for a fee refund if you are a local students is 12 months, but it’s so easy to forget that you’d be better off dealing with that straight away too. Fee refunds for international students have only recently been changed by law. Talk to SRC HELP for more information.

Abe.

As a University of Sydney student you have many assessment rights. Policies entitle all students to full information about course goals and requirements and this information must be given to you before the end of the first week of a course. Information you are entitled to includes:

  • assessment criteria
  • attendance and class requirements
  • weighting – breakdown and calculation of assessment marks
  • explanation of policies regarding ‘legitimate co-operation, plagiarism and cheating’, special consideration and academic appeals procedures
  • early and clear statement of sanctions and penalties that may bring your mark down, and fair application of these penalties
  • balanced and relevant assessment tasks
  • fair and consistent assessment with appropriate workloads and deadlines
  • written consultation before the halfway point of the unit if assessment requirements need to change
  • changes must not disadvantage students
  • adequate arrangements to cater for disabilities and other requirements
  • access to staff out of class time at reasonable hours
  • fair and relevant marking procedures
  • anonymous posting of results (or arguably de-identified at least)
  • timely return of assessments
  • helpful feedback
  • access to exam scripts up to six months after the result
  • enough time for remedial learning when there is reassessment

Appeals – University Procedures

If you believe a mark or University decision is wrong and you want to appeal you must lodge an appeal within 15 working days.

The first step is to talk to the person who made the decision – often your lecturer or subject co-ordinator. See if you can go through the assessment and discuss your performance with them. Make sure you know how the mark was worked out – including any scaling or marks deducted or changed for reasons not directly related to that particular assessment. This may mean attending an exam review session or making an appointment with your lecturer. Your questions and concerns may be resolved at this stage, helping you understand how you can improve in the future. Alternatively, you may feel the matter is still unresolved and wish to continue with your appeal.

  1. Make your appeal in writing and make sure it is easy for other people to understand
  2. Listen to or read staff comments and reasons for a decision closely. Keep these in mind when you write your appeal letter.
  3. Base an appeal on a process matter rather than an academic judgement.
  4. Know your desired outcome
  5. Familiarise yourself with the relevant policies
  6. Know who you are appealing to: Lecturer/Unit of study Coordinator; someone higher in the appeal chain within the Faculty; and then the University Student Appeals Body (Academic decisions only, and only where there has been a breach of process); You must be given reasons for each person’s decision.
  7. If you cannot resolve appeals internally, you may be able to approach external bodies eg. NSW Ombudsman, the Anti-Discrimination Board etc.
  8. Administrative decisions made outside of the Faculty have appeals to different people. Speak to the SRC for advice.

Your Appeal Rights

According to University policy, appeals should be dealt with:

  • in a timely manner
  • with confidence
  • impartially and not disadvantage you in the future
  • procedural fairness
  • free access to all documents concerning your appeal

For help drafting your appeal talk to an SRC caseworker.

ASK ABE: Youth Allowance and Casual Work

Dear Abe,

I am on a Youth Allowance payment and I also work a casual job with varying hours. Sometimes I receive the full payment just under $500, but other times I get much less than that.
I heard that there is some sort of banking system that affects the amount of money I get, but I am very confused by all of this. Could you please explain why my payments vary?

Nursing Student

——–
Dear Nursing Student,

The banking system you are talking about is Centrelink’s way of keeping track of the extra money you are earning. It is called the Student Income Bank. Each fortnight you are allowed to earn $415 without any reduction in your Youth Allowance. If you earn less than $415, the left over carries over to the following fortnight. For example, if you only earned $115 in the first fortnight, you will be allowed to earn $715 ($415 + $300) in the second fortnight. This process keeps going until you’ve accumulated a maximum of $10,100. Your Youth Allowance payment is reduced when you have earned more than your Student Income Bank. That is, by 50 cents in the dollar for amounts between $415 and $496, then by 60 cents in the dollar for income over $496. If you are unsure about whether you have been paid the correct amount, gather all your paperwork and talk to an SRC Caseworker about it.

Abe

So you want to move out. What should you do?

Here is some information on ending a rental agreement.

Are you going to stay for the length of your agreement?

Refer to your original contract or lease. It should state an end date. If it is a contract you should be able to give notice to your landlord equivalent to the frequency that you pay rent that you are moving out on the end date. Sometimes contracts will have a clause about the fee for ending the agreement early. If it is a lease this amount of notice is either 14 days (fixed term agreement) or 21 days (continuing agreement). Notice should be in writing. This does not include text messages and may not include email. It is best to send this by letter. Allow 4 days extra for mail to arrive.

What if you want to leave early?

This will usually cost you lots of money. If you have a lease agreement you will usually have to pay four or six weeks worth of rent, depending on what percentage of the agreement you have already completed. Sometimes you can find someone to take your place in the agreement to avoid paying all of this money. The replacement person has to be a “reasonable” replacement. For example, they need to have a similar capacity to meet rental payments and a good rental history. If you’re under a contract you may need to pay the equivalent of the rent up to the end of the contract. Sometimes you can find someone to take your place in the contract or start a new contract, but that is completely up to the landlord.

When am I considered to have left?

You have only completely left your accommodation when the landlord (not another tenant) has received all copies of all of your keys and other doorlocking devices (like swipecards). You also have to provide “vacant possession” which means all of your belongings have been moved out.

What if I want to move out and my housemates want to stay?

You will need to find a replacement for yourself. If you are on the lease or contract have that changed before you go. If you are on the lease, regardless of whether you live there, you are legally and financially liable for the condition of the premises. Make sure you keep a copy of the new lease or contract to show that you are no longer on there.

How do I get my bond or deposit back?

After you have moved out take photos to show the condition of the accommodation. This is to avoid disputes with the landlord’s assessment of the condition of your accommodation after you moved out. The cost of any repairs or cleaning will come out of the bond or deposit. The rest of your bond (leased property) should be returned in the form of a cheque or electronic transfer from the Department of Fair Trading. Deposits placed on contracted properties are less regulated. Make sure you have your receipt to prove that you did pay it in the first place. If there is any dispute about getting back this money talk to an SRC Caseworker.

To see an SRC Help Caseworker call 9600 5222 to make an appointment or email: help@src.usyd.edu.au

Twenty10 Article

Twenty10 Supports and Works with young people, communities & families of diverse genders and sexualities.

Twenty10 is a community-based organization that works with and supports people of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities, their families and communities, and includes the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of NSW (GCLS).  They aim to provide spaces where people feel and are safe, emotionally and physically and they offer support services right across NSW and their services are free and confidential.
Twenty10 offer specialised youth support for young people aged between 12-26 including:

  • Information, Referrals, Support & Advocacy
  • Case Management
  • Counselling
  • Drop in
  • Groups & Projects
  • Accommodation

They also provide a range of services that everyone over 18 can access, including the broader community. These include Information, Referrals, Support & Advocacy, Groups & Projects, Family Support Services, Community Education & Schools’ Support, Specialised Training and Support for service providers, Regional & Rural support and Telephone support.
You can find out more about Twenty10 by visiting their website or giving them a call. http://www.twenty10.org.au/
Twenty10: 02 8594 9550

The Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of NSW: 02 8594 9500

Youth Allowance: How to Qualify as “Independent”

Youth Allowance is a payment available to Australian full-time students who meet a certain set of criteria. Sometimes it is available to students who are considered dependent on their parents. However this is assessed on your parents combined gross income. There are a few ways of being considered independent, and therefore not assessed on your parents’ income, but rather your own.

The easiest way to be deemed independent is to be 22 years or older. If you come from a country area you may be able to claim independence through previous work. However this is fairly rare. You may also be able to claim independence by virtue of being in a marriage like relationship. You will need to have been in this relationship for no less than 12 months while sharing a home, sharing bills and income, having a permanent outlook to your relationship, and being able to show that your family and friends view your relationship as permanent. Another way to prove independence is to show that it is “unreasonable to live at home”.

“Unreasonable to live at home” is a specific term that has a particular definition. It indicates that there is extreme family breakdown or other similar exceptional circumstances. It may indicate that there is a serious risk to your physical or mental well being due to violence, sexual abuse or other similar unreasonable circumstances. It is also considered unreasonable to live at home if your parent/s are unable to provide a suitable home owing to a lack of stable accommodation.

Of course there are lots of details and conditions that you should know about.  Contact an SRC caseworker if you would like to apply.

Dear Abe,

I’ve got a million things going on in my life at the moment and uni just can’t be my number one priority. I can’t imagine that I will be attending many classes from now until the end of the year. I know I’ve missed the HECs census date, but is there a way that I can avoid failing.

Past Census

—–

Dear Past Census,

You are still in time to apply for a Discontinue Not to count as Fail grade (DNF). Look on your faculty website for details on how to do this. This means you will have no academic penalty, but will still be liable for fees. However, if you can show that you reasonably believed that you could complete the subject at the beginning of the year, then things disintegrated beyond your control, you may be able to apply for a refund. Ask an SRC caseworker for details based on your personal circumstances.

Abe

Special consideration for student carers

If you are sick or have experienced some misadventure that has stopped you from being able to complete an assessment or exam you can claim Special Consideration.
However, did you know that this includes being a carer for someone who is sick? Of course there are conditions. For example, you have to be their primary carer, and be able to prove that. The University’s policy says:
Students who bear a primary carer responsibility toward another person at the time of an assessment may also apply for special consideration on the basis of illness, injury or misadventure on the part of the person for whom they care if their ability to prepare for or perform the assessment is adversely affected.

So if you are in that situation, get the appropriate documentation and apply before the 5 day deadline.
If it is a situation that you can foresee, then you should talk to your teacher about getting special arrangements instead of special consideration. This might include doing your exam earlier or having a different type of assessment or something else we haven’t thought of.

To see an SRC Help Caseworker
call 9600 5222 to make an appointment or
email: help@src.usyd.edu.au

For more information for student carers support and advocacy see:
srcusyd.net.au/representation/src-departments/disabilitiesandcarers/

Trouble getting your equipment bond back?

The SRC Legal Service recently assisted Christine Joseph and other undergraduate students at the Westmead Centre for Oral Health (WCOH).In 2011 over one hundred WCOH and Dentistry students were asked to lodge a $300 bond. The bond is mandatory at the start of the degree to all undergraduate Oral Health students. A receipt number was issued by the Centre to each student. The Centre staff verbally advised that this UGP bond would be returned to the students upon completion of their subject, provided they were “‘liability free’.

To be ‘liability free’, the students needed to promptly submit an ‘End of Year Clearance’ Form at the end of their degree in 2013 by a tight deadline nominated by the Centre. A memo was sent out to the students accordingly. Failing to follow the Centre procedure could mean  no ‘clearance’.

The students were also told by the Centre that the refund process usually takes approximately six weeks. Despite ongoing follow up by the students directly with the centre, and some intervention by the University faculty, no refund was paid almost six months after the students lodged their clearance forms. SRC Legal understands $31,500.00 UGP funds refundable to the 2013 graduates were held by the Centre on an interest free basis.

After SRC Legal took up the issue, the Centre responded to process the refund within a day.

If you experience a similar problem or know someone who has, please come and have a chat with our friendly solicitors at the SRC Legal Service. We are an independent free student legal service provided by the Students’ Representative Council for undergraduate students at Sydney University. We strive to empower under-represented uni-students. You can find our office on level 1 (the basement, Wentworth building, City Road.

To see an SRC Legal Service Solicitor call 9600 5222 to make an appointment.