International Students’ Officer’s Report – ACAR Edition

Hi, I am He Lu, the International Student Representative in the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) of the University of Sydney. This is the first report I made for this new semester. Semester 2, 2015 (July) will be the second semester we work as International Student Representatives in SRC.

Last semester, International Student Office created an event for international students and local students as a welcome party for the new semester. Free drinks and foods were provided at the time. New ideas and questions were shared during the meeting. We also made the language exchange sessions. Additionally, problems about International students’ visa were talked with councilor inside SRC and Honi Soit. Working visa and jobs will still be our focus this semester.

In this semester, welcome party has been considered to be held for sharing problems and gathering advice. Language exchange programs are still welcoming all students who are interested in. Also, connection has been made between International Student Office of Sydney University and the councilors in UTS. More events have been planed in order to work united. More events and information should be released during this semester. We strongly hope more students can give us more feedback or any idea you would like to share. The collectives of International Student Office would always like to help you with the problems and also welcome any of your idea.

Please do not hesitate to email , if you have any concerns of your university life.

ACAR Edition: Queer Department Report

Hilary Clinton once said that “being gay is not a western invention.” In many ways, she is wrong. Western society establishes heteronormative social relations, so that “being gay” (or lesbian, bi, pan, trans*, non-binary for that matter) has to be labelled and marked, to indicate that our identities fall outside of socially constructed norms. There are many non-western cultures that recognise and celebrate sexual and gender diversity in ways that western society does not, however western cultural hegemony white-washes this, with the extreme cases of this hegemony being in the form of colonisation. This is certainly the case in this country, as non-binary gender identities are a norm in many Indigenous cultures of Australia. Decolonisation of concepts of gender and sexuality is crucial if we are to have queer liberation, with this in mind, the Queer Action Collective strives to be intersectional. Although my own experiences as a queer person of colour in queer activist groups (including this one) as well as those of other queer people of colour have often found that these spaces are white dominated and erase our experiences, we are all learning to be more respectful of other voices and aware of the diversity of experiences that we bring together. This is a difficult yet empowering process, as we are all socialised to be racist, sexist, ablist and queerphobic.

ACAR Edition: Indigenous Department report

Is it possible for a country founded on racism to ever move past its history to accept not only this country’s Indigenous people but people of every race?

Last week on my facebook Newsfeed Amnesty International Australia posted the iconic image of Gough Whitlam as he poured a handful of Daguragu soil into the hand of Gurindji elder Vincent Lingiari as a symbol of the land being returned to the Gurindji people. As I looked at this powerful image for a fleeting moment, I was empowered by this historical step in the Land Rights movement, however this feeling left as quickly as it came when I realised that not much has been done since then. Land rights are still a fundamental issue for Indigenous people as we fight for the right to something that was taken away from us. This is most clearly seen down at The Block in Redfern where Aunty Jenny and the whole mob down there are facing eviction from their land as they demand the basic human right of affordable housing. It seems that in the face of ‘progress’ and development human rights get left behind while racism prevails.

Human rights seems to be all but forgotten in the Northern Territory as the NT Intervention continues with little protest from the wider Australian community. The Australian government have restricted individuals rights and freedoms but have done so purely based on race. The measures introduced within the Northern Territory communities only apply to Aboriginal people, this discrimination and stigmatisation of the Indigenous people has caused the United Nations to openly condemn the Australian government actions, yet still nothing has been done. With little to no improvement in education and literacy rates within these communities it seems that even the so called ‘positive’ aims of the Intervention havn’t been made, so why are they still there?

The Paternalistic approach to indigenous issues has prevailed since colonisation and reinforces the idea that we are not able to help our self. That some how we are different from non-indigenous Australians and that we need the government. This idea is rooted in racism that allows the government to exercise control over the Indigenous population under the guise of helping.

In looking at the issues Indigenous people face today has there really been progress? Yes we are now counted as citizens, a momentous step in the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but citizens of what? A country that still vilifies a whole race? A country that still refuses the accept the true history of colonisation? A country that counties to break international human rights laws? Has anything really changed? Are we not still the victims of extreme discrimination and prejudice in our own country? Until Australian truly addresses the history of colonisation and its past and current treatment of this country’s Indigenous people we will always be living in a racist country.

A Voice for Wom*n of Colour

It’s an honour to write for ACAR Honi, as feminist spaces have a long, toxic and continuing history of championing the voices of white women at the expense of women of colour. This is a reality that our own Wom*n’s Collective has not been immune to. We cannot understate the struggle and persistence of the amazing women who took (and take) the time and emotional energy to educate others and in doing so helped the Wom*n’s Collective to be a space that now practices intersectionality.

Wom*n’s Honi, despite being the source of many conservative tears (sorry not sorry Mon Droit and Nick Cater), was a tribute to this. From critiques of Patricia Arquette’s white feminism, to analyses of race and emotional labour, the prison system and the role of photography in decolonisation, there were pages of articles that centred the experiences of women of colour. In spite of this, we recognise that the Wom*n’s Collective will never be a “safe space” for women of colour, as the world is not a “safe space” for women of colour.

Every day there are stories of women of colour being bashed, beaten, harassed and murdered. Just this year, we heard the horrendous story of Sandra Bland, an African American woman who was found dead in her jail cell, after an unwarranted arrest. We especially remember the trans women of colour who have been murdered this year. In the USA, of the 19 that we know the names of, 13 women were black and 17 were women of colour. Australia is not separate to these systems of violence, but implicated in them. We must never forget the colonial legacy of sexual violence and exploitation of Aboriginal women that defined and persists in defining our nation.

To end more optimistically, things are starting to change. Whether it’s the number of #teamnicki tweeters doubling the number of #teamtaylor tweeters, or the response to the whitewashing of the new Stonewall film, white feminism and white-centred politics are being dismantled with greater vigour every day. We can only attribute this to the centuries of activism of women of colour. We quote the words of women like Audre Lorde, bell hooks and Gayatri Spivak (and the countless others) often, but today we take a moment to truly and graciously thank them. It is the activists of the past that have given us a liveable present, and who provide the foundations for our continuing fight to smash the kyriarchy.

Presidents Report – Assessment Procedure Policy

A few editions ago I reported on the existence of the Simple Extension. I said that they were important to those in the student body who rely on the face to face relationship between staff and student and those who may have anxiety when dealing with University Administration teams in the formal process of applying for Special Consideration.

Last week the Academic Board met to debate the new Assessment Procedure Policy, including the policy on Simple Extensions. The proposal was to remove all reference to it entirely. Before then, I had students messaging and emailing me asking that I argue the value of the Simple Extension to the Academic Board, which myself and representatives from SUPRA did. Following the debate, I moved an amendment to the proposal to keep the policy around Simple Extensions. Unfortunately the vote narrowly lost. These changes are set to come into play in January 2016 but there is still time to discuss this further with University Management and save Simple Extensions.

Throughout the next month I ask that students continue to send me their thoughts on Simple Extensions to help me gauge what the Student Body is thinking and structure an appropriate debate that would benefit the students of our University.

I would also like to take this time to congratulate our Education Officers, Blythe Worthy and David Shakes, along with the Education Action Group (EAG) for organising a brilliant National Day of Action last week in the name of Free Education. I encourage everybody to use the NDA to keep momentum up in the campaign against the threat of Education Minister, Christopher Pyne’s deregulation bill.

Welcome back to another semester of intersectional activism and creativity!

Hey, feminists! Welcome back to another semester of intersectional activism and creativity. We hope you’ve had a restful break and are ready to get back into some feminist shenanigans.

Over the past month or so, a few collective members have been busy wheatpasting Camperdown/Darlington campus and Newtown with anti-street harassment posters, to protest the 87% of Australian women who have experienced verbal or physical abuse whilst walking down the street. Xiaoran is planning to do regular wheatpasting nights featuring original feminist artwork by collective members.

Subeta also organised our first intersectionality workshop with high school students (“fEMPOWER”) across NSW. Thanks to Anna, Julia, Margery, Lane, Brigitte, Freya, Kitty and Arabella, who volunteered and have been consistently committed to this project. From our feedback we scored a mighty 4.94/5 as an average for being “friendly and informative volunteers” and literally all 34 of the students wanted the workshop to be run again in their school, as well as extension workshops—both of which we’re planning at the moment.

Xiaoran is also firing up to launch the new Wom*n’s Library. So far, we’ve received donations and offers of support from Spinifex Press, The Women’s Library in Newtown and Jura Books. We are relying heavily on the generous donations of likeminded organisations and individuals, so donations are welcome. We’ll also be holding a Wom*n’s Library launch and book drive soon.

Finally, the Stop Taxing My Period campaign is not over yet! After a busy break Subeta spent talking to the Senior Advisors to the State/Territory Treasurers leading up to the CFFR (Council of Federal Financial Relations) meeting where the issue is to be discussed, things are looking optimistic. To get those dithering states (including NSW) on side, there are rallies on the 14th of August that you can find on Facebook.

Last but certainly not least, our weekly collective meetings will be held at the same time of Thursdays at 1pm in the Manning Wom*n’s Room. We also have a secret Facebook group where we do a lot of the planning for our projects, so if you’d like to join, don’t hesitate to add us on Facebook and we’ll add you to the group quick smart.

New Indigenous Collective gets active!

Howdy y’all. Firstly, before we go into what happened over the break and what we have coming up this semester we need to say goodbye to one of our Indigenous Officers, Jethro Braico. We thank Jethro for all he has contributed to the collective in the past semester, for his spirit at every rally, his participation in the Indigenous Student Games, his Indigenous Honi article and his camaraderie. We wish Jethro the best for all his future endeavours. May the Hairy Man never catch him!

Over the break, a couple of great things happened. For starters a new collective was formed, ‘Students Support Aboriginal Communities’. This collective consists of non-Indigenous and Indigenous students who wish to support Indigenous communities, whether that is locally like the Redfern Tent Embassy or communities such as those in Western Australia. This support is through actions such as fundraising, donating time and attending rallies. If you would like to get involved, you should attend the upcoming rally, ‘Build Aboriginal Housing on the Block Now!’ on the 11th at the state parliament house. The purpose of the rally will be to demand that the NSW State Government support the funding of low cost housing for Aboriginal people in The Block and review the commercial development. For more details regarding the rally, check the Facebook event page of the same name.

Towards the end of the break, I attended the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Student Conference (ATSIC), which was organised by the NUS ATSI Officer Bridget Cama. The conference was a great chance to meet other Indigenous officers from all over the country, learn of their own difficulties and strengths at their universities. This will allow us to organise on a national scale in regards to Indigenous issues. The conference also had some amazing guest speakers such as Dr Lilon Bandler, Professor The Honourable
Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, Jamie Parker, Tony McAvoy, Larissa Brendt and Aunty Joan Tranter. It was an incredibly enlightening experience to hear them all.

Now, for this semester we have some awesome things planned such as Indigenous film screenings. Once the dates have been organised for our events we shall let you all know. Now before I leave y’all let us make a clarification. Imaginary spears do not hurt. A man being proud of his culture does not hurt. Targeted booing and vilification of a man for being proud of his culture, for highlighting the racist history and present of our nation, is racist and disgusting.

Changes to the SRC Budget and more…

Welcome back to class!

Since our last report, we’ve been instituting some of the changes set out in the 2015 SRC budget.

This includes extending the hours of the Legal Service, increasing the pay of the Honi Soit editors, and obtaining approval of the SRC’s affiliation fee to the National Union of Students from their Fee Review Committee.

Further, we’ve purchased two megaphones for the SRC’s new shared resources pool – coming soon to a protest near you. We’re also proposing new policy for the loaning of items from the shared resources pool at the SRC’s August Council meeting. The meeting will be held on Wednesday August 5 at 6pm at the Professorial Board Room (in the Quadrangle). As always, all undergraduate students are welcome to attend.

Over the break we were also involved in discussions with the University regarding its strategic plan for 2016-2020. You may have recently received emails from Vice-Chancellor Dr Spence about discussion papers prepared by the university on its strategic plan. Please take time to read through and consider these papers, as they have important implications for the future of undergraduate study at The University of Sydney. We are particularly concerned about the equity implications of this paper, lack of adequate detail in plans for improving cultural competence at the university, and the repercussions of the proposals for staff.

Beyond campus, with fee deregulation still on the Liberal party’s agenda, the National Union of Students has called a National Day of Action for August 19. Mark this date in your diary and join the SRC at the Law Lawns on Eastern Avenue at 1pm as we continue our fight for a more fair and equitable education system.

Finally—a reminder that if you’re looking to sell last semester’s textbooks or buy textbooks for this semester at a discounted rate, check out SRC Books at SRC Books is located on Level 4 of the Wentworth Building (opposite the International Student Lounge).

The SRC Stands in Solidarity with the Staff against the Uni restructure

By the time this report is released a staff rally at our University will be in its final stages of planning for Wednesday 5th August. This rally is lead by the NTEU and the SRC stands in solidarity with it. This is because the SRC will always stand for workers’ rights and values the contribution to our society at the hands of the worker.

As some of you may be aware of, many staff members of this University have received their redundancy letters as a result of the new Strategic Plan 2016-2020. But wait, there’s more. Not only will these staff be cut, but also over 100 degree opportunities for students to be replaced with 4 year vertical degrees—forcing you to pay even more for your education with a further incentive to take up a Postgraduate degree which (as said in my previous report) does not have a cap on how much you can be charged. I encourage everyone to rally on Eastern Ave on the 5th August at 1pm to stand up for staff and your education.

On another note, I am disappointed to report to you that there are proposed changes to the Universities Assessment Procedures that add more bureaucracy between the relationship of students and staff. The changes, which are set to go to Academic Board on the 19th August, remove the clause for Simple Exensions entirely. I will be opposing the proposal when it’s brought to the Academic Board for approval but my vote will not be enough. I ask that those who see the value in having the Simple Extension included in our policy documents to write to me directly before the meeting on August 19th so I can voice your concerns to the board.