It has been twelve months since the release of the Change the Course report on campus sexual violence. Out of the 30,000 students who participated in the survey, it was found that overall, 51% of Australian students had experienced sexual harassment and 6.9% were sexually assaulted during 2015/16. These statistics were shocking, but not surprising to students. This shock was meant to be met with action.
Despite recommendations made in the report, university responses have widely differed with some failing to take any substantial action over this time. Actions taken by some campuses and their student unions to communicate this issue and introduce changes to policy and services should be commended. However, when we compare the actions of some universities in Australia, we can see our University lacking in progress.
UMSU and University management have a common goal of preventing sexual violence, as well as fostering a safe environment for students in and out of the classroom. UMSU, as the student organisation on campus, has changed its internal policies and practices to reflect this goal. While approaches to tackling this issue may differ, the University and student representative organisations must be working in collaboration. The entire campus community benefits when there is real collaboration between students and management, and when student voices are heard and acted upon.
We do not mean to minimise the steps the University of Melbourne has already taken to tackle this issue, however, we believe that our University could have done more over the last year. We would like to see the University introducing significant systemic and cultural changes – from offering better student support services, to changing campus and classroom culture. These changes need to be introduced on every level, from students to teachers and staff, and up to administrative management. This needs to be done now.
UMSU calls upon the University to take further leadership on this issue and enact the following steps in sexual violence prevention at the University of Melbourne:
- Further education on consent, healthy relationships, and bystander awareness beyond digital modules, with education on the issue being bought into the curriculum
- An accessible, anonymous reporting portal that deals with cases in a transparent fashion
- That the collection of all data pertaining to sexual violence be in a centralised location, with such data being released every 2 years.
- Further oversight into the colleges and their dealings with cases of sexual violence
- An investigation into college culture and hazing at all colleges, whether university owned or not.
- A specialised unit within student services to deal with cases of sexual assault and harassment
- A standalone sexual assault and harassment policy, with its drafting and implementation being undertaken in consultation with student and staff representatives.
- Further funding to counselling and psychological services.
- Adequate information for international students regarding Australian law, rights, and university culture.
The survey results have provided Australian universities with the knowledge to tackle the issue of sexual violence on campus. While recognising that sexual harassment and assault are not issues specific to the university setting, universities have the power to lead the change. The University of Melbourne prides itself on shaping the great leaders of tomorrow. Those future leaders are calling for change. We want to be heard. We want to be believed. We want a safer community – not only on campus, but in the wider community. Universities need to be taking this opportunity to connect with their communities to create a safe, inclusive campus for all. We believe our university can do it.
Please join us at the Rally Against Sexual Violence, August 1 at 2pm on South Lawn. Click here for more information.
UMSU stands with survivors – if you need help, find support at the following organisations and services:
- UMSU Advocacy Service: 8344 6546
- UMSU Legal Service: 0468 720 668
- CASA (Centre Against Sexual Assault): 1800 806 292
- Beyond Blue (anxiety and depression support): 1300 224 636
- LifeLine (crisis support and suicide prevention): 131 114
UMSU welcomes you along to this year’s ‘Palm Sunday: Justice for Refugees Rally’. Annually, on Palm Sunday, people from a range of different groups throughout society gather together and participate in the Walk for Justice for Refugees to show support and solidarity to those who have been mistreated by our government, and demand change in our asylum seeker policy.
We’ll be joining these groups on the day, hosting the official student contingent from the University of Melbourne.
Thousands of refugees and people seeking asylum have been, and continue to be held in cruel offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island. They continue to be subjected to inhumane conditions, inadequate medical care, physical and sexual abuse, as well as the psychological trauma resulting from their indefinite detainment.
These conditions have resulted in nine deaths in the last four years. Right now, 160 children are still held in Nauru and many families continue to be separated because of Australia’s asylum seeker policy. Last year, the Australian Government, in a shameful move, also rejected New Zealand’s offer to resettle and offer protection to 150 asylum seekers and only 242 people have been offered protection by America, as 1700 people remain in detention.
What can we do to help?
Join UMSU and your fellow students in demanding ‘Close the Camps, Bring them Here!’, ‘Education not Detention!’. We call on political leaders, both within the government, and in the Labor opposition, to abandon Australia’s current asylum seeker policy. We call on the government to undertake an approach that is humane and holds respect for the basic human dignity of people seeking asylum. Rather than spending millions on keeping asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island and Nauru, we urge the government to bring them here and let them stay.
The money spent on maintaining the cruelty of offshore detention could go towards funding our universities, currently under attack by the very-same Liberal party in government.
When we stand together and collectively call for change, we can push for action and improvements to the lives of refugees. If you want to be a part of this movement, join our student contingent to the Walk for Justice for Refugees. We’ll be meeting out the side of the State Library at the front of Mr Tulk’s Café at 1pm, before the protest at the front of State Library at 2pm.
Join the UMSU contingent on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/348269579012939/
Palm Sunday Protest event: https://www.facebook.com/events/142529579757550/
Join UMSUINTL for our mid-year orientation events:
. 24th July (Thursday) Food Adventure
. 25th July (Friday) Amazing Race
. 29th July (Tuesday) Lounge Party
. 26th July (Sat) and 2nd Aug (Sat) Buddy Program
Follow us on Facebook to keep up to date with our latest activities and events!
https://www.facebook.com/UMSUintl or simply search for UMSU International
The University of Melbourne will be a founding partner in a $100 million scholarship program. The Westpac Bicentennial Foundation launched the program on Wednesday 2 April. It aims to fund 100 scholarships every year from 2015 onwards.
Melbourne is one of three universities to receive the initial scholarships, along with the University of Sydney and the University of Wollongong. The foundation aims to expand to other universities over time.
The university will offer three scholarships entitled Future Leaders, Best and Brightest, and Asian Exchange. They are expected to be finalised by 2017.
Westpac is yet to announce details about funding arrangements for the scholarship program.
Words by Phoebe St John
It’s time. Dust off that mink coat, retrieve your finest Russian vodka, and switch on ye olde telly box, because the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have officially begun.
If you’re anything like me, Russian geography isn’t exactly your speciality, so allow me to enlighten you of the Olympics’ whereabouts. Sochi is a city in the Krasnodar Krai territory just north of Georgia, along the border of the Black Sea directly opposite Turkey. This city, which boasts a population of 400,000, is apparently so far removed from the icy throes of winter it is affectionately labelled the “Russian Riviera”, or the Florida of Russia. Famously remembered as the location of Stalin’s summer home, some news sources have even gone so far as to call Sochi “subtropical” and “balmy”. Temperatures rarely drop below 8 degrees Celsius, and at press time, there was no snow to be seen other than in the 500 faux snow guns specially imported from Finland. Yes, a seaside town seems a questionable choice for a Winter Olympics in an otherwise arctic Russia, particularly if it means Speedos could be involved.
Still, who are we to judge? No doubt these Games will be spectacular, if its total expenditure of US$50 billion is anything to go by. President Putin is footing the bill of one of the costliest Olympics of all time, with brand spanking new infrastructure including the Fisht stadium, rumoured at 14 times over its initial budget, and some highly fascinating double toilets. For the next ten days, we will watch as 6,000 athletes from 85 countries compete in 89 events and, according to CNN, consume 265,000 litres of Russian borscht in their Olympic Village. More importantly, we will see some outrageous uniforms that may make you simultaneously snort and cry (Norway, anyone?), and even the return of another Jamaican bobsled team, “Cool Runnings” style. We’ve already witnessed the Olympic torch being shot into space and completing a space walk, so no doubt future Games antics will be, well, out of this world.
Still, not everything about this Winter Olympics is as pure as the driven snow (oh yes, pun definitely intended). Russia’s recently adopted, draconian legislation banning gay “propaganda” to minors has been internationally criticised, with the global spotlight now shining on Russia’s LGBTQI community. With politically motivated social conservatism at a momentous high, things are unbelievably tough for gay and lesbian people in Russia right now. There are widespread calls for the criminalisation of homosexuality, only encouraged by public figures, such as TV anchor Dmitriy Kiselyov, and growing anti-gay violence in city centres. As a result, it seems calls for boycotting the Winter Games have quite literally snowballed. 27 Nobel laureates have signed a letter demanding a repeal of the laws essentially denying homosexuality. A 200,000 signature strong petition headed by Amnesty International has condemned Putin’s new legislation ahead of the Games. Even the International Olympic Committee asked its Russian organisers last week to respect press freedom and freedom of speech during the event, when it comes to athletes speaking out about the controversial legislation.
When coupled with the country’s already controversial political situation, threats of terrorism, and the 150th anniversary of the Circassian genocide, Putin may have hit a bit of an iceberg. Barack Obama, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and David Cameron, to name a few, have announced they will not be attending the Games as spectators, citing the Kremlin’s anti-gay legislation as highly contrary to the Olympic spirit (China’s leader Xi Jinping will be attending, however- his third trip to Russia in just 12 months). While the United States is not withdrawing their team, Obama has made a statement of sending openly gay LGBTQI sportsmen along to Sochi. “If Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, then that would probably make their team weaker,” he said in August.
None of this seems to be an issue, of course, because Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov has told the BBC in an interview that aside from foreign tourists, there are no homosexuals in his city (and don’t we all believe that?). Luckily, then, it appears no one will have the urge to protest at Sochi. But if they were to, surely any one of the 37,000 security officers deployed for the Winter Olympics could step in and, er, break the ice.
Thankfully, Russia’s horrific treatment of their gay and lesbian community hasn’t deterred too many athletes from going for gold. “I want to be proud of who I am and be proud of all the work I’ve done to get into the Olympics,” openly gay Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff revealed in a recent interview. And she’s not too pleased with President Putin. “After I compete, I’m willing to rip on his ass,” she has said.
This is the first time Russia has held a Winter Olympics, and it seems the event is already sending chills down some international spines. So, the expected global television audience of 3 billion waits with bated (foggy) breath for news of the shenanigans in the snowy city by the sea.