Many of you will have seen Sydney Uni feature in the news this week, most prominently in the Sydney Morning Herald and again on 60 Minutes, regarding the issue of sexual assault and harassment on campus. Whilst this is by no means a new story, I’m glad that it is finally beginning to receive some of the attention and scrutiny it desperately needs so that we can shine a light on the harmful cultures that pervade some parts of our university community and begin to look at how we can shift attitudes and responses.
One big step forward is the announcement this week that a new specialised sexual assault reporting system will be in place by semester one 2017. This is a project that many student representatives and activists have been pushing for over a number of years, including successive generations of SRC Womens’ Officers, and represents a significant achievement in the campaign to end sexual assault and harassment on campus.
Along with the new reporting system, the university also informed the SRC that all staff members will undergo training by Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, to be able to better respond to cases of harassment and assault, and provide the necessary support to students who have experienced it. These are recommendations that the student representatives on the Safer Communities Working Group have been lobbying for over the course of this year.
There is still a lot more work to be done, but the SRC is hopeful that this represents the start of a genuine, long-term, consultative process to ensure students have equal access to a safe, inclusive campus and university community. In the meantime, the SRC will continue working towards funding a specialised solicitor for sexual assault and harassment cases and running campaigns that hold the university and colleges to account.
Lastly, this week’s edition of Honi has been compiled by members of the Autonomous Collective Against Racism, a student collective affiliated with the SRC for People of Colour, Indigenous students, and those marginalised by White Supremacy. It’s fantastic to be president of an organisation which funds the amazing work collectives like this do, and this edition should remind us why it’s so important that these groups exist and have the resources to produce their campaigns and ensure all students have representation in our community. I hope you enjoy reading it and congratulations to the hard work that brought it here.
Enjoy your week!