Global Solidarity Officers Report

The murder of 17 year old refugee Reza Berati at the Manus Island detention centre this year sparked angry rallies across the country in response to the Abbott government’s inhumane refugee policies. The rally in Sydney attracted hundreds of people and ended with an angry convergence outside the Immigration Department with protestors demanding justice for refugees and the closing down of these detention centres. As Global Solidarity Officers we attended this rally as the fight for refugee rights is incredibly important with figures such as Scott Morrison in government who seem to feel no remorse for the murder of a refugee at the hands of their government. Join us at the next refugee rights rally on Palm Sunday (April 13) to continue
the fight.

We have also been working hard to build for the National Day of Action against the Liberal government’s $2.3 billion in education cuts. Abbott and Pyne are set to privatise HECs debt,
axe courses and jobs (with 350 jobs already on the line at La Trobe University in Melbourne) and attack the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) which funds clubs and societies at universities. These cuts will be extremely detrimental to universities across the country and fit into an agenda of neo-liberalism sweeping the world which treats universities as a business to pump out workers not a place where students can explore ideas and work to change the world. We have been leafleting, banner painting, lecture bashing and generally going crazy about this issue and would love to see you all at the rally this Wednesday March 26, starting at 12 pm
at Fisher Library.

Another issue we work around is that of women’s rights, a global issue of equality that continues to be fought worldwide. We attended the rally for International Women’s Day on the 8th of March which focused on fighting for women’s reproductive rights against the potentially detrimental Zoe’s Law, which seeks to grant foetus’s personhood, and on equal pay for women which is unfortunately still an issue on a global scale.

USyd Students for Justice in Palestine will commence meetings and activities in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we have been taking part in the city-wide Palestine Action Group to prepare for the upcoming al-Nakba rally on May 15th. We have confirmed Professor Jake Lynch of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies’ to speak at a fundraising dinner in Marrickville on April 12.

Anna Sanders Robinson, April Holcombe, Kenan Toker and Mason Andy

International Students Officers advocating for equal rights for International Students

We are honoured to be your International Students Officers this year and continue to advocate for equal rights for International Students. International students make up over 20% of the student population at USYD and we think it is important that we are represented appropriately.

In the beginning of this year, the International Students department launched our first International Students handbook. There is heaps of useful information for newly arrived students as well as tips from ‘old’ International students. Come to our meeting and grab a copy if you missed it at O-Week.

We have also started to send out weekly bulletin and organising fortnightly collective meetings this year in order to inform students of their rights and empower more international students to raise their voices. We had a great turn-up rate for our first collective meeting in Week 2, and we were thrilled to meet so many enthusiastic international students. Thank you to all of you who came to the meeting.

We hope to meet more international activists in our coming meetings!

Our major campaign this year is on the all time controversy: travel concession. Victoria’s newly announced travel concession for international students are restricted to annual passes, which is a mimic of NSW’s quarterly or yearly MyMulti concession. These ‘concession tickets’ cost at least $410 which means that international students cannot save money unless they spend more. Besides, ‘education is Australia’s biggest non-mining export industry’, says Australia’s Education Minister Christopher Pyne – we are treated as a source of tourism. international students should be aware of the election and campaign slogans saying helping us getting cheaper travel cards, which are usually just attracting your eyes and taking advantage of your voting right. Actually, when you talk to the monopoly as a consumer instead of being more as students, it would be harder to share its profits.  It’s a tough task, though we are trying to put our effort into it and we will keep you updated on the progress.

We would like to thank all students, staff and other International Students activists who have helped and guided us when we first took office. A special thank you goes to the Honi editors, who have worked very hard for an International Students column in this paper which we believe will address the underrepresentation of International Students on campus.

In the spirit of democracy, we would like to again encourage ALL international students to
get involved:

Our next collective meetings are on every second Tuesdays, 11am to 12pm at Merewether seminar room 298. We will share pizza, drinks and your ideas about International Students advocacy. For our other events and latest information about international students, please follow us on Facebook or simply sign up via the link on our website. Otherwise you can contact us at

Emma Liu, Xinchen Liu, Sherry Vanbo and James Wang

So what is privilege? The Wom*ns collective ask you to find out

Hi everyone. The Wom*n’s Collective has been working on a mix of things this week, actively organizing events and a little self-education about privilege. Since this is a topic that is relevant to the majority of people lucky enough to attend university we thought we’d share our modicum of learning with all Honi readers.

(If you would like to learn more about this then we are also very excited to let you know that will be starting a reading group in the next few weeks. Keep you posted!)

So what is privilege? In the broad definition, social privileges are abilities you’re afforded, solely based on external factors. Such as where you were born, how you look, where you live, what kind of education you have received, what you believe in, who you are attracted to, or what body you find yourself in, etc. These societal privileges are important and necessary to acknowledge and comprehend because where there is privilege, there is always disadvantage and oppression. In fact, when we neglect to question our own experiences and just accept the way society functions, we become complacent in all forms of oppression, even our own. You can moderate the degree of oppression in discrete situations by being aware of your own privilege and actively trying to counter it.

Well how do you do that? Well, firstly you have to recognize that societial discourses and narratives, institutions and bureaucracies often reinforce privilege (and oppression) as their power is implicitly based on a dichotomy of haves and have-nots. The problem is everywhere, but change can start anywhere (ie. You.) So here are some tips on how to negotiate your privilege in a space where oppression occurs:

Understand that your image of success is not the same as other peoples’.
Understand that while we work together as students, there’s no universal experience of identity that unites us all.
Be respectful and engage thoughtfully and compassionately.
If you aren’t sure about cultural experience or gender identity, ask generally not personally. Don’t forget about the internet!
Educate yourself about the oppression of others for your own sake.
Never expect or accept gratitude from minorities or oppressed groups for self-educating.

Georgia Cranko, Julia Readett and Phoebe Moloney

The Education Officers think that Beauty is on the streets!

A slogan from the student protests in Paris in May ‘68 reads “la beaute est dans la rue” or ‘the beauty is in the streets’. I’m sure anyone who went to the March in March last weekend can attest. Over 10,000 in Sydney, and 100,000 people across the country around rallied and shut down city streets to protest the government in an inspiring display of opposition. Because contrary to what they teach you in Government, voting once every three years for one right-wing tosser or another isn’t democratic. It’s self-evident these days when the results of elections mean we live in a world where Tony Abbott is Prime Minister and Gina Rinehart’s poetry is displayed publicly. Come on. Nobody wants that. The March in March showed us what real democracy looks like. It gave a voice to plebs like you and me, who find ourselves excluded from the pages of the Australian and the Daily Telegraph, excluded from the backrooms and boardrooms, and from the rotten halls of Parliament. A refreshing reminder that Tory-haters are not alone and that we can fight back (and not by voting Labor).  

Last week the EAG hosted Rowan Cahill and Terry Irving in a forum on ‘The radical history of Sydney Univesity.’ Over 100 students, staff members and community members attended the forum to hear brilliant stories of student activism and rebellion.

On the national day of action on this Wednesday, it’s time for students and education staff to March in March. We’re faced with a fraught and underfunded education system, with a further $900 million in cuts on the table. We’re faced with a stone-age Education Minister who wants
to further entrench the celebration of Western values (racism, colonialism, mass murder) in the curriculum, and erase women and Indigenous people from history. We’re faced with attacks on student welfare, which could see HECS increase by up to 40% for working class and low SES students. We’re faced with the Group of Eight universities (which include Sydney Uni) suggesting they forgo government funding for certain degrees like Law, Accounting and Commerce, i.e removing their HECS status and replacing them with full-fee paying places. And we’re faced with the pièce de résistance of reasons to come to the rally: Tony Abbott. Enough said.
Defend your education – PROTEST: Wednesday March 26th, 12pm @ Fisher Library.

See you there!

In a world plagued by evil neoliberal villains….

In a world plagued by evil neoliberal villains, ravenous leeches clawing at the succulent, pulsing brachial artery of undergraduate life, and sardines-in-a-can tutorial sizes, what do you say to the possibility of fighting against the malevolent figure looming over your right to a free education? “Totes cabotes, cumquats and oats!” That’s right!

Now that I have your attention:

If you’re holding this newspaper on Tuesday afternoon, keen bean you are, it having just been placed in the stands by the SRC’s superhero publications distributor, then you have ample time to plan your outfit and footwear for tomorrow’s National Day of Action for education rights.
If it’s Wednesday morning, then you have a couple of hours to grab a coffee, do a quick reading, ingest a generous amount of water (or bourbon – who am I to judge?), and grab three friends to march with you to protest education cuts.

If it’s noon, and you’re reading this as you wait outside Fisher library for the rally to start, good. The time to stand up for your right to an accessible, quality education is now.
In the first week or two of semester you were bombarded by the different services and groups on campus, including those of the SRC. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but it’s for a good reason: there’s a page (the reverse of this one) dedicated to advice on things such as harassment, Centrelink, housing – you name it. As well as this, the SRC provides a free casework service to all undergraduate students. If you’re ever in need of some assistance with issues such as those raised above, or things like academic appeals, the SRC should be first
on your organisational dot point list. The SRC also has two experienced lawyers, who are available for free consultation.

If, however, you’re not in need of assistance just yet, then sit back, relax, and enjoy what may
be the best years of your life. It’s likely you’ll never again have the privilege of spending hours on end basking in the sun on the front lawns of the university, with little to no fucks to give about anything in the world other than the amount of ‘likes’ your latest instagram photo got (#ibislol #what). Other stereotypical and cringe-worthy student endeavours include: spreading the word about (“just discovered!!!!!”) speedy campus shortcuts, boasting about your computer acquisition skills in Carslaw Hub peak hours, and orchestrating the inconvenient and, frankly, ridiculous conversion of fruits into various types of protective headwear.
Carpe peponem.

Seize the watermelon.

Support the National Day of Action against education cuts.

Wednesday March 26 is the National Day of Action against Abbott and Pyne’s cuts to higher education. Minister for Education Christopher Pyne has introduced a bill in Parliament to cut $900 million from higher education and another bill to cut student start-up scholarships. With the senate changing in July these bills are at great risk of getting passed, consequently having devastating results of the quality of higher education in Australia and the inclusiveness of University.

The NDA is being co-ordinated by the National Union of Students (the National representative body for students) in conjunction with Universities all over Australia. There will be marches in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Hobart.

The NTEU (National Tertiary Education Union) the major Union that represents your lecturers and tutors has come out with this statement of support:

“The National Union of Students has called a NDA on 26 March to protest the Abbott Government’s repressive agenda for higher education. NTEU supports students taking action to protest cuts to education and to student financial support. NTEU members stand alongside students advocating quality higher education for all. NTEU calls upon academic staff not to penalise students absent from classes while taking part in the National Day of Action.”

This March will be commencing from 12pm at Fisher Library, and then marching up to UTS to join the major march at 1pm. This is an amazing opportunity to demonstrate the unrest on behalf of students for any cuts
to education.

Taking a look at Diversity and Equity on Campus

We’ve always thought it was slightly unfair that Sydney Uni management do little else but treat students as nothing more than numbers on a page. In order to celebrate the release of the new Veronica Mars movie (which one of your VPs watched at 3 in the morning) we decided to do some
not-so-subtle sleuthing to find those dirty facts the Uni doesn’t want you to know.

You, dear reader, are likely a non-Indigenous, Australian wom*n who was raised in the affluent Inner West… you’re also studying a BA.
The numbers don’t lie and the numbers paint an interesting picture of the people that populate your lecture theatres, dictatorially dominate your tutes and get between you and a meat box after a hard days study at the neoliberal factory.

Inside these sandstone walls, 57% of 53 000 students are female, just ahead of the national average of 56%. International students comprise 22%, while regional and Indigenous students make up only 5.6% and 0.8% of the populace respectively.

This places USyd behind the national average in intake of both regional (6.5%) and Indigenous students (1.1%). These shortcomings, whilst embarrassing, don’t come close to the extraordinary under representation of people from a low socio-economic background.
Nationally, 17% of students come from a low SES area. At USyd, that number halves to 8.6%.

These statistics are damning to a University that claims to be “founded on principles of diversity and equity”. If Spence continues to run with this people pleasing line, he should closely follow it up with “but if you have the dollars, I have your acceptance letter!”. No brochure filled with buzzwords can apologise for the inequitable reality that this number represents, no matter how much money the university throws at ‘media consultants’ to cover it up. If education remains the silver bullet that improves the livelihood of all who receive it, then our University is failing abysmally to share this.

It goes without saying that an attachment to traditional demographics and tuition cheques should never be allowed to stand in the way of an inclusive and socially conscious admissions policy; yet if recent alterations to housing scholarships are anything to go by it seems as though the university could care less. These changes will leave students in need of accommodation unsure whether they will receive assistance until well into the semester – long after they have signed a lease and begun paying rent (which is also ridiculously high). Students in need
of help = not Spence’s division.

Management and admin must stop thinking about their ludicrous pay checks and realise that education is a privilege owed and deserved by all who seek it, rather than a commodity exchanged with those who can afford it.

Your Vice President’s Max Hall and Laura Webster

Koorie Centre update and other plans for 2014

Kyol Blakeney, Crystal Dempsey, Madison McIvor and Brad Hanson.

Last year, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students spent a majority of the year increasing awareness on Indigenous issues within the University and also gained attention from the wider community from down the road at Redfern to Alice Springs radio. Attention was drawn to the Koori Mail and the Indigenous Times with the controversial question, “What is happening to the Koori Centre?”

Here is the truth. After negotiations between students and management, the Koori Centre has remained a space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students so far. It is equipped with a study area, library, and a common room. While these are the bare essentials, there has been major staff shortage in the space and most of the rooms that used to be offices are empty. The Koori subjects are now being amalgamated into the Education and Social Work Faculty.

As far as we know, there is a five-year plan to build another space within the University known as The National Centre of Cultural Competence. While there have been many questions and concerns regarding the changes in the Koori Centre, we cannot make a judgment on this strategy yet. One legitimate worry, however, is the fact that there has still been no immediate improvement to the conditions of the support network for the students.

The remainder of the year was about increasing the awareness of Indigenous issues and presence in the University. The collective made history this year by having the first Aboriginal student councilor to be elected by the students and the first Aboriginal Vice-President of the SRC. To further achieve this goal, the Indigenous students founded the Wirriga Society. This society is open to all students of the University and encourages the coming together of cultures to gain understanding between them. Wirriga has also been given the opportunity to co-ordinate the Indigenous Festival
in 2014.

This year, we will be pushing for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags to be permanently flown on campus along with some physical changes to our space in Old Teachers’ College to promote our culture. We will continue with our aim to work collaboratively with staff and management and hold regular autonomous BBQs and lunches across campus for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The Indigenous Office Bearers for 2014 are Crystal Dempsey, Madison McIvor, Brad Hanson, and Kyol Blakeney.

You can contact them at

Building the National Day of Action!

The Education Action Group has been really busy the last couple of weeks trying to build for the national day of action on March 26th. We have been contacting clubs, societies and collectives to participate, putting up posters, leafleting, chalking, making lecture announcements, and setting
up stalls to get the word out. Hopefully you have heard it’s happening by now. If not, well, shit.

Next Wednesday March 19th, exactly one week out from the NDA, we’ve planned a blitz day. The Abbott government isn’t going to fight itself and we want to try bring as many students as possible to scream against our scummy PM and his snake-like crony Christopher Pyne (eurgh). We’re going to start the day leafleting Redfern station at 8am, before setting up on Eastern Ave for a day of banner painting, placard making, and photo petitioning. Stop by if you see us!

March 26th is shaping up to be a really important day for students. Last year proved that protests can win. By hitting the streets we turned education into an election issue, and forced the Labor party to back-flip and oppose the cuts they introduced, when they took opposition. Just recently, the Senate also rejected legislation that would turn Start-Up Scholarships into loans, another victory for the campaign. But we’re not in the clear, and need to keep up the fight.

Politicians aren’t interested in meeting us and reasonably discussing our issues, they’re not interested in well articulated letters or argument. We can only force them to change their minds through mass action. March 26th is our first chance to do just that.

If you think Abbott and Pyne are fucking bastards, if you are sick of your tutorials packed to the brim, if you are frustrated by course cuts,
if you want to support staff wages and conditions, if you want to demand more student welfare not less, if you want to support international student rights, if you want quality and free higher education – you need to be at the rally on March 26th, 12pm outside Fisher library. See you there!

The education officers apologise for any content included in the 2014 Counter Course Handbook that was not attributed to its author. There was content we included from previous handbooks, and unfortunately we forgot to seek out their authors and add them to our thank-you list at the end. We apologise for this mistake.

James Leeder discusses what happens when the government raises course costs and student debt.

It is clear to anyone who has seen the QS university rankings over the last few years that Australian higher education has a funding problem. This problem has not only meant that we have seen higher education cuts repeatedly over the last few years, but also that a clear principle over how education should be funded has now cemented itself; that the cost of education should be borne by the individual.

At the moment we know that the federal government is considering moves to reduce direct funding of courses, as well as funding of universities as a whole. The removing of subsidies for courses (which means higher course costs for students), which has recently been proposed by the Group of 8 universities themselves (this includes Sydney) for law, economics and business degrees, has also been lauded as an optimal solution. Ultimately, changes that raise course costs only have negative impacts to students and to society, and this has been seen clearly when similar proposals have been implemented in other countries.

A research briefing on the effect of the 2010 higher education reforms in England was published by the British parliament in February this year. It details in clear statistics the impact that removing subsidies and uncapping fees had on students. It found that within two years of implementation, large reductions to student numbers occurred with a 12% reduction in domestic and international undergraduates and a 9% reduction in postgraduates by 2012. These drops where serious enough to warrant a response from the Governments’ Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) which described them as “significant”. Considering what the reforms did, it is not hard to see why. Students are not interested in graduating with crippling debt and for many potential students, particularly those who are less fortunate, raising fees shifts the balance in their consideration of whether or not to go to university. Making university more costly and placing the burden of fees directly onto students drastically affects the accessibility of tertiary education. For a country that prides itself on high social mobility and a deeply egalitarian culture, moves to reduce the accessibility of university should be stopped at all costs.

Unfortunately, it is clear that the government does not care what the impacts of its changes are. They have already reformed the start-up scholarship, a scholarship for students who receive centrelink, to change it into a HECS-style loan, meaning poorer students will now be graduating with more debt than their wealthier counterparts. If you care about what these changes may do, I encourage you to get involved with the SRC and
I hope to see you at the National Day of Action against the proposed cuts on March 26.