Last Wednesday following a protest held by the National Tertiary Education Union against cuts to medical science at the University, students rallied and occupied the F23 Building for 6 hours. During that time, university security invited the police on campus and trapped staff inside the building to prevent anyone from entering and exiting the building, including through fire exits.
This occupation, like many of other student protests this year, aimed to show the fervent student opposition to cuts to staff and courses at the University. The attacks on our education, marketed as austerity cuts by the University, are happening despite the fact that the University has recently announced that they are not in any financial trouble, but have actually made more money than prior to the pandemic. On Wednesday, students put forward a simple demand to the University – that all cuts to medical sciences are reversed – and were instead met by a heavy police presence and indifference by corporate management. Shame!
WoCo refutes the University’s blatant lie that student protesters prevented staff from leaving the F23 Building. We support the democratic right to protest and disrupt punitive systems of power that do not serve us.
RADICAL EDUCATION WEEK
Radical Education Week is taking place from Tuesday 3rd November to Friday 6th November! Held every year by students for students, Rad Ed Week aims to share the radical knowledge that has been created, mobilised and sustained inside and outside of academic institutions, by collectives, community activists, and many others.
This year, we will be holding workshops, panels and talks that discuss disability activism, radical approaches to the university, anarchism, sex work activism, Sinophobia, unions and much more. A full program will be released soon, and will include some in-person, and some online events. All in-person events will abide by COVID-19 safety protocols.
Rad Ed Week events are open to everyone and free, as all education should be.
The Women’s Collective runs meetings every Wednesday 5pm. Join our Facebook group for updates!
Week 8, Semester 2, 2020
KILL LATHAM’S TRANSPHOBIC BILL
A number of WoCo members stood by our trans, gender diverse and intersex comrades on October 10 to rally against the transphobic education amendment bill moved by One Nation Senator Mark Latham. Latham’s transphobic education amendment bill must not be allowed to pass; it will harm so many. Despite a heavy police presence, under which a number of our fellow protesters were forcefully handled, fined and arrested, the LGBTQI+ community showed up in great numbers and marched down Oxford Street and into Hyde Park.
Protests such as this remind us that queer activism and pride has a rich and radical history. It is a history of fiery defiance and the joining of all of our struggles – women, PoC, workers, and queer folk – as one. We are strongest when we stand together, against fascism, against the police, against all of those who seek to hurt us. USyd WoCo will continue supporting our comrades in the fight against transphobia and the encroaching shadow of fascism.
WoCo recently ran a reading group along with the Queer Action Collective, reading a chapter from Raewyn Connell’s The Good University. It is especially crucial now, when we are seeing our education sector ripped to shreds before our eyes, that we have these conversations about our vision for the futures. Stay tuned on our Facebook for more events!
WoCo has been in attendance of several recent protests for higher education. The most recent October 14 protest saw extreme police brutality that left students and staff protesters with injuries and several $1000s in fines. While sports stadiums and shopping centres are open, the democratic right to protest is not considered ‘essential’. Unfortunately, the violence of policing happens everyday and everywhere in this country; it just doesn’t often happen to well-off university students and a professor of protest law. Cops make our protests and our people unsafe. WoCo condemns the presence of police on campus; students and staff should be allowed to agitate for our futures.
WOCO NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION: FEMINISTS AGAINST THE CUTS
On Wednesday 23 September, the University of Sydney Women’s Collective (WoCo) gathered at the University of Sydney to protest the education funding cuts and fee hikes announced by Education Minister Dan Tehan. This action was one of several in a National Day of Action called by WoCo, for which WoCo also ran a panel to highlight feminist perspectives of the cuts.
The recently proposed changes to higher education will disproportionately disadvantage women, First Nations people and students from low-SES backgrounds. Women make up 67% of students in the worst hit subject areas, including arts and social sciences.
In particular, the upcoming changes to HECS-HELP will mean that students who fail 50% of their subjects will be cut off from accessing the HECS-HELP scheme. Victim-survivors of sexual and domestic violence are significantly more likely than other students to struggle with university performance and fail subjects while studying. It is abhorrent that the government continues to punish victim-survivors rather than support them. The apathy of the LNP government is painfully clear as the higher education bill reaches the Senate, one step closer to passing into law.
As Women’s Officers, we condemn the higher education bill; education should be free, accessible and cause no disadvantage to those who are undergoing struggles beyond their control.
SOLIDARITY WITH MACQUARIE GENDER STUDIES DEPARTMENT
USyd WoCo extends our solidarity with the staff in the Gender Studies department at Macquarie University. Gender Studies is a discipline that is predominantly studied and taught by women; the gendered impact of the cuts to courses and staff must be highlighted in our battle for the future of our education. This will be devastating to so many.
Week 2, Semester 2, 2020
WoCo has consistently supported actions fighting against attacks on tertiary education. Over the last couple of months, we have seen units for Semester 2 cut by university management as staff face insecure employment and are made to work an untold number of unpaid hours. This is shameful – staff are the lifeblood of tertiary education. Meanwhile, Vice Chancellor Michael Spence has taken no pay cuts and remains one of the highest paid Vice Chancellors in the country.
WoCo attended the recent August 28 student No Cuts rally, which was shut down by a heavy police presence. Police outnumbered protesters, activists were targeted, arrested and fined, and police used one protester’s previous police report about their experience of sexual assault to humiliate them. This behaviour is horrifying; police have continued to use COVID-19 as an excuse to shut down protests while they push protesters into confined spaces, and use brute force to intimidate activists and organisers. Victim-survivors of sexual assault are also more likely to struggle with university and therefore are disproportionately affected by recently announced changes to the HECS system that students have been fighting back against. This behaviour also shows us yet again that cops are not to be trusted when it comes to fighting for justice in the face of sexual violence. Cops cannot even be trusted to respect our confidentiality as victim-survivors. People who report their stories of sexual violence to the police should never have to worry that the police will weaponise this trauma against them. This is why feminism has no room for cops: there is no feminist liberation without police and prison abolition.
WoCo unequivocally stands with staff and students against the cuts and fee hikes. We condemn the brutal policing of student rallies and we continue to support the right of students to attend protests and fight for their futures.
WoCo will be resuming weekly meetings for Semester 2 on Wednesdays at 3:00pm. Meetings will be in person with an option to call in via Zoom. Stay tuned via our Facebook group!
Week 12, Semester 1, 2020
As the semester nears its close, WoCo has been running educational and social events. In Week 10, we ran a non-autonomous feminist film screening facilitated by Claire Ollivain from Filmsoc of ‘The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open’ (2019. Directed by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn. CW: themes of domestic violence, missing and murdered Indigenous women, unwanted pregnancy, and abortion). We encourage readers to watch the film and engage with the conversations about gendered violence, trauma, and solidarity that it brings to light.
In Week 11, WoCo facilitated an open discussion group hosted by Georgia Mantle on the importance of prison abolition in our understandings of feminist justice which was loosely based on the podcast ‘Beyond Prisons: Abolition is a Horizon Feat. Sarah K. Tyson’. Furthermore, Women’s Officer Ellie Wilson also helped facilitate an Enviro Collective workshop on online activism alongside Education Officer Jazzlyn Breen and Welfare Officer/2019 Honi editor Amelia Mertha.
We have recently been looking into supporting domestic violence survivors and women’s shelters during this time of crisis. During COVID-19 social distancing, rates of domestic violence have spiked, making now a particularly crucial time for us to support survivors however we can. We have reached out to the Women and Girls Emergency Centre (WAGEC) and Mudgin-gal, offering support with online fundraisers, mutual aid, creating informational resources etc. We look forward to working with them further.
Our education is under attack. Across the country, tens of thousands of jobs in higher education have been jeopardised as neoliberal universities scramble to save their profits during COVID-19. We have been seeing job cuts and course cuts on a massive scale; at USyd, management has ordered a 30% cut to courses in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. It is incredibly revealing of the neoliberal University’s character that workers, especially those on short-term casual contracts, have been the first on the chopping block.
We firmly believe that staff working conditions are student learning conditions, and we stand in solidarity with the USyd NTEU rank and file. WoCo demands no cuts!
Week 10, Semester 1, 2020
WoCo has moved online! In May, we will be running several online events. Next week on Friday, we are running a feminist film screening. We are also running a feminist prison abolition discussion group on Thursday Week 11, as well as a collaborative reading group with the Queer Action Collective in Week 12.
As we are all weathering COVID-19, we have not forgotten that crisis has always affected the marginalised most acutely. Over the course of the last month, WoCo has raised over $3000 to support Indigenous elders in the community. Online fundraising has been greatly effective, and it is heartening to see community come together over the internet, especially now when physical means of solidarity, organising and community are largely unavailable to us.
Domestic violence has spiked during the COVID-19 crisis, as self-isolation has forced people to stay in unsafe homes. We express our sorrow and solidarity with women, queer folk, and all people who live with abusers. Now is a particularly crucial time for us to engage with supporting survivors in any way that we can, and we have reached out to women’s shelters to offer our support in any way that we can with online fundraisers, mutual aid, creating informational resources etc.
Women’s Honi, an autonomous edition that is organised every year by WoCo, was published in Week 8! It included topics such as white fragility, decolonising beauty, queer ecofeminism, COVID-19 and domestic violence, the Kafala system in the Middle-East, and more. Naturally, this could not have been accomplished without the help of our editorial collective who we are extremely grateful for. Their dedication and passion were integral to the publication of Women’s Honi. You can find Women’s Honi online on Issuu! To survivors: You are loved, you are believed and help is available. If you believe that you have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual assault, Lifeline is a free, 24-hour telephone crisis support service in Australia. NSW Rape Crisis can also be reached at 1800 424 017.
Week 8, Semester 1, 2020
The USyd Women’s Collective has postponed or mowved most of our events online for the foreseeable future to prioritise the safety of all students. Our weekly meetings will now be on Zoom.
This year, the march for International Day of the Unborn Child at St Mary’s Cathedral – which is frequented by vocal anti-choice advocates, neo-Nazis and jury-convicted pedophiles – was cancelled. WoCo normally counterprotests this every year; we have always been staunchly pro-choice and pro-bodily sovereignty in the fight for reproductive rights. This year is the first time where WoCo has found itself in a political landscape where abortion has been decriminalised in NSW, and though decriminalisation was a huge victory, there are many other obstacles that remain. As part of our continued fight for abortion access and reproductive justice more broadly, we will be publishing ‘My Body, My Choice’, a pro-choice zine that details how to get an abortion, why reproductive justice as a topic that extends beyond just abortion decriminalisation is important, and discusses the issue of forced removals of Aboriginal children. ‘My Body, My Choice’ can be found on our Facebook page.
On 7 April, Cardinal George Pell, the highest ranking Catholic official in Australia and a jury-convicted pedophile, walked free after being acquitted of his crimes in the High Court. Seven High Court judges ruled to overturn a unanimous jury decision made in 2019 which convicted him of child sexual abuse. Words cannot express how devastating this has been for survivors. The justice system is not only broken, it is crumbling to the ground. It will bring everyone but the rich and powerful down with it.
Remember that the legal truth is not always the truth. This ruling does not mean he is innocent, but rather that the corrupt courts have found that there is reasonable doubt not to convict him. Cardinal George Pell is a pedophile, sexual predator and an abuser.
To survivors: We hear you, we believe you, and we are so sorry. You are not alone, and we will not abandon you in the continuing fight for justice.
Week 6, Semester 1, 2020
With the outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia, our lives have descended into mayhem. In order to minimise the spread of COVID-19 and prioritise the safety and well-being of all students, the USyd Women’s Collective has postponed or moved most of our events online for the foreseeable future. Our weekly meetings, which take place at 1pm on alternating Wednesdays and Thursdays will now be on Zoom.
This week, we collaborated with the USyd Enviro Collective to run a non-autonomous reading group on Deborah Bird Rose’s 2017’s article ‘Shimmer’. This reading group aimed to further an understanding of ecofeminism and the intersections between environmental and feminist activism. Special thanks to Amelia Mertha, Telita Goile and Claire Ollivain for facilitating a lively and engaging discussion! Though online reading groups are new for us, we hope that it was an open and educational experience. Community right now is more important than ever. We will run more reading groups in the future, so keep updated by following our Facebook and Instagram!
Women’s Honi will be going ahead for Week 8! Women’s Honi is autonomously written and produced by women and non-cis men and will reflect the anti-colonial, anti-capitalist and intersectional feminism that WoCo stands for. If you are interested in contributing to Women’s Honi, fill out the form in the pinned post on our Facebook group.
On a final note, WoCo expresses solidarity with workers and marginalised communities who have been made especially vulnerable by the pandemic, either by the virus or by the government’s insufficient response to it. Right now, mutual aid can mean the difference between life and death. In this time of crisis, it may not be the virus that kills, but racism, media hysteria, selfishness, poverty, unsafe work, and every other ill of capitalism that is coming out of the woodwork right now. These are not new flaws in the system; in fact, they have always been sustaining the system, which has been failing us for a long time. Let this radicalise you, not lead you to despair.
Week 4, Semester 1, 2020
Last Thursday, WoCo ran an interactive Consent 101 workshop which was facilitated by activist Holly Brooke and Kimberley Dibben, a Sexual Harassment Officer. The workshop involved discussions around the nuances of consent, coercion, and community strategies to address sexual violence. Consent education is assumed to be basic knowledge, and yet we still see incredibly high rates of sexual assaults on university campuses around Australia. Face to face education around consent and sexual violence is proven to be more effective than online modules that people can click through without genuinely engaging with, the latter of which is all that the University currently runs. We will be running more regular Consent 101 workshops throughout the semester as part of our work against sexual violence on campus. We believe that everyone will benefit and learn from regular consent education, and we especially encourage men to come along.
In Week 4, WoCo will be running a reading group alongside the Enviro Collective to discuss ecofeminism, and why it is important to understand the intersections between environmental and feminist activism. As a grassroots organising space, education is fundamental to our work. This reading group is the first of many that we plan to run as the year progresses. Keep an eye on our Facebook pages to find out when the reading group will be taking place and to stay in the loop for future events. We intend to run all of our educational events non-autonomously, so everyone is welcome.
In more exciting news, Women’s Honi will be released in Week 8! Women’s Honi is autonomously written and produced by women and non-cis men and will reflect the anti-colonial, anti-capitalist and intersectional feminism that WoCo stands for. If you are interested in contributing to Women’s Honi, fill out the form in the pinned post on our Facebook page.
WoCo run weekly meetings at 1pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays on alternating weeks. If you want to get involved in the collective, join our Facebook group to find out when and where our meetings are. We hope to see you there.
Week 2, Semester 1, 2020
The Women’s Collective have had an exciting and successful first two weeks on campus, with over 200 new members signing up. During Welcome Week, we demonstrated against sexual violence on campus, highlighting the apathetic inaction of the University and residential colleges. We distributed many copies of Growing Strong and sold out of our tote bags, with all proceeds going towards families affected by Blak deaths in custody. Keep an eye out for more tote bags and a run of t-shirts later in the semester, which we will sell to continue to raise funds to be able to provide support to Indigenous families. We’ve also held our first collective meeting since the semester has kicked off with over 30 attendees, many of them new members. If you’d like to get involved and didn’t get a chance to sign up during Welcome Week, get in contact with us at USydWomensCollective@gmail.com!
WoCo attended the Justice for Eric student contingent at the Lidcombe Coroner’s Court. Coronial inquests into Indigenous deaths in custody historically fail to bring justice and peace to the families, and this time was no different. Over the coming year, we will continue to mobilise students to support matters of Indigenous justice, as there can be no feminist justice without Indigenous justice. In line with this, we’ve organised a bake sale for Thursday 5 April on Eastern Ave to raise funds for Indigenous families affected by Blak deaths in custody.
The Women’s Officers support the open letter by the NUS Women’s Department calling on the Order of Australia to strip Bettina Arndt of her Member of the Order of Australia Award, awarded for her supposed work to advance ‘gender equity’. Bettina Arndt is a woman who has built her career off the lie that she is a certified clinical psychologist and has used her falsified credentials to repeatedly and viciously undermine survivors of sexual violence, defending pedophiles and claiming that women who face domestic violence ‘push their partners too far’. It’s reprehensible that she was even considered.
Welcome Week 2020
Over the summer break, the Women’s Collective has put together this year’s edition of Growing Strong, which is the annual handbook that we publish for Welcome Week. It gives insight into what the Women’s Collective is about and the sorts of issues important to us. It covers a variety of topics from the residential colleges, to Indigenous justice, and prison abolitionism, among others. Keep an eye on our social media for the Growing Strong launch party later on in the semester, which will feature performances, poetry and speakers.A huge thank you to everyone involved in the creation of this edition. Pick up a copy from the SRC or our stall at Welcome Week!
Growing Strong 2020
We have merch! Swing by our Welcome Week stall to pick up a tote bag and some fun stickers, and keep an eye out for shirts later on in the year.
In the year ahead, WoCo will be working to further the collective’s work around Indigenous justice by getting more involved with community groups who directly support First Nations families like the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) and Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR). We have attended organising meetings and organised a number of contingents to events so far, and plan to fundraise for these groups and organise educational events and contingents in the year ahead. We’re excited to work together going forward.
Meetings and Events
We have held WoCo meetings and banner paints over the break to start to organise for the year ahead. We also ran a Consent 101 workshop at ASEN’s Students of Sustainability conference this year with workshop co-creator Holly Brooke and Sexual Harassment Officer Kimberly Dibben. WoCo will be running more of these Consent 101 workshops, along with other educational workshops around sexual violence, throughout the year as a part of our campaign against sexual assault and harassment on campus
International Women’s Day
Join WoCo in our student contingent for the annual International Women’s Day march! We will be working with the University to hold a number of educational workshops during the week on topics such as Indigenous justice and sexual violence.