UMSU stands for the safety of students in colleges, on campus and at events. As a university community, it is critical that we take steps to address issues of hazing, sexual assault and safety within residential halls. These issues have been put into the spotlight by the Red Zone Report, published by End Rape on Campus (EROC) and journalist Nina Funnel, and we are disappointed in the findings, especially those concerning the University of Melbourne.
The information in this report is not particularly new to the public. Since the release of the 2017 Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) ‘Change the Course’ survey into sexual assault and harassment, and subsequent reports, it has been clear that the university community can be doing more in fostering a better culture on campus. What the EROC Red Zone report in particular highlights is the importance and urgency to act on these issues in colleges. The report shows us the depth of how entrenched issues of safety exist for students who live in residence while it highlights that the University of Melbourne is not exempt from this toxic college culture.
College culture will not improve unless we act. UMSU calls on everyone in the university community to not only rally behind survivors, but to be united in making real change. The momentum around issues of safety on campus will only continue to grow. We need to ensure that our university is proactive in continuing to address and act on these issues.
UMSU stands with survivors – if anyone has lived experiences with any of the situations described in the Red Zone Report’, find support at the following organisations and services:
- Safer Communities: https://safercommunity.unimelb.edu.au/
- 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
Desiree Cai, UMSU President, & the UMSU Women’s Department
UMSU stands with the Indigenous community in calling for the change of the date of Australia Day. The history of dispossession and oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which the date 26th of January represents, means that rather than a day of celebration, our national holiday has become a day of mourning for this nation’s First peoples.
In the words of Ethan Taylor, Melbourne University Student & President of the Union of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students:
“January 26 is not something to celebrate. This date represents the beginning of the genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians; more than 200 years of violence and oppression; and contemporary disadvantages that Indigenous Australians face. As such, for me and for my family, this day is a day of mourning, loss, and remembrance.
With the arrival of the First Fleet on January 26 came state sanctioned violence, confiscation of culture, abolition of rights to land, and the removal of children. The events that began on January 26 have brought about terrible suffering for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, as well as trauma that continues to this day. This date will forever hold with it our tears, our cries, and our pain.
Over the last 230 years, the stolen generation, segregation, enslavement and government violence have cultivated the disadvantages my generation faces today. January 26 is now also representative of the gap in life expectancy, infant and maternal health, institutional racism, the lower University retention and graduation rates, the third world state of our remote communities.
When we show resistance to January 26 and celebrations that are held on this day, we’re not just fighting to change a national holiday: we’re fighting for our lives. We are fighting for our chance to live free and equal in this country. We are fighting to bring closure to the traumas of colonisation and put an end to a dark chapter in Indigenous history
When we fight against January 26, we are fighting for the right to lead lives that filled with happiness, cultural, economic and social liberty, and equal opportunity. Stand with us in solidarity and support this campaign.”
UMSU recognises the ongoing struggles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who continue to suffer the effects of racism, oppression and dispossession that exists in our history. This land that we live, work and learn on is stolen land, and always was and always will be Aboriginal Land.
In fighting to change the date, we implore University of Melbourne students to come join us at the 2018 Invasion Day Protest from 11am on the steps of Parliament House.
More details for the protest here
The Turnbull Government has shown with its Mid-Year Economic Fiscal Outlook budget update that it is not committed to supporting the right of any Australian to have access to tertiary education. The proposed funding freeze for higher education until 2020, which will cut $2.2 billion from the sector, will likely result in universities across Australia enforcing harsher caps limiting the number of students that they enrol.
Enrolments are declining anyway – this past year, according to the government’s own numbers, they barely increased to meet population growth. These proposed changes will not achieve anything other than locking out students who already face huge barriers in accessing tertiary education in the first place; namely, students who are already at a disadvantage, including those from low socio-economic backgrounds, regional communities, and indigenous students. This is the end of the demand-driven system that we’ve seen in the past few years as we know it.
The arguments in favour of this change are not particularly compelling. The government cites that universities enrol as many students as possible to secure more funding, only to consequently have high drop-out rates, but this is not an argument to end the demand-driven system for higher education – it’s an argument to make sure that these universities are actually treating their students fairly and giving them the quality of education that they will one day have to pay for.
The lowering of the HECS/HELP debt repayment threshold is another example of the government’s attacks on new workers and students. The total amount of HELP debt in Australia stands at $43.3 billion dollars – this is peanuts in comparison to the total amount of debt owed by Australian Federal, State and Local debt. The argument that we need to start somewhere in order to repay our debts similarly does not hold much water – why start with young people and students who are one day going to be the backbone of the Australian economy? Why not start with the 679 of Australia’s largest corporations who have not paid a cent in tax over the past financial year?
The current HECS repayment threshold of around $55,000 is meant to act as a guarantee that students who complete their degrees will not have to begin paying their debt back until they have secured a relatively stable source of income. Lowering this threshold to $45,000, which is barely higher than minimum wage, flies in the face of that intention. It’s also important to remember that the last time the government attempted this change after the release of the 2017-2018 budget in May, it was blocked by the Senate. This is not the first time we have fought against this, and through a combination of protests and constant lobbying, we can fight it off again.
UMSU stands against our government’s continued attacks on higher education, students and staff alike. We stand against any type of change that will see students having to pay more for their courses, and we stand in solidarity with the staff who are forced to work long overtime hours in order to teach us. Students are an increasingly vulnerable group in a society that has consistently undercut the needs of young people, but UMSU has the power to mobilise and fight for fairness, both in and out of the campus.
Conor Clements & Madi Sarich-Prince
UMSU Education Public Officers