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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.

Desiree Cai
UMSU President

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

 

The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) is seeking expressions of interest for the appointment of a Returning Officer for the conduct of its Annual Election, with polling to commence on Monday September 3 2018.

A by-election is also required for a number of positions, and is to be held concurrently with the UMSU Annual Election.

The Annual Elections are regulated by the UMSU Constitution and Election Regulations both of which are available at https://umsu.unimelb.edu.au/elections. The Electoral Regulations are subject to change.

UMSU has established the capacity for the electoral roll to be managed electronically, and at multiple polling sites.

Expressions of interest are sought for the conduct of the Annual Election. Please submit documents, including itemisation of proposed costs, via email to Justin Baré, Chief Executive Officer, UMSU, (gm@union.unimelb.edu.au), no later than 5pm Wednesday June 7 2018.

Nicholas Lam has ceased their term as VCA Campus Coordinator effective from 10/04/2018, creating a casual vacancy. An unscheduled meeting of the VCA Committee has been called for 4pm, the 24th of May to consider filling the casual vacancy. The meeting will be held in the Dr. Philip Law Meeting Room, Elisabeth Murdoch Building, Southbank Campus.

All students that currently students at the Victorian College of the Arts Campus are eligible to nominate for the position as outlined by the UMSU constitution and may do so by emailing the General Secretary at secretary@union.unimelb.edu.au. When nominating, please let us know if you will be in attendance, or if in lieu of this, sending in a written statement.

The aims and objectives of the department are:

a) to provide a suitable cultural and social climate on campus and create opportunities for, and encourage, the development of social interaction between Students.

b) to provide for, protect and develop the interests of Students with regard to financial, social, educational, professional and welfare matters and encourage interest groups and clubs and societies on campus.

c) to represent Students’ interests in any matters as deemed necessary or desirable by the Department.

d) to provide, or ensure the provision of, facilities and services for the academic support, professional education, refreshment, entertainment, recreation and convenience of Students.

e) to occupy and operate premises, which shall be a common meeting place and social centre for Students.

f) to assume other such responsibilities and organise and direct such activities as may be deemed appropriate for giving expression to the interests of the Department, or for carrying out any of the objects aforesaid.

g) to be represented within UMSU and to cooperate with the Departments of UMSU and contribute to the specified aims and objectives of UMSU.

h) to afford a recognised means of communication between students and the authorities of the campus, University, the community at large and other organisations of students.

When selecting a student to fill the vacancy, the Committee must consider the following criteria:

  • Previous experience
  • Involvement in UMSU, department, collective, committee, Students’ Council or any body thereof
  • Previous or current holding of an Officer position in UMSU
  • Proven honesty and integrity
  • Proven commitment to the aims and objectives of UMSU (as outlined in our constitution)

For further details or queries, please contact the General Secretary at secretary@union.unimelb.edu.au.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) yesterday announced that their members, the staff at the University of Melbourne, will be going on strike next Wednesday May 9 from 9am-1pm. The NTEU has decided to stop work and strike as a result of stalled negotiations on the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA), which details the pay, hours of work, breaks, and other working conditions for all university staff, including teachers.

Some of the main issues that the NTEU are fighting for include maintaining staff-to-student ratios in classes and maintaining a commitment to intellectual freedom for staff. These issues don’t only affect staff, the outcome of these negotiations will affect how you are taught at university. The NTEU is committed to fighting to maintain these standards so that class sizes will not increase and face-to-face time with tutors is not lost.

This strike has been called as a final resort for the NTEU in proceeding with the stalled negations. This industrial action is a way to pressure the University to make concession to ensure that protections within the EBA leave staff and students better off.

UMSU encourages all students to stand in solidarity with the NTEU. You can support our staff and teachers by joining our contingent with NTEU members to the Change the Rules rally on Wednesday 9 May, and not coming to classes from 9am-1pm that day.

Desiree Cai
UMSU President

Get involved:

Sign the petition in support of the NTEU

Join the rally via this Facebook event: UMSU Supports the NTEU Strike – Contingent to Change the Rules.

For further updates follow the UMSU Education Facebook page

 

What’s going on with University staff?

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), the union for all staff at the University, is currently holding a ballot asking its members on our campus whether to go on strike.

At the moment, all staff are covered by an “enterprise bargaining agreement”, or EBA – a big document that details pay, breaks and other conditions. It has to be re-negotiated every few years and the University has been in enterprise bargaining for the past 13 months.

What are the issues?

The NTEU is calling for industrial action as negotiations have now stalled on a few pivotal points of difference. University staff are fighting to:

  • Keep a single Enterprise Agreement, so that the Uni will continue to treat the staff who teach you and the staff who manage your degree in the same way.
  • Keep protections to academic freedom of staff in the Enterprise Agreement
  • Oppose proposed changes to limit incremental progression for Uni staff at the level of HEW 6 and above.
  • Maintain the existing commitment to staff/student ratios, so workloads do not increase. Currently across Australia, university staff work sometimes up to 50 hours per week.
  • Keep a commitment to reach targets of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in the agreement

However, a vote of NTEU members, known as a Protected Action Ballot, must be taken before staff can strike. In this ballot, staff must vote on the types of industrial action they may take. This may range from staff refusing to work overtime, not transmitting results to the University, to simply refusing to work at all. Staff of the University of Melbourne who are members of the NTEU will be able to vote on this online ballot, which is open until 12 noon on Friday, April 27.

Why UMSU’s role is important

It is important that all unions, including student unions, support one another. UMSU stands in solidarity with trade unions and we support the right of unions to take action in order to improve the conditions of people at work.

Just as there exists a wide network of student unions that exist at different universities to advocate for students, trade unions are organisations that exist at workplaces so workers can come together to achieve common goals at work. Many of the work rights we take for granted including the 8 hour day, weekends and penalty rates for overtime and weekend work were all won by workers standing together in the union movement.

When negotiations reach a standstill, often employees and employers will look for other ways to move forward. A tool that many unions have used to put pressure on employers to gain better working conditions and settle workplace disputes is industrial action: where workers strike, ban or limit the amount of work they do.

We support the NTEU in their fight to maintain the working conditions of staff at this university. Staff working conditions are student learning conditions, and UMSU stands in solidarity with the staff of this university as they seek to improve their workplace rights.

Desiree Cai
UMSU President

How to cast your vote before April 27:

Join your trade union:

 

UMSU Stands with CAPA and NUS in Bury the Bill Campaign

The National Union of Students (NUS) and the Council of Postgraduate Students (CAPA) recently launched their Bury the Bill campaign to fight proposed changes to student loan legislation.

The Bury the Bill campaign encourages students, graduates and future students to contact their Senators and highlight the consequences of this legislation, which will compromise access to higher education in Australia. UMSU supports this campaign wholeheartedly and encourages all to get involved.

The proposed Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (Student Loan Sustainability) Bill 2018 would see the HECS/HELP repayment threshold for student debt lowered from the current $54,000 to $45,000. This disproportionately impacts low income earners, especially women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates. The legislation also includes the creation of a lifetime student loan cap of $104k.

The lifetime loan cap particularly affects University of Melbourne students, as the Melbourne Model presumes that students do a broad undergraduate degree with the expectation to continue their studies in postgrad. In many cases, the cost of a postgraduate degree, in addition to a previously completed undergrad would exceed the proposed loan cap. This opens up the door for students having to pay up front or take out a separate personal loan to complete their university degrees, severely limiting accessibility for students wanting to gain further qualifications.

NUS and CAPA have spoken out against the bill.

Natasha Abrahams, CAPA National President says:

“We need to fight to retain the HECS-HELP system that enables more Australians to access a university education and the opportunities that come from this. Under the proposed changes, highly regarded degrees which lead to lucrative careers will only be accessible to those who can afford colossal upfront payments.”

Mark Pace, NUS National President says:

“Simon Birmingham, the Scrooge of Australian Parliament, gifted universities with $2.2 Bn in cuts last December. Now he’s seeking further budget repairs from those barely earning above minimum wage.”

“The number of graduates earning below the current repayment threshold reflects a failure of this government in providing a quality education. The solution is to adequately fund universities, not burden low income Australians with this Governments failures in higher education”.

It is unacceptable that these proposed changes unfairly target those who are most disadvantaged and already have the hardest time accessing university education. I urge all students to get involved in the campaign, sign the #BuryTheBill petition and contact a crossbench Senator.

Desiree Cai
UMSU President

What can I do?

UMSU stands in solidarity with the queer community on this momentous day in which Marriage Equality has passed and will soon be law in Australia. This is a massive milestone for not only the queer community, but all of Australia. We should be proud and take a day to celebrate this victory.

Thank you to everyone who fought for the Yes vote that has led us to this outcome. The Yes Campaign and all the wonderful volunteers for the campaign, Australian Marriage Equality and every other organisation who supported the cause. We’d also like to thank the 61% of Australians who voted yes, and all the people in Melbourne, who contributed to one of the highest Yes votes in the country.

The student movement has always supported the queer community and the fight for marriage equality from the very start and UMSU will always support queer students. The UMSU Queer department will always be here to support you and advocate for you.

However, this isn’t the end of the struggle. We recognise that there is so much more work to be done to ensure that queer people and students are treated equally inside and outside the university. We must ensure that we are working on a range of other issues that disproportionally affect queer students including mental health issues, income inequality, queer youth homelessness, access to adequate medical services and life-saving medication such as PEP and PrEP, and discrimination inside our classrooms.

While the passing of Marriage Equality is a thing to celebrate, we recognise the unnecessary hurt and harm of the debate. The decision to hold a postal vote on this issue in the first place was a disgraceful policy, and has given a voice to an offensive and distressing no campaign. We recognise that the ongoing discussion about this issue may continue to be distressing.

Desiree Cai
UMSU President

Elinor Mills and Amelia Reeves
UMSU Queer Officers
umsu.unimelb.edu.au/queer

If you need support, you can contact:

UoM Counselling and Psychological Support: 8344 6927

UoM Safer Community Program: 9035 8675

QLIFE: 1800 184 527

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 638

Continue to look after yourselves and remember it’s ok to take a step back if you need.

 

We did it!

Together, we’ve achieved this amazing landmark moment.

This moment belongs to everyone – to everyone who organised campaigns, who phone-banked and door-knocked and ran stalls, everyone who had a difficult conversation with a friend or family member, everyone who voted for a fairer and more equal society. Importantly, this moment is for everyone who was ever made to feel less than equal because of who they happen to love.

The last two months have been a dark time. This survey has brought out the worst in people and shown the cruelty that others are capable of. At the same time, it’s shown how much we can achieve when we stand together against prejudice and intolerance. Today, we have seen the change that can happen when young people mobilise about an issue they care about. We’ve seen how love trumps hate, and it’s absolutely amazing.

Yet, this is only one small step in the fight for equality, both for the LGBTI community and beyond. We need to keep fighting to make sure that Parliament passes a fair bill that supports equality and does not subject this community to further discrimination.

So please celebrate this victory for as long as you want – we have so much to be happy about. Hold onto that feeling and let it live as a reminder of the good things that happen when we stand together for each other.

When you’re ready, come and stand with us in tackling the many other issues facing marginalised and vulnerable groups right now. UMSU will always have your back and will continue to fight for equality for all. As long as the Government continues to enact policies that deny people their basic humanity, you can be the voice of change with us.

This plebiscite has shown that we can change the world when we stand together. So let’s do it again.

For today, we’d like to invite you all to a rainbow luncheon in the UMSU Student Bar from 2pm (Level 1, Union House).

Yan Zhuang
UMSU President

And if you need support, there are services available.

Even though the result is out, the debate will continue to rage on social media and in the media. It’s important for everyone to look after themselves and each other in this time. It’s okay to step away if you need a break.

  • UoM Counselling and Psychological Support: 8344 6927
  • UoM Safer Community Program: 9035 8675
  • UMSU Student Advocacy Service: 8344 6546
  • QLIFE: 1800 184 527
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 224 638

The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) will soon offer pill-testing kits to students, following a successful motion at last week’s Student Council meeting.

Assuming the motion is ratified by Council next week, reagent kits will be available for free from UMSU in the near future.

We understand that many members of our community are concerned about the message this may send. UMSU does not endorse recreational drug taking but we can’t ignore the fact that young people are going to continue consuming these substances regardless of their legality.

The welfare of students is ultimately one of UMSU’s primary concerns and we need to observe the duty of care that we have to our community. With that in mind, it’s clear to us that the current model of prohibition does not play an effective enough role in minimising harm.

“The deaths of last summer are still in our minds and we are not ignorant of the debate that had been going on nationally,” says UMSU President, Tyson Holloway-Clarke. “We know that students at the University of Melbourne take drugs and are directly affected by policies and the actions of the police.”

We know that 82% of people aged between 16-25 are supportive of pill testing.

We know that around 27% of Australians aged between 20-29 have used illicit drugs in the last year.

We also know that research indicates that ecstasy pills in Australia have been found to be among the most dangerous in the world.

We’re tired of seeing the tragic and avoidable deaths of young people over the festival season. Australia deserves a more nuanced approach to the conversation about drug use and we’re proud to be among the first to take this step. We’d also like to commend Students for Sensible Drug Policy for spearheading this motion, for all the work they’ve done so far and the work they will continue to do. We look forward to continuing our work with them into the future.

There are still details that need to fall into place before the kits will be available. We will also be working with the local police force to ensure that this program is successful and safe for students to take part in without the fear of falling foul of the law enforcement community.

Once everything is ready, we’ll be sure to let you know how these kits can be acquired, how to use them responsibly and what this means for the future of UMSU’s harm minimisation strategy.

Please stay safe and, as always, direct any enquiries to president@union.unimelb.edu.au.

Welcome back to second semester! It has been a long time since I have reached out to your various digital devices. The news and current affairs rolls on, exams and assessments have come and gone and a great number of us have been venturing out into the crisp winter in search of Pokemon. I have a +1800CP Snorlax named KESA GATAME. Get on my level.

But seriously with a chill in the air UMSU presents our first Winter Festival from 20 to 30 of July. With film screenings, food, clubs days and much more the Winter Festival is designed to both help introduce our mid-year entry students to the University and to welcome returning students back on campus. We are testing a few things out across this event but we hope you enjoy the week ahead!

Moving ahead our different departments have a great number of plans for the semester. Keep your eyes peeled for new editions of Farrago, Union House House Party and elections to name a few. We will also be providing some massive updates around the Student Precinct, how we spend your SSAF and safety on campus. All in all things are going to be very busy.

To keep updated make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter and social media channels here: umsu.unimelb.edu.au/socialmedia

Until next time, welcome back!

Tyson Holloway-Clarke
UMSU President