Preventing Racial Vilification Not Just a Legislative Responsibility

There is recent footage which shows a Caucasian man hurling abuse at, and maliciously humiliating Korean tourists on a Sydney bus. Especially disturbing is the way in which the Korean tourist seems compelled to apologise in an attempt to diffuse the unconscionable situation. Of course, this is not the first episode of its sort, nor are these horrible incidents unfamiliar to the media at large. To be sure, racial vilification is a criminal offence in New South Wales, in compliance with Australia’s international agreements with the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Section 20D of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) provides:

“A person shall not, by a public act, incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of persons on the ground of the race of the person or members of the group by means which include:

(a)   Threatening physical harm towards, or towards any property of, the person or group of persons or,

(b)   Inciting others to threaten physical harm towards any property of, the person or group of persons.

In the case of an individual committing an offence, punishment can be up to six months imprisonment. On the other hand though, The Law Society Journal in its terse report entitled, “Racial Vilification should remain a crime in NSW” points out that the Anti-Discrimination Act seldom results in a successful prosecution in NSW. The chief reason for this is not too difficult to trace perhaps – the threat of physical harm must be incorporated into the offence. Notwithstanding the right to free speech, some amendments to the legislation might be useful then to prevent verbal racist abuse. For instance, the Law Society Human Rights Committee submission that the NSW legislation add the terms “including but not limited to” in the subsection providing that offences be committed by “means” of threats or incitement of physical harm is particularly significant I think, and could lead to more successful prosecutions. But still common sense dictates that the burden of social change rests not on political legislation alone. Especially in today’s unprecedented globalised world, we must all do our bit to recognise the intrinsic value of each human person and to work towards solidarity. We must, in the well known idiom of W.H. Auden – “[s]how an affirming flame”, by treating each person with respect and equity.

By Kyu Won Timothy Kim
SRC Legal Service

The Disabilities and Carers Collective have a few exciting things on their agenda

Student Carers

We’ve changed our name to the ‘Disabilities and Carers Collective’ to highlight the issue and campaign for the recognition of and support of hidden student carers on campus.
Student carers often have difficulty balancing their university, work and care commitments and are more likely to have low participation and success in education and employment than non-carers. Currently at the University of Sydney there are no support mechanisms in place for student carers that acknowledge the need for study or assessment adjustments due to ongoing or increasing care commitments.

Who are carers?

The term ‘carer’ refers someone who provides unpaid, informal care for someone with a disability, an ongoing illness, mental illness, chronic condition or drug or alcohol condition. Tasks undertaken by Carers may include domestic activities, household management, financial and practical management, personal care and emotional support.

Why are they hidden?

Carers remain a hidden group for a number of reasons, including not identifying as being a carer because they see what they do as a ‘normal’ part of the lives and shared relationship, or being reluctant to identify because of potential stigmas.

To collect data for the Student Carer Recognition and Rights campaign, we are asking students who identify as carers, or are unsure if they qualify, to complete a short survey at http://qrs.ly/a13aqe9 or via the QR code shown.

Mental Health
We will be running a mental health campaign later in the year focusing on awareness and the promotion of existing and new services available for affected, interested and supportive students.

Redfern Station Access

The lack of disabled access to Redfern station will be targeted. As the closest train station to Sydney University, we believe Redfern station should be accessible to everyone, including those with physical disabilities, parents with prams, the elderly and others wishing to access Redfern but unable to climb the station stairs.

We are growing and have developed an active Facebook page to improve our communication with members and related organizations. Search for us and ‘like’ our page to hear more about what exciting stuff we’re up to, or for more information send us an email.

Kyol Blakeney lets us know how Sydney University has dealt with Indigenous issues

In 1965 this University made history by having Australia’s first Aboriginal graduate, Uncle Charlie Perkins. Since then, there have been various points in the University’s history which directly affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in mainly positive however sometimes negative ways.

Reflecting back over the past few years it seems to me like there is only attention on Indigenous peoples of the University when something controversial has taken place. Personally, I believe this is a problem.  To put it bluntly; I don’t like it when the only time there seems to be a presence or awareness of Indigenous Australians here is from the result of a controversy or debate. The main reasons for such disagreements between the Aboriginal people and the University is because there always seems to be a lack of consultation for the Indigenous students with regards to Indigenous issues within the University, and the failure of the University to recognise our protocols.

What some people don’t seem to understand is that we as Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders follow a process of doing things that we have learnt in our own communities and we still continue to do them today. It’s a RESPECT thing. There are certain ways of going about things and most of it relates to consultation of our community. There is never a decision made in our communities just by one person. Everything is considered and everyone is listened to respectfully. There is also the matter of protocol of who to talk with and the way they are spoken to or about. Again, it’s a RESPECT thing.

To improve the University’s understanding of our culture, protocol, and presence here, there are now four new Indigenous Officers of the SRC. These officers should be your point of contact for any Indigenous queries, needs, etc. The Officers will then consult with the University’s Indigenous community which will eliminate the breaking of any cultural rules or protocols and hopefully create a stronger presence and awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the University, bringing understanding of each other’s cultures to everybody.

The Indigenous Officers are: Kyol Blakeney, Chloe Wighton, Alicia Johnson, and Henrietta Stapleton.

You can contact us at indigenous.officers@src.usyd.edu.au.

EduFactory! Disassembling the Neoliberal University

From Thursday the 25th to Sunday the 28th of April, the Sydney University Students’ Representative Council (SRC) will be holding the 2013 “EduFactory! – Disassembling the Neoliberal University” Conference. The conference organising collective, of which Tenaya and myself are part of, states that: “EduFactory! aims to bring together radical education activists from around the country for a weekend of political discussion, skill sharing, and debates on the future of national education activism. The objective of Edufactory 2012 was to challenge the able-bodied, gendered and racial nature of the educational institution; in 2013, the conference will use this starting point to branch out further into the realms of critical discussion. More than ever before, Australian students require a national education activism network so that we can fight the neoliberal degree factory that is the modern tertiary institution.With the threat of an Abbott-headed Coalition government at the next federal election, deregulation, further staff and course cuts and the privatization of HECS are increasingly possible threats.The Australian radical left must continue to organize to defend affordable and high quality education and continue its fight towards a system of universal free education.”

There will be over forty workshops run, including: ‘Fighting sexism on campus – building feminism for today’, ‘A radical history of occupations’, ‘Lock the campus: extracting coal and gas from the university’, ‘A history of the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN) and the Australian National Union of Students (NUS)’, ‘The interaction of education and the state from feudal times to neoliberal capitalism’, ‘Invisible Identities: breaking the Heteronormative pedagogy’, ‘Freedom Rides’, ‘Why Capitalism has failed higher education. Tracing the steps of the neoliberal agenda from Whitlam to the Dawkins reforms/ Higher Education Contributions Scheme (HECS) to Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) to now’, ‘Eyewitnesses from the student struggle in Chile’, ‘Refugees, Border Security and White Australia’, ‘The use of police against student activism’, ‘Fuck the media: culture jamming and free media’ and many more!

With the recent $2.5 billion cut to tertiary education, it is more urgent than ever before that students unite to demand quality, well-funded, and free education. Come along to EduFactory on the 25-28th of April and join in the fight back to defend your education!

education.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

Pinching from Peter to pay Paul

As General Secretary of the SRC and as a student I kind of have a responsibility to call it how I see it in terms of Higher Education.

This week, the Government announced a reduction in university funding by $900 million, changes to Start Up Scholarships so that they are repaid once you earn a certain income, saving $1.2 Billion, and removing the HECS 10% up front discount, saving $230 million, as well as caps to tax deductions on self education expenses. These changes were announced to pay for the Gonski reforms.

While three of the four changes are by no means unpalatable, I was struck by the $900 million dollar reduction in university funding. We shouldn’t be pinching from Peter to pay Paul when it comes to education funding.

As students, we all know that cuts are in the Liberal Party’s DNA; Howard cut funding far more in 1996 and Abbott has already announced the return to Domestic Undergraduate Full Fee (DUFFs) places and slashing Start Up scholarships. It’s also clear that the Greens, as a minor political party will never realistically be tested on their promises.

Look, I love Gonski. It’s a once in a life time chance to reform school education funding so that all student’s and especially the disadvantaged see funding go where its needed across public, independent, and Catholic schools. Australian primary and secondary education is chronically underfunded and we all know disadvantage actually takes root much earlier in school education so that sadly, too often only the well-to-do get to step foot on USYD’s sandstone.

I get that governing is about choices, often hard ones. However, higher education is a public good with a clear measured social benefit and just like school education it deserves to be better funded.

In 2013, for students the choice over higher education should be simple. Only one party removed domestic undergraduate full fee places, one party removed HECS concessions for the rich, one party lowered the age of independence, one party provided student organisations with a new revenue streams with the SSAF, one party tripled the tax free threshold so that many students will never have to file a tax return, and only one party uncapped the number of places so that more students get the life-changing opportunity to study.
Sadly, I fear with this announcement a clear choice got harder to see. I love Gonski but we shouldn’t be giving with one hand and taking with another.

David Pink is not happy about $2.3 billion in cuts to higher education funding

So I woke up yesterday to find out that the Education Minister had decided to strip $2.3 billion out of higher education funding. Why has the government decided to initiate the single biggest cut to the university sector since 1996? To fund Gonski.

So basically the Federal government’s response to a funding crisis in the public school system has just been to embiggen the funding crisis in the university system, by churning the money around.

The government will be making the following ‘savings’ from higher education:
– an ‘efficiency dividend’ of 2% for for 2014 and 1.25 % for 2015 ($900 million)
– the conversion of student start-up scholarships to a HECS loan ($1.2 billion)
– the removal of the 10% up-front payment HECS discount ($228.5 million)

We support the changes to the HECS discount. This has been a glaring inequality for far too long, and for little purpose other than favouring the rich.
However, the other changes are a disgrace. In particular, it smacks of hypocrisy for a government which has deregulated student places – and thus decided to place thousands more students into universities – to simply pull out the money needed to maintain student support.

Fortunately, this is one issue where the university management are our allies. And they’ve been quick to condemn the cuts.

According to the Chair of Universities Australia, Glyn Davis: “The cuts come on top of the $1billion stripped out of the system less than 6 months ago through the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook process.”

Their research shows that 87% of Australian parents support greater funding for universities. They value university just as much as primary and secondary schools. This is why the cuts just don’t make sense: education at all levels is important, the government should be funding universities and schools equally, not playing divide and rule.

Our reaction will be fierce. Next Wednesday, on April 24th, we will be having a day of action outside Fisher Library in protest commencing at 2 pm. I ask you to join us.

The importance of autonomy

I have a lot of people ask me why women’s collective and the women’s room are only for women. Often these people are supportive and enthusiastic men who describe themselves as feminists; sometimes they are women who believe their male feminist friend should be able to come to meetings with them.

Firstly, there is often some confusion about who the category of ‘women’ includes. Let me say that the women’s room and women’s collective are open to all those who identify as a woman or have lived experience as a woman. If that definition is still too vague, feel free to contact Emily or myself at any time.

Women’s collective is only for women because it is autonomous. Autonomous (in this context) means decisions affecting women should be made exclusively by women. Throughout history, decisions that directly affect women have been made by men. Autonomy is a conscious effort to give women back the power to make decisions that affect them. While men may care deeply about these issues, some issues will not affect them in ways that they would affect women.

Women’s collective is also only for women because differing socialisations mean that some women can be hesitant to fully participate in political discussions. Women’s collective allows women to come to a safe and respectful space and share their views, which can then be expressed collectively. This system takes the pressure off women, who would otherwise not participate in decision making processes at university (or anywhere). It is important to make sure that all women’s voices are heard about issues that affect them, without making them engage in situations which make them feel vulnerable.

Another reason women’s collective is autonomous is because alot of the issues we discuss are highly sensitive. We may discuss reproductive rights and bodily autonomy, sexual assault and harassment or gender based violence. Many women may have experienced these issues and often don’t feel comfortable discussing them in front of men.

The women’s room also serves as a space for mothers to come and breastfeed. Mothers are still subject to shaming from society for breastfeeding, and as a result may feel more comfortable breastfeeding in a quiet space that is guaranteed not to be judgemental. Further to that, since primary caring responsibilities still fall to women, it provides a safe room for mothers to spend time with and look after their babies or children if they need to take them to university.

Despite women’s collective being autonomous, there are still ways men can participate in and positively contribute to women’s activism and feminism. The USU Clubs and Societies program has a non-autonomous feminist society; the Women’s collective regularly puts on non-autonomous events, or men could simply take instruction from Kelly Temple (NUS UK): “Men who want to be feminists do not need to be given a space in feminism. They need to take the space they have in society & make it feminist.”.

As always, please get in contact with us at any time through our email: usydwomenscollective@gmail.com or visit women’s collective on Wednesdays at 1pm in the Women’s room!

Hannah Smith

Marijke Hoving let’s us know about the refugee rights campaign

This is a particularly crucial year for the refugee rights campaign. With the return to the dark days of Howard’s Pacific Solution and the looming federal election, we need all the support we can get to fight for humane refugee policies that welcome boats, rather than deter them.

The reintroduction of offshore processing last year has had nothing but detrimental effects on asylum seekers. The detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru are already in crisis, with reports of hunger strikes, lip stitching and suicide attempts, not to mention disease and mental illness. Richard Towle from the UNHCR has recently reported that the asylum seekers on Manus Island are “distressed and confused about their situation. They are closed in detention without a process in sight. They feel they have been forgotten.” Refugee policy has become a race to the right, with both sides of politics disgracefully competing over who can be harsher on refugees. But we can fight this, by building a broad political campaign outside of parliament.

An important event for the Anti-Racism Collective (ARC) and the wider refugee campaign each year is the national convergence, which this year will be held at Northam detention centre over the ANZAC weekend (Thursday 25 April to the Sunday 28 April). Students from ARC, along with refugee rights activists from across the country will converge on the Northam detention centre to draw attention to the injustice of Australia’s refugee policy. The prospect of an Abbott government implementing even harsher policies makes this even more important. The Northam detention centre, two hours outside of Perth, Western Australia, opened in June last year. Close to 600 asylum seekers have been detained there since. Northam is part of a group of detention centres isolated from the big population centres, meaning asylum seekers are kept ‘out of sight, out of mind’. This is an invaluable opportunity for students to collaborate and discuss pressing issues of refugee rights with other activists, and bring newly acquired information back onto campus.

To coincide with the convergence there will also be a protest at the Villawood Detention Centre on Sunday the 28th of April and ARC will be organizing a student contingent to the protest. By joining the protest students can show their opposition to this racist refugee policy and their support for the vulnerable people currently locked up in Villawood.

If you’re interested in joining the pro-refugee movement, or want any more information, ARC holds meetings every Tuesday at 11am on the New Law Lawns.

Emily Rayers talks about colleges and the NUS ‘Talk About It’ survey

CLEO magazine may not be the most traditional source of reliable or feminist journalism but this month’s Undercover at O-Week feature certainly hit the nail on the head for me. While news coverage of college culture always involves an element of sensationalism and relies on a weird fascination with young adults as opposed to genuine concern for their wellbeing, I have no doubt that the information presented by the media is true and comes from honest sources.

I attended two of the Sydney colleges, starting at a mixed college fresh out of high school and returning 18 months later to a single sex college. I look back on my college experiences with mixed emotions, feeling grateful for the opportunity to make lifelong friends, nostalgic for the excitement of the first few Wednesday nights at the Sals (the bar at St Paul’s) and discomfort with many aspects of the behaviour of the student body.

Processing and articulating my discomfort with various things that occurred during my college experience was very difficult at the time due to the pressure from the Student’s Club and from admin to keep all complaints insular and never to speak to media. In a less official manner the separation of college students from ‘Muggles’ creates a social situation where your good friends are other college students and doesn’t foster discussion with external viewpoints. It is also really difficult as someone new to party culture and to university and college to separate the fun, excitement and adventure from the aspects of it that frighten or worry you.

In order to allow students in university accommodation to speak up we need a system that holds colleges accountable and forces them to be transparent. We need external systems for handling complaints and opportunities for students to lodge anonymous or general grievances without naming perpetrators or identifying themselves. Speaking up in college means ostracizing yourself from your peers, and the majority of 18 year olds – myself included – value fitting in above speaking out.

I urge all women students, whether living at university accommodation or not, to participate in the ‘Talk About It’ survey developed by the National Union of Students. This is the second time the survey has been open for submissions and it is vital that we have a significant number of responses to work with. All questions need to be answered in order to submit but feel free to answer with ‘I do not wish to answer’ or ‘I have no response for this question’ if you are uncomfortable with any of them.

Find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/talkaboutit2012 and help us to make this campus a safer and more respectful place for all students.

If you are interested in being more involved in Women’s Collective or would like to contribute ideas or information for our campaigns email: usydwomenscollective@gmail.com, tweet @SRCwomens or join our Facebook group ‘USyd Women’s Collective’.

Education Activists tell us about industrial action in USYD and beyond.

No apologies. No regrets.

The actions of the last few weeks shocked some people. They went beyond the polite pattern of protest in the university. Many people wanted an argument coherent to their liberal sensibilities of freedom of choice promoted in the neo-liberal orthodoxy. We are expected to maintain a polite relativism but there is nothing polite about the impositions of management and the effects they have on the lives of people that work with us everyday.

If we are as critical and intelligent as we suppose ourselves to be, why do students and staff gain their ideas about what is happening in the university out of the bullshit, misrepresentations and glib summaries from the privileged, self-interested and those completely removed from what they’re talking about? Yes, this includes Honi, the emails from USYD management, student commentators and any other organization or individual that claims to understand or represent the whole or ‘true’ situation. We are not some homogenous mass – we aren’t only students, staff, socialists, anarchists or ‘fly-ins’. And even if we do identify with these labels, we are more than them. We are diverse and complex and we disagree amongst ourselves.

If we don’t have the time to think or talk about this shit, without all these mediators, classifications and generalisations, how are we going to change things?

I am not at university to make an ‘investment’ in my ‘me first’ future prospect, to make an economic transaction. I am here to learn some theory, yes, but also to create social relations upon which I can realize my existence to the fullest of my ability and to conceive with others a future beyond the pressing limitations of contemporary society.

I don’t care if you’re completing your PhD, if you study medicine, or if you get upset and write an angry article for the next edition, you are not above other students and staff that care and take part in the conflicts of the university. Nor can you choose to be neutral in the debate and ‘just want to learn’. Your actions have power and you either undermine workers by crossing pickets or you don’t and if you do, you are a scab. People sacrificed their wages and time; they put their career and their freedom in jeopardy to guard the hard-won conditions fought for by others in the past; rights you enjoy today and will probably not complain about in the future. And if you did not know, you know now.

Wide participation in this debate is needed but it can’t be wrapped in some sexy-hipster-‘feel-good’ packaging for people to consume; it cannot be commodified with wristbands. It cannot be another product in the aisle of convictions, campaigns and causes if it is to be an honest process that sets the basis for a community that creates and liberates knowledge instead of being a space for the spectators and consumers of its marketisation.
Education is a process not a commodity.