So you can’t be scammed? Think again.

A scam is a trick to take your money directly or indirectly by getting your personal details. There are new, imaginative scams being hatched everyday. They even target low income earners like students and come in many forms including mail, e-mail, telephone and door-to-door.

Fake websites can easily be set up to look like the real thing. Giving your personal details to anyone should be handled with a large degree of caution. Even leaving your phone number to be called back by a sales rep can end in harassment or worse.  Ask yourself why they can’t give you their direct number for you to call them. How many websites have you supplied with your name, address and date of birth in order to win a competition?

Some of the more recent scams have included lotteries, sweepstakes and competitions. Some are obviously fake, like the Nigerian millionaire dying scam, but some are very subtle, like the competition to win a new mobile phone or an iPad. Some scams involve government departments like the tax department asking you to confirm your tax file number so that you can claim your lost superannuation. Some involve people pretending to be from a large computer company offering to help you rid your computer of viruses.

Banks have very strict rules about how they identify you to speak to you. However, they do not seem to be so strict about contacting you and asking for your details. Ask who they are and call them back on the number you find yourself. Do not give any details, no matter how incidental, until you are sure of who they are.

Mobile phone ring tone offers are another potential scam. Once you sign in or subscribe, you may not be able to sign out. This will lead to huge phone bills.

Health and medical scams may offer products or services that will cure your health problems or offer a simple treatment. Often these cures and treatments do not work. The diet industry is littered with scammers.

Follow these golden rules to avoid being scammed:

  • Don’t respond to offers, deals or requests for your personal details. Stop. Take time to independently check the request or offer.
  • Never send money or give credit card, account or other personal details to anyone who makes unsolicited offers or requests for your information. Get a receipt for any money you do spend.
  • Don’t rely on the glowing testimonials they provide: find solid evidence from independent sources (not those provided with the offer).
  • Never respond to out of the blue requests for your personal details.
  • Always type in the address of the website of a bank, business or authority you are interested in to ensure you are logging into the genuine website.
  • Don’t open unsolicited emails.
  • Never click on a link provided in an unsolicited email as it will probably lead to a fake website designed to trick you into providing personal details.
  • Never use phone numbers provided with unsolicited requests or offers as it probably connects you to fakes who will try to trap you with lies.
  • Don’t reply to unsolicited text messages from numbers you don’t recognise.
  • Always look up phone numbers in an independent directory when you wish to check if a request or offer is genuine.
  • Don’t dial a 0055 or 1900 number unless you are sure you know how much you will be charged.
  • If you are scammed contact the SRC Legal Service or the NSW Fair Trading. You can also lodge a complaint online.

For more information, visit www.scamwatch.com.au

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.

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.

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.

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.

Have you been overpaid by Centrelink?

If Centrelink writes to say you’ve been overpaid Youth Allowance or Austudy and owe them money don’t ignore it.  Deal with it straight away and quickly.

An overpayment occurs if you get paid too much. Check their letter. It may be because they think you have not declared your correct income or have not told them that you have gone part-time (i.e less than 18 cp per semester)

Check the facts. Check your University or financial records to see if you really have been overpaid.  You may need to ask for a copy of your Centrelink ‘file’ too.

If the debt is legitimate, check that it is the correctly calculated amount.  They deal with thousands of people everyday.  It would not be unheard of for them to make a mistake. Did they get the dates and amounts right? If they got it wrong then appeal.

If you have had a problem (“breach”) with them before you may also be charged a further 10% penalty.  They can give you this penalty also if you have been reckless or misleading when giving them information. You can appeal a 10% penalty too.

Ideally you would pay off your debt as quickly as possible.  Talk to the University’s Financial Assistance Office to see if they will give you an interest free loan.  Paying them quickly will show Centrelink that you genuinely want to mend the error of your ways.  But if you have no way of paying it off, negotiate a payment plan with them.  They can also take it out of your on-going Centrelink payment. They may want to take more money than you can afford.  Be prepared to explain to them how this will cause you financial hardship by outlining how much you spend on things like rent, food and medication. The main thing is to keep in contact with them.

If you have deliberately given incorrect information that has caused an overpayment, this is a serious issue.  For example, if you have been working, but have not declared you income, and you have accumulated a debt of over $10, 000 (or lower in some other circumstances) Centrelink will not only have you repay the debt but also try to prosecute you for fraud, which can carry a sentence of up to 12 months in gaol. The SRC strongly recommends that you consult with an SRC caseworker before talking to Centrelink. In general we suggest you only consider answering questions in writing, and do not answer any questions in a recorded interview.

If you have been overpaid because of a mistake that they made, not due to incorrect or false information from you, then you may be able to keep that money even though it is an overpayment.  There are some reasonably rare occasions where you may be able to get your debt written off or waived (cancelled).  Of course there are conditions.  Talk to an SRC caseworker about this too.

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

Have you come across ads online offering false medical certificates? Has anyone ever suggested you get one to use for Special Consideration? Ever considered making your own medical certificate? If you answered yes or maybe, then our strong advice is DON’T!! Just don’t do it.

Did we mention, this is not a good idea….at all….EVER.

There are a number of other reasons we say this. First and foremost because in creating, buying and/or submitting a false medical certificate you are committing FRAUD. This isn’t just against University rules, it’s also against the law, federal law, and potentially carries the risk of a prison sentence of twelve months, if prosecuted by the police.

Sounds serious right! It is! The University also treats this as Academic Misconduct and is referred to the University’s Registrar who appoints a solicitor to investigate. What may have seemed a quick and harmless way to gain special consideration may suddenly find you suspended for a semester or two, or even at risk of being kicked out of Uni. Think how hard it would be trying to explain to your family why have suddenly stopped attending Uni.

Beware, the University knows there are false medical certificates out there. Your Faculty receives hundreds of medical certificates every semester. They know what to look for, so their ability to identify a medical document that doesn’t look right is pretty high. This might be because the certificate looks unusual, or a high number of medical certificates are coming from the same medical practitioner or practice. Faculties routinely check the authenticity of medical documents with medical practices and practitioners, so submitting false documentation is far from “the perfect crime” and more likely to result in you facing serious misconduct allegations and potential police investigations if the University also decides to refer the matter to the police. Is it really worth it?

If you are stressed or struggling to the point that you even consider obtaining a false medical certificate, your best option is to talk to someone about what’s going on. You could speak to an adviser in your Faculty, a Counsellor at the University’s Counselling and Psychological Services, or an SRC HELP Caseworker. You can help explore other ways you might be able to manage your study load without risking far more serious consequences in the long term.

If you need to see a doctor, but your regular one is not available, look for a medical centre nearby, or attend the casualty unit at your local hospital.  If you are too sick to move you can get an after hours doctor to visit your home.  Check for details on the internet.

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