Posts for education dept

Students will be wishing Education Minister Chris Pyne an UNhappy birthday

Last Wednesday we celebrated Chris Pyne’s unhappy birthday, after all lizard people age too. We wanted him to know that even on his special day, we won’t let up in our campaign against his higher ed. reforms. So exactly one week out from the next education protest on August 20, the Education Action Group set up a stall on Eastern Ave, handed out a bunch of cake, and got the word out about the upcoming protest. Students also signed a card to Chris, mostly leaving an impressive array of insults and curse word combinations. My favourite was the eloquent “m8 get fucked.” Truer words have never been written.

Later that day, the cross-campus education action network organised a protest at NSW Liberal Party HQ. We brought our card, sang happy birthday and even brought a cake to cut and share. The security thugs and NSW pigs were the most discourteous party hosts we’ve come across though. They tried to steal our banners and physically force us out, then even threw the cake in the bin. Bastards. Nevertheless, we occupied the lobby for a while and made our message clear.

This Wednesday is the next national day of action for education. So far this year we’ve disrupted live TV, countless Liberal party love-ins, rallied in our thousands and refused to be silent in the face of the Liberals’ attacks on higher education and welfare. Our protests have made a real impact on the public debate with Labor, the Palmer United Party and the Greens all committing to block the cuts when they hit the Senate. The National Tertiary Education Union also recently published research results which found that around 69% of people oppose the deregulation of fees, making it among the most unpopular measures in the budget. The campaign is also hitting Chris Pyne personally; he now sits on a 50% disapproval rating which gives him the title of most unpopular government minister.

There’s a real chance that we could win, and that the reforms could be trashed. But it’s important to keep fighting and putting pressure on the opposition parties to keep their word.
So join us next Wednesday, Aug 20, 1.30pm outside Fisher for another day of action for education and sticking it to the Liberals.

Wom*ns Colective update…

First up, we’ve change our meeting time to Thursday 2pm. Hope you can make it! We’ve had a great start to the Semester in the Wom*n’s Collective. Many of us attended the film screening, hosted by Xiaoran Shi and Andy Mason, of Black Panther Woman, the story of Marlene Cummins, an Indigenous activist in the 70s whose story is incredibly powerful and moving. As one member commented in a reflection, it is a privilege to be able to complain or report men’s behaviour and for it not be perceived as a reflection of your culture, race or community.

We’re looking forward to collaborating with Xiaoran and Andy to screen regular documentaries and movies over the semester. We’ve also been at work finalising our Grievance Policy which contains the shared self-edcuation and skill-sharing that we’ve done over Semester 1 to effective practice being non-oppressive as a collective and take these attitudes and behaviours into the wider world. We’re also very excited to be supporting Bebe D’Souza in organising Radical Sex and Consent Day which will be held on September 4th, in just a few weeks. Get ready for film screenings, facilitated discussions, hands on workshops and all the things you wanted to know but were too afraid to ask.

Finally, we were lucky enough to collaborate with the UNSW and UTS Wom*n’s Collectives in a workshop called “How to Call Out and Apologise”. It was a great opportunity to share experiences in being called out and discuss strategies in calling out oppressive behaviour in activist spaces. We’d like to thank Amy Knox for her organisations skills and Georgia Cranko for an amazing workshop in disability politics. Georgia’s workshop, through an old-school game of Simon Says, allowed us to experientially understand the social model of disability; where society arbitrarily constructs what a “normal” body is, builds infrastructure and attitudes around it, then blames people who might not be able to conform to those norms.

The Abbott government’s attack on welfare will be detrimental for students.

The Abbott government is planning to launch an attack on welfare that will be detrimental for many students. Many students already live far below the poverty line, and are forced to work long hours, eating into their study time. What we need is more, not less, welfare provisions, an idea that has been clearly rejected with the Liberals class war budget.

Abbott’s work for the dole legislation proposes under 30s will have to do 25 hours a week of community service if they are to receive unemployment benefits. In addition to this they will have to apply for 40 jobs a month. This policy is clearly serving a political rather than economic service, as economist across the country claim there is no evidence of such program’s reducing unemployment. This is part of the Liberal governments ideological attack on welfare.

Mining billionaire Twiggy Forrest has provided the government with his recommendations for an overhaul of the welfare system (I guess now they’re not even pretending in whose interests this budget lies). The most worrying recommendation is for the expansion of welfare quarantining. Under this system recipients of welfare are presented with a basics card, rather than a money transfer, which can only be spent as certain shops and prevents the purchase of certain items including alcohol and cigarettes, and does not allow for a cash withdrawal.

The most dangerous change to welfare in Australia is the “earn or learn” policy. Under 30s will have to wait 6 months after they apply for welfare to begin receiving payments, and will be monitored under certain regulations during this period. This will force thousands of young people across the country into abject poverty and homelessness, as they have no way of feeding or housing themselves.

The next big opportunity we have to fight these cuts is the National Day of Action on August 20. All across the country students will be marching to defend their education and oppose the myriad of other attacks facing students in the budget. Last semester hosted the biggest student demo in Sydney in almost 10 years, now we have to step it up! If you would like to get involved in the campaign, join the Education Action Group which meets every Tuesday at 2pm on the New Law Lawns. The EAG will be hosting a number of events in the lead up to the NDA, so there is plenty to get involved with!

More to do to stop the Liberal’s education cuts.

The National Union of Students Education Conference was held over the Winter break at UWA in Perth. After a successful semester of fighting deregulation and the Abbott government, EdCon was a chance for students to get together and reflect on our campaign so far and discuss where to next. Highlights of the conference include a panel with several unionists who stressed the importance of militant and fighting unions, and a protest in Julie Bishop’s office against the Liberal’s plans for higher ed.

One of the final sessions of the conference was dedicated to discussing the next national day of action which will see major rallies in every capital city on August 20. This national day of demonstrations will occur right before the Senate sits on August 26th, meaning it might be our last chance to protest before deregulation is voted on.

While we had a good semester one, we haven’t won yet, so students and our allies need to keep up the pressure against the government. Sydney Uni staff and students will rally on Wednesday August 20, 1.30pm at Fisher Library. We’ll be headed to UTS to join students across NSW in a march to Sydney Town Hall.

But there’s another issue that’s gripped us for the last week, as we write this massacre and destruction rain down in Palestine. Currently around 1,000 Palestinians have been murdered, thousands injured, and tens of thousands made refugees. In a few hours these figures will be surpassed and the numbers of lives annihilated, of hospitals and mosques destroyed, of people driven from their homes will rise even higher.

This latest war has exposed once more the nature of Israeli society, that it is a racist, genocidal state intent on wiping out the Palestinians. All the while politicians and the mainstream media faithfully repeat Israeli propaganda points.

But we reject all that – this is not an even sided conflict, the two groups of people are not equally to blame; it’s occupation, war, genocide. We stand in full solidarity with the Palestinians, we condemn the Israeli state for their war crimes, and we condemn Australia and all the other Western governments for their complicity and support for the apartheid state.
If Palestinians in the face of such horror and repression can stand up and resist, just as they have been, it’s necessary that we do too. In Sydney, the next protest for Palestine is going to be on Saturday August 2nd, 1pm at Town Hall. We urge everyone to come along.

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!

Eleanor Morley and Ridah Hassan – Taking action against the Budget

The National Day of Action against Abbott and Pyne’s attacks on higher education on May 21 saw thousands of students hit the streets in the biggest student rally in Sydney in almost a decade! At Sydney Uni 1000 students heard from a variety of speakers discussing how the budget will affect students and the fightback we need before marching through the quad, and to join other campuses from NSW at UTS.

Sydney Uni has a vibrant history of student radicalism, and it is fantastic to see these traditions being revived in response to Abbott’s class war budget. We have made it clear we will not accept these attacks on education, healthcare and welfare, and we will continue to protest, occupy and disrupt until we win.

Over the past couple of weeks, every time a Liberal MP has stepped onto a University campus across the country they have been met with the angry chants of students. Here in Sydney we have targeted Julie Bishop (twice!), Christopher Pyne and George Brandis, and we will continue to do so for as long as these parasites try to demolish public education.

Unfortunately, our University administration has decided to do the dirty work of the Abbott government by issuing a student activist with a one month campus ban for participating in the protest against Bishop. This is a worrying attack on free speech; we have the right to protest to protect our education.

Annabel Crabb, Amanda Vanstone and others may denounce our actions, but our actions have garnered majority support from the rest of the country. The next anti-Abbott action that you can get involved with is the Bust the Budget rally on June 28, meeting outside Town Hall at 1pm.

This is only the beginning of our campaign against Abbott, and we hope to see all those who joined the rally on May 21 to come back out early next semester when we will be holding another National Day
of Action against this budget.

The 2014 budget confirmed all our worst nightmares

The 2014 budget confirmed all our worst nightmares; the Liberals want to deregulate university fees from January 2016, meaning that universities charge what they like for their degrees. Some experts saying that this will see fees skyrocket up to over $100,000. The budget also included attacks on healthcare and welfare, and the cutting of $500 million from Indigenous programs and services over the next 6 years.

It’s time for students to stand up and oppose these drastic attacks. Our protest on Q&A was a start, continued by our action against Liberal Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop who was given the welcome she deserved whens she had the gall to visit campus last week. Our next chance will be the national day of action against fee hikes and moves to the US model on Wednesday May 21. We’re meeting at 1.30pm outside Fisher Library, and everyone needs to be there! The fight for our education has never been more urgent!

The rest of our report goes to Indigenous activists who shared their thoughts last year on Constitutional recognition and they key issues facing Aboriginal people today: “Things are no different from back in the days when the pastoralists took away our lands; actually things are getting worse. I honestly believe that it is getting worse. Standing up and fighting back is important. Fight and don’t give up, don’t let them win. This is our country, our land and it has been taken from us. Remember your identity, where you come from and never forget that you are Aboriginal and be proud. Stand up and be proud, all you Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.”

Ngarri, from Western NSW, second generation stolen “We are here to represent where we are from and to stand up for ourselves. It is important to stand up so that people know who we are and what our culture is and to get our rights. We are fighting for our land. The government is taking our land.” Amelia and Sherrie, Kamilaroi clan “If within two years Rudd writes Aboriginal people into the constitution, I think that it will very much extinguish the rights of Aboriginal people in terms of sovereignty… We will become part of the Australian state, and therefore we would lose the basis for treaty and we would lose the basis for land rights – it’s going to be the biggest theft in the history of Australia.”

Sharon Firebrace, Yorta Yorta woman, long-term activist and member of the stolen generation.

Activists staged a protest on Q&A against Education Minister Chris Pyne and his plans for the tertiary education system.

Last Monday night, activists staged a protest on Q&A against Education Minister Chris Pyne and his plans for the tertiary education system. For the most part, we’ve had an extremely positive response, but there’s also been a lot of tut-tutting and hand wringing from those who think we hijacked a democratic forum, and did more harm than
help to our cause.

Contrary to what Tony Jones thinks, there’s nothing democratic about the mind-numbing conservative consensus that marks QandA.
Week after week, the ABC carts out the most right wing panellists it can find, allows a few people to ask pre-approved questions, lets the panellists retort their pre-written answers and passes it off as, in the words of Executive Producer Peter McEvoy, a “free exchange of ideas”.

Our disruption of a tightly controlled TV show was the opposite of ‘undemocratic’. Democracy should mean that in a debate about higher education, students and staff who are directly affected and with the most to lose actually have their opinions conveyed.

The set up of the show purports to offer reasoned and rational discussion, but you can’t reason with people like Christopher Pyne. He is a born-to-rule Tory and has no interest in the opinions and struggles of students or anyone that’s not a rich bastard just like him. He rules for the 1%, and no argument, however articulate or measured, will change that.

None of the political parties represent the voice of students. In any case, we want to speak for ourselves. We want to take on politicians directly and on our own terms. That means putting forward arguments, raising our voices, speaking out of turn, calling out politicians on their lies, and yes, even chanting and using banners.

The political establishment and its official channels and processes aren’t there for us to use, but for people like Christopher Pyne. Students don’t get their speeches broadcast on TV or on the radio, we don’t have mates who run the newspapers. The response we’ve received to our protest confirms our view that sometimes the only way to be heard is to disrupt business as usual and refuse to be silent in the face of stifling conservatism.

We have reached a critical moment. Higher education is facing the biggest attacks in decades. In the upcoming budget, students can expect to see fee increases, the undermining of student welfare and the full or partial deregulation of the higher education system.

There is every reason for students to be pissed off. We don’t want to be polite, we don’t want to be respectful, or courteous, or measured. We are angry about the government destroying our education system and our lives,
and we are going to say so.

So we disrupted Q&A, and in a week we’ll disrupt the country on May 21st in the National Union of Students national day of action for education!

Sydney Uni students are meeting at Fisher Library at 1.30pm. Be there!

It’s time to FIGHT the cuts to Higher Education

The Commission of Audit released last week was the stuff of nightmares. It recommended increasing student fees by 34%, lowering the threshold at which HECS repayments start to the minimum wage, turning relocation scholarships into loans, and a litany of other attacks on students and higher education.

This was all accompanied by suggestions to introduce Medicare co-payments, reduce the minimum wage, raise the pension age, undermine welfare payments, and a number of other severe measures designed to assault the working class and poor.
We don’t know exactly what will happen come budget day, but it’s clear by now that this government is there of the rich, and for the rich. The fact that the Commission of Audit was released on May Day, the day for the international working class, is telling.

Students need to match the intensity of these attacks in our campaign to defend our education system. We have to oppose any fee increases and Pyne’s plans to move to a US style education model with ferocity. Only a mass campaign on the streets is going to stand any chance of winning against the heartless bastards that make up the government.

The National Union of Students had called for a national day of action on May 21 to start that fight. Sydney Uni students will be meeting at 1.30pm oytside Fisher library for an on campus rally, before marching to UTS.

There’s no time to lose, public education as we know it is under threat!

Pick up some posters from the SRC, join + share the event online, announce the rally in your lectures + tutes – and make sure you and everyone you know is there on May 21!

The results of the Norton-Kemp review into the demand-driven higher education system are in, and it’s not looking good

The results of the Norton-Kemp review into the demand-driven higher education system are in, and it’s not looking good for students. This review was commissioned by Abbott and Pyne late last year, doubtlessly to provide an excuse for a new round of cuts to be announced in next months budget. Andrew Norton and David Kemp were responsible for an attack on university funding under the Howard government, and this report shows they are now gearing up for round two.

The main recommendation announced in the review is to further expand the demand-driven system first implemented by the Gillard government to include private colleges. Many private colleges are run like businesses, with profit rather than a quality education being key. To continue the demand-driven scheme without a corresponding increase in government funding will lead to a further degeneration of the quality education students are receiving.

How do Norton and Kemp suggest to fund this expansion? With students, rather than government, footing the bill of course. An increase in student fees has been recommended in the review, alongside the removal of equity targets, which would see 20% of all students originate from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2020.

Postgraduate students are also coming under attack, with the removal of subsidies for more postgrad degrees slated as another way to cut costs. HECS has not escaped the firing line either, with the suggestion of a flat 10% loan fee on HECS, the lowering of the minimum income required to start repayments, and plans to pass the HECS debt down from deceased states or retrieve it from ex-students living out of the country.

While it is unclear exactly which of these attacks will be unleashed in next months budget, it is clear that higher education will be taking a hit, with students bearing the brunt of the costs. Students need to be ready to respond to any cuts, while continuing the demand for a free and fully funded education system. If you would like to get involved with fighting Abbott and Pyne’s cuts, join the weekly Education Action Group meetings, Tuesday 2pm on the New Law Lawns.

Education Officers’ Report

Sydney University management is prosecuting a student for supporting staff strikes in 2013. The student received a letter earlier this month warning of a possible one semester suspension if they did not respond
to accusations of misconduct.

Management alleges that during the 48-hour strike in March last year, the student made chalk markings on a wall (contrary to the university’s advertising policy), pushed and stole the cap of a NSW police officer, was arrested on campus and then returned the following day after being issued with a ban.

It will set a dangerous precedent should the student be disciplined. There are a number of reasons the charges should be rejected.

First, the notion that students could face a semester long suspension for chalking on a wall is ridiculous. Hundreds of students every year advertise in this way on campus without receiving any form of punishment, which suggests there are alternative political motives driving this allegation.

Second, the allegations referring to misconduct relating to the police are also a political power play. Cops have no place on campus, and were used during the strikes to break picket lines and allow scabs to enter the campus. The police were actually the instigators of violence throughout seven strike days last year.

Finally, the student is being prosecuted for contravening a notice issued for the university at which they are studying. These notices were used repeatedly by management to weaken the picket lines and undermine the strike. The notices are arbitrary – there was no formal warning or any opportunity to challenge the notice.

By prosecuting one student for supporting the staff in their demand for better wages and conditions, the administration hopes to deter others from offering similar solidarity in the future.

The NTEU is currently taking industrial action on a number of campuses across the country as part of EBA negotiations. We support student solidarity actions with the staff and reject the presence of police on campus during this process.

The Education Department of the SRC stands in full solidarity with all students facing disciplinary actions as a result of the 2013 staff strikes, whether it be legal cases, prosecution by management or the continuing campus bans.

Ridah Hassan and Eleanor Morley