Saturday, January 31, 2015

2014 SRC Elections: On the beginning of the campaign trail.


 The year 2014 promises to be a momentous one for Student Representative Council (SRC) elections on campus. Dominated though they are by small campus political and activist groupings, at least a few thousand students vote every year in an election which grants its victors control of almost $300,000 in student funds for the purpose of running the SRC.

Every UNSW student contributes to the salaries and expenses of SRC Office Bearers and National Union of Students (NUS) delegates through the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF), often by slogging through multiple retail or hospitality jobs while studying full time. Every UNSW student is affected by the quality of the SRC that is elected, with each Council possessing the ability to make a tangible difference to student advocacy, education quality, welfare, safety, environmental practices, university life outside of the classroom, and inclusivity of women, people of colour, queer students, and students with disabilities.

In short, these elections matter. UNSW students have a right to set a high standard for anyone seeking to take a neat pay packet of student money without proving their credentials first. For those who choose to vote in this year’s election, we have one piece of advice: engage in the democratic process. Grill the candidates on the campaign trail, compare the differences in policies and achievements, and perhaps most importantly, assess the commitment of candidates to getting the job done.

This year’s SRC nominations have seen a seismic shift in traditional alliances, guaranteeing one outcome: this will be a tightly contested and hard fought election. Within this broader battle, each vote will carry great power. If there’s one thing students can easily do to make their university experience just that little bit more rich and engaging, it’s using that very power to shape their SRC.

So when Week 12 rolls around and a flurry of coloured shirts appear on Main Walkway, get out there and vote.

What’s in a Voice: the end of an era?

If this year will be remembered for anything pertaining to the ephemeral transactions of student politics at UNSW, it is surely the end of an era of broad left cooperation that was the Voice ticket.

As the incumbent ticket on the SRC for the past 10 years, Voice has for the greater part of this period been comprised of a broad left grouping of independent, Greens and Labor Left candidates fronting up against Labor Right tickets under varying names, including Fresh and more recently Stand Up. Voice has consistently succeeded in these yearly tussles, though not without a scare or two, as in the 2012 SRC election which saw Stand Up run away with 45% of the vote and a dehydrated first year in a panda costume.

Following a tumultuous period of negotiations for the 2014 election, however, the political landscape of UNSW looks markedly different. The Voice ticket, still decked out in red, is now comprised of a loose coalition of progressive Independents, Grassroots (Greens), and Socialist Alternative candidates, the last of whom are present solely on the NUS ticket without seeking to contest any SRC positions.

Notable among this coalition, a number of seasoned activists on the SRC and its collectives have banded to form the organised UNSW Independents, who described themselves to Tharunka as “a group of non-politically aligned progressive students who care about fighting for students’ rights both on and off campus. Without a political party to answer to, we’re able to make students’ rights our number one priority. We are here to ensure that issues that affect students are on the agenda, and to push for change that ensures that everybody has access to the highest quality of education and the best university experience possible.”

After walking away from a deal with the Independents in favour of Labor Right/Student Unity, Labor Left have taken out the majority of positions on a newly formed Labor Activate ticket. Tharunka understands that the possibility of gaining a greater number of positions in the deal proposed by Unity was the determining factor in the Left’s decision to split from the traditional broad left Voice arrangement.

Activate Presidential candidate and UNSW Labor Left Students convenor, Billy Bruffey, told Tharunka that Labor Left had signed with Labor Right because “our group realised that our candidates were better suited running on a different ticket, in which our members could make the best contribution that suited our ideology and vision for UNSW. We were unable to reach agreement with other groups about the best candidates and the best agreement to suit all parties.”

A statement from the UNSW Independents, conveyed by Voice Presidential candidate, Maja Sieczko, said, “the UNSW Independents came to the conclusion that our ideologies were no longer compatible with those of the Labor groups present on campus. We were unable to reach agreement over candidates. At the end of the day, the Independents will always prioritise fighting for the wellbeing of students and ensuring a diversity of people are representing the voices of students on campus.”

The fouling of relations within the UNSW broad left draws to a close a period of unprecedented successful cooperation between left groups in campus elections, with the effects of this split and renewed Labor coalition likely to be far-reaching. The outcome of the SRC election will undeniably shift the balance of power on Arc Board, though whether this shift is towards Labor or non-politically aligned candidates remains to be seen.

By way of coda, the last words of Voice heavyweights following victory in the 2013 SRC election pertained to the almost mythical, omnipotent status the Voice ticket had gained in its supporters’ eyes.

Said one Voice veteran, to agreement from leaders of both Labor Left and the Greens, “For about a decade now, our team has managed to unite the different strands of progressive student tendencies into a formidable force that is excellent at campaigning, activism and advocacy. It’s no mean feat to achieve what we have, time and time again. And that’s despite the fact that many members of our ticket are in different political parties and in different factions of those parties.

“The culture of student politics at Sydney Uni, for example, is very different, largely due to some of the personalities involved. Most of the factions have treated the SRC as nothing but a vehicle for their own political ambition – including left factions.

“There have been attempts to convert UNSW to something more like that. We’ve resisted it, and stayed united. That’s helped us be one of the strongest student groups around.

“At UTS this year [2013], there was a lot of solidarity on the Grassroots ticket. Pretty much all the progressive students (minus NLS) in Sydney fought against Unity and NLS and won. At Sydney, the opposite happened; the left fragmented and the Right won.”

And there ends the saga of broad left unity in Voice. In a year which has seen the Federal Government launch this generation’s most vicious attacks on university students with its fee deregulation agenda, the various self-identified progressive groups on campus will instead spend the better part of October going head to head over campus politics.

No doubt the right will drink to that.

Disclaimer: The 2014 editors of Tharunka were elected on the Voice ticket, which was at the time a Labor Left, independents, and Greens grouping. All current editors of Tharunka are not members of any political party. No SRC candidates are involved in Tharunka’s election coverage.

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SRC Budget caught in controversy


Brendan Byron

The year in student politics is off to a start, with the usually uncontroversial SRC budget under attack for being anti-queer by former Queer Officer Dylan Lloyd and some members of the Queer Collective.

In their petition, Lloyd claims the budget tabled to the SRC on Monday levied a 50% cut on the Queer Collective, from $1000 to $500, on top of a reduction from $1500 to $500 for Queer Week.

They claim that all autonomous collectives have also had their budgets cut in half, and that the money is being redirected to new expenses like a dedicated phone line and a $500 pay increase for the President, from $18,510 to $19,066.

This $555 pay rise is in line with not only inflation, at 3%, but also the percentage pay increase given to every other Office Bearer this year except Ethno-Cultural, which receives a 37% pay rise to bring the role’s pay into parity with Office Bearers like Education and Women’s. (Queer officers are paid three quarters the honoraria of other officers.)

“Not only Queer, but every collective had money taken out of the budget,” Dylan Lloyd said. “But because Queer is autonomous, and because we weren’t consulted, we felt affronted by the change.”

SRC President Billy Bruffey disputes all these claims, saying that his budget does not cut any collective funding, and that the authors of the petition have confused projected spending and allocated spending.

“The 2015 SRC Budget never proposed cuts to the Queer collective or any collectives for that matter,” he said. “The budget actually includes an increase in the allowance for the ethno-cultural officer and the environment discretionary.

“The reason why several OBs and the authors of the petition were afraid that there were budget cuts was that the 2014 President allocated discretionary funds towards topping up these collectives.”

Bruffey explained via email to the SRC that in the 2014 budget, the numbers given were an indication of how much Office Bearers and collectives could theoretically spend, and not reflections of actual historical spending patterns.

Arc’s finance department, on the other hand, put together a budget paper for 2015 which estimated actual campaign expenditure based on historical trends.

“The numbers budgeted in previous years are the theoretical limits. They’re not reflective of actual spending, and historically speaking not all OBs have reached that $1,000 limit,” Bruffey said. “So in the 2014 budget, the same money is being counted multiple times.

“The budget paper I tabled to the SRC not only has the same limits as last year, it has a larger collective pool of funding so I can help out collectives running larger campaigns.”

“Furthermore, I’ve had assurances from Arc that even if every OB does reach their stated limit, which is unlikely, discretionary funds will be reallocated from elsewhere to allow for it.”

After Bruffey released an updated version of the budget with the same financial position but a $1000 discretionary fund explicitly listed with every Office portfolio, Lloyd said via telephone they were happy with the situation.

Dylan Lloyd’s petition posted an update on Friday claiming credit for the change.

“We are so hugely thankful to all those who supported us and signed our petition, as well as to the SRC for taking us seriously and amending their budget to better support autonomy,” it reads.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said that the Ethno-Cultural officer had a pay rise to line up with other officers. The two Queer officers are paid at 75% of the base rate. The article has been amended to address this.

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Good Muslims and Bad Muslims

With Islamic terrorism in the news, thanks to the Charlie Hebdo incident among others, Aadil Ansareen, President of the UNSW Islamic Awareness Forum, is sick of the narrative being oversimplified.

Image credit:

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Here’s the story we keep hearing: there are two types of Muslims. There’s the good, moderate Muslim. He’s peaceful and integrated; an upholder of free speech, women’s rights, democracy and so on, and people like this have a place in our society.

And then there’s the bad, extremist Muslim: the violent, intolerant misogynist who wants to force Sharia law on all peoples. These are the type you’d find in the “ISIS evil death cult”, using the words of our Prime Minister – and it goes without saying: they need to be exterminated.

The story goes that by some mysterious process, usually involving the Internet and some radical interpretation of Islamic texts, any Muslim can be transformed into an evil extremist.

In this tale, the problem then lies with Muslims and their Scripture. It falls upon good Muslims – the 99.9% who have interpreted Islam ‘right’ – to make it very clear that terrorism is not Islam, and must condemn Muslims every time they do something wrong.

You’re either good or bad, so even saying nothing at all is considered ‘tacit support’.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Editorial: To the present and future Vice-Chancellors of UNSW

Welcome to the last issue of Tharunka for 2014.

In more ways than one, it’s the end of an era for UNSW, as we bid farewell to outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Professor Fred Hilmer, who will retire in early 2015 after spending nine years in the top job at UNSW, seeing his salary rise above $1 million a year in the process.

What is remarkable about his tenure at UNSW is that Professor Hilmer was appointed to the role with the business acumen of having been at the helm of a major Australian company, Fairfax, during it’s slow and painful demise, and yet nobody batted an eyelid at the thought of giving this man control over a leading Australian research university.

What is more remarkable still is that, despite Professor Hilmer’s lengthy tenure at UNSW, the fate that has marked Fairfax’s gradual movement towards irrelevance has not befallen this University quite so extremely.

In his time at UNSW, Professor Hilmer has presided over the increased corporatisation of this University, spearheading the move to push smaller, cheaper food vendors off campus in order to allow large chain giants to set up shop with increasingly unaffordable food prices. The irony, UNSW students have told us to date, is that to afford eating at these food outlets, they are forced to work multiple jobs which leave them with no time to have the lazy lunches with friends so artfully depicted in UNSW’s promotional material for prospective students.

To add to his many and varied lack of achievements, Professor Hilmer has repeatedly refused to take a stand on fossil fuel divestment, even as the Australian National University made international headlines with its decision to stop investing in energy companies which are slowly corroding our planet.

UNSW invests $50 million in fossil fuel stocks around the globe, $44 million of which is invested in Australian equities. Universities occupy a unique role as the progenitors of innovation and advancements in society, and UNSW itself is a world leader in renewable energy research. Continuing to invest in fossil fuels shows a contemptible disregard for the planet that sustains us and the research pouring out of this University proving the unsustainability of fossil fuels.

Perhaps most significantly, Professor Hilmer has expended more energy than any Vice-Chancellor in Australia, rivalling ANU’s Ian Young, in doggedly pursuing a political agenda of fee deregulation in the university sector. While the Australian Government has only advanced this proposition under Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership, Professor Hilmer has been ahead of the pack, spending the better part of his nine years as Vice-Chancellor arguing for fee deregulation on every media platform that will take him.

If Hilmer has shown a contemptible disregard for the environment through his rejection of fossil fuel divestment, the same can easily be said about his contemptible disregard for students, who have overwhelmingly indicated time and time again that they do not want increases in university fees.

Professor Hilmer, we’re calling it now: you have been a selfish Vice-Chancellor, and this University will not miss you.

The incoming Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs of the University of Manchester, now has the opportunity to show leadership in shaping a truly collaborative University that undertakes real consultation with its largest stakeholder: students.

Professor Jacobs, the tenure of your predecessor has shown that UNSW is an institution that can weather the strongest of mismanagement storms.

We believe that you can do better.

You have the chance to make UNSW the leading choice of Australian students by bucking the groupthink of the Group of Eight universities, and implementing real change that affects generations of students. Fossil fuel divestment, fee deregulation and food affordability on campus are just three of the biggest concerns students share regarding their future. Consultation with the student body will easily unearth the rest.

The opportunity to shape a public institution of the stature of UNSW is not one that comes around often. Professor Jacobs, that opportunity is now yours. If you choose to listen, you will have 56,000 students, and millions more Australians, behind you. If you do not, your name will blend into obscurity on the long list of Go8 Vice-Chancellors who have wasted the opportunity to truly lead their universities in difficult times.

UNSW is at a crossroads. Which path will you take?

Over and out,
Ammy, Freya and Tina

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When death is no parenthesis: farewell, Phillip Hughes

Ammy Singh



Even as a Test cricketer, Phillip Hughes’ dream never changed.

A working class, country kid in the mould of McGrath and Bradman before him, Hughes long harboured the humble goal of running an Angus stud cattle farm after the conclusion of his professional cricketing career.

“If all goes to plan, that’s what I want to do with my dad,” he said, upon his return from a successful maiden Test series in South Africa in 2009. “That’s my dream.”

In the five years since, he and his father purchased property and named the business Four O Eight Angus, after Hughes’ Australian Test cap number.

On Tuesday, during a Sheffield Shield match between South Australia and Hughes’ former NSW side, those plans went astray with the thud of a common bouncer from young quick, Sean Abbott. By Thursday afternoon, Hughes’ life had slipped through his fingers like sand, and those plans along with it, felled by the very instrument of Hughes’ profession.

Phillip Joel Hughes lived out 25 years on this planet chasing the greatest of his sporting dreams, only to see the remainder wrenched from his grasp, just three days shy of his 26th birthday. The game is changed forever, and flags across the world fly at half-mast as a community mourns for the warm, unaffected young man stranded forever on 63 not out.

The loss is all the more frightening because it is the unimaginable woven into the very fabric of reality.

After all, surely freak accidents such as this only exist in the blurred edges of society, safely obscured by unrecognisable names and the dulling power of human memory? When the name is suddenly recognisable, what was once a freak accident becomes an acute reminder of how fragile our grasp on life is.

But Phillip Hughes never did need to be reminded of this Ferris Bueller-esque maxim to live in the moment, because he was already busy doing exactly that.

A precocious young cricketer with a universally appealing demeanour, Hughes’ homespun technique took him from his family’s 12 hectare banana farm in the northern New South Wales town of Macksville, to the youngest Shield debut for the NSW Blues since Michael Clarke in 1999, to salutations of ‘Little Don’ following his feat of becoming the youngest man to score a century in both innings of a Test match at Durban in 2009.

Hughes’ penchant for the cut-shot through the off-side was borne of a childhood imperative to avoid hitting the family house on his leg-side during unrelenting games of backyard cricket. Hitting the chook pen entailed four runs; hitting the clothesline brought 25 runs.

When he received his baggy green from Ricky Ponting on tour against South Africa, he was shaking. His parents, Greg and Virginia, watched on at Johannesburg. It was the first overseas trip they had ever taken.

Months later at home, Hughes kept the baggy green locked away in a pouch in a corner of his wardrobe, checking every day to ensure it was still there. He confessed to smelling it at times to take in the memories of alcohol-drenched victories in South Africa. Such was the magic of the baggy green for him.

This starry-eyed take on life saw Hughes through the most difficult of periods in 2011, during the nadir of his career, when form evaded him at every turn and the overthinking of his technique led to private struggles that Hughes bore without complaint. Appropriately, Justin Langer had once dubbed Hughes the ‘smiling assassin’.

In time, the runs came again, as they always did for Hughes. When he fell unconscious on 63 not out, he did so during the pursuit of a likely Test recall against India next week.

Though cricket is the sound of the Australian summer, this summer may very well be one of hushed silence.

Death is the embodiment of a life unrealised; of potential untapped. As the ripples of grief drift across a continent, the true impact of Hughes’ passing will be borne out in the corridors of homes, the uncomfortably empty corner of dressing rooms, the gatherings heavy with a tangible absence, and in the air thick with words left unsaid.

The late Roger Ebert once said, “This is what death means. We exist in the minds of other people, in thousands of memory clusters, and one by one those clusters fade and disappear. Some years from now, at a funeral with a slide show, only one person will be able to say who we were. Then no one will know.”

And therein lies Hughes’ salvation. In this we can be confident: as long as a family, nation, and cricketing community remember Hughes, he will remain immortal.

As the late e. e. cummings put it, life is not a paragraph, and death is no parenthesis.

Phillip Hughes was genuine, determined, and perennially optimistic, with an infectious grin that his loved ones will spend a lifetime conjuring up in their minds. But most of all, Phillip Hughes was human. And in the end, despite the best-laid plans, that’s what got him.

The boy from the banana farm has come and gone, and our battered hearts swell in his wake.

Ammy Singh is a business reporter, freelancer, and editor of Tharunka. She tweets at @ammyed.

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Review: Broad City (TV series)

By Tina Giannoulis

No matter how far feminism has taken us, Broad City is a game changer for women in the media. Lead by comedic writer-performers Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the show runs like a version of Fight Club that replaces violent masculinity with casual, but rampant, intersectional feminism. The first rule of Broad City is to have fun and be yourself. The second rule of Broad City is to have fun and be yourself.

Season one of soon-to-be cult classic Broad City is a paroxysm of colour, energy and lead characters who are larger than life. I feel ashamed at my trepidation in recommending the series to a man, but a truly evolved consumer wouldn’t flinch at lines such as: “Dude, did you just pull a bag of weed out of your vagina?” or, “Nose, vagina, butthole. If God didn’t want us to put our fingers in there, then why did She make them perfectly finger-sized?” Then again, we’re still using blue water in our tampon ads.

Following Abbi and Ilana, who play heightened versions of themselves, the series delves into the ins and outs of being young, poor and female in a big city. Separately, their characters are powerhouses for one-liners; together, they flare up and away from reality into the surreal space occupied by only the most intimate of friends. If you’ve ever had a friendship that other people have described as “kind of married”, you’ll be all too familiar with Abbi and Ilana’s dynamic. Helped along by the show’s applaudable depiction of technology, it portrays its characters in a closed circuit of near constant communication, and plays on their synchronicity. As single, adventurous, low-paid and generally disorganised people, the duo are infinitely relatable and unendingly hilarious.

In essence, Broad City is a romance; Abbi and Ilana’s friendship is always at the very centre of each episode and every other relationship – with men, work, adulthood and drugs – is a satellite. In a strange twist on convention, Broad City could almost be criticised for not having any three-dimensional male characters, but Hannibal Buress’s earth-shatteringly funny portrayal of Lincoln, Ilana’s “purely physical” sex partner, ties the piece together. Jaime (played by Arturo Castro), Ilana’s migrant flatmate, also serves up some sugar-sweet, but ultimately biting, social commentary.

As a female-lead series set in New York, the show has drawn many comparisons to Lena Dunham’s Girls. Produced by Judd Apatow, Girls could have been cast as the female equivalent to the male-dominated touchy-feely comedy he’s become known for; the loved-up buddy movie that’s fuelled by talk of blunts and balls. But it’s no secret that Lena Dunham’s series has been met with criticism and the kind of politicisation that the rest of Apatow’s work has never garnered. Yes, the show can be funny, touching and explicitly open about the range of struggles of its demographic, but where Girls is weighty, strangely apologetic and self-pitying, Broad City unabashedly bumps and grinds to its own beat in all its white haze, cultural homage and vagina-filled glory.


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USYD fails female students in more ways than one

Thom Mitchell investigates the double standard by which the University has been operating when it comes to defending the safety and privacy of their students.


In May last year, Alexander Wright – a student, employee and resident at the University of Sydney – took a naked photo of a woman at his campus accommodation during sex without her knowledge or consent.

He later showed the photo to numerous people off his mobile phone.

The University, and more importantly the law, appear to have failed the victim, who has suffered ongoing harassment.

“I’ve been groped, there have been rumours about me. Before I introduce myself people make sexualised comments towards me,” the woman told’s Rebecca Sullivan.

“The photo became a badge of honour for him. It became a manhood thing. I feel like a prize or an award to be won, as though men think if they sleep with me, then they can prove they’re a man,” she said.

The victim has drawn attention to the wider issues around the sexualisation of women, telling “I do not want the man that abused me to be the scapegoat. I don’t think he is the big issue here. He’s part of the problem. There are wider issues on campus and his actions have just highlighted that.”

Wright has avoided prosecution by police due to a legal loophole, exposing the barriers to justice faced by victims of sexual harassment.

In late October, about six months after Sydney University was made aware of the sexual harassment, USYD advised Tharunka that they had finally terminated Wright’s employment as a resident liaison officer at the University-owned and operated campus accommodation.

Wright continues to live and study on campus.

In a signed letter of apology, a copy of which has been obtained by Tharunka, Wright admits to taking a photo of the woman “in a state of undress” and without her knowledge or consent.

“I showed it to other students that we both know,” Wright also confessed in the letter, which deploys language that shares an uncanny resemblance with the wording used in the law that provided a legal loophole allowing Wright to escape charges.

Under NSW law, it is illegal to photograph a person “in a state of undress…for the purpose of obtaining, or enabling another person to obtain, sexual arousal or sexual gratification” knowing that consent is not given.

Wright could have faced two years in jail for such actions, but he escaped charges due to a legal loophole.

The offence, which police say is covered under sections 91K and 91L of the Crimes Act, is a summary offence, and charges can not be laid (except in “aggravating” circumstances) if the incident is reported more than six months after it occurred.

The victim only learned of the photos’ existence eight months after it was taken.

She reported the incident to police, but because the six-month limitation dates from the time the photograph was taken, Wright has not been charged.

“A photo doesn’t stop being a photo after six months,” the woman told The Sydney Morning Herald.

She said the photo shows her with her eyes closed, her face, breast, torso and part of her groin exposed.

Apparently, criminal law expects that such a photograph would lose its power to hurt, humiliate and sexualise a woman in a public and degrading way after six months.

The fact that criminal law – which acts to express societies’ values and delineate what are acceptable behaviours through punishment by the state – has not acted to reprimand Wright says something very bleak about the way the female body is sexualised and objectified.

The University of Sydney has also come under fire for not publicly punishing Wright.

The University has refused to provide details of what punishment Wright has faced, but a spokesperson said that he had been reprimanded.

Defending this secrecy, the spokesperson said, “The University views student discipline as a matter between the institution and the student concerned.

“Making this information public is not part of the punishment for any student.”

The late decision to remove Wright from his position as a resident liaison officer followed talks with a Student Consultative Committee about the University’s handling of a sexual harassment complaint, the University spokesperson said.

Wright’s position was unpaid, and it “does not involve pastoral care but requires a high standard of personal conduct and behaviour to be maintained at all times”.

Wright’s position may not have involved “pastoral care”, but he did exercise some authority over younger students in his job as a resident liaison officer, and he continued to do so for the six months it took for the University to sack him.

In late October, Honi Soit, USYD’s student newspaper, detailed the University’s investigation, taking aim at the process which appears to be “shrouded in bureaucracy and secrecy”.

“I had to fight to get Student Affairs to consider it a breach of misconduct and investigate my claim. It took months to process it [from January to August],” the woman told Honi.

The University eventually facilitated a meeting between Wright and the woman in May this year, months after the woman reported the harassment.

The University “was reluctant to proceed with any such meeting, offered little to no assistance, and [the victim] had to push them to organise a meeting,” according to Honi Soit.

“I had to fight for it,” the woman said.

“I was told to run the meeting and was given no help or direction from the Head of Student Affairs.

“I was not kept up to date with the investigation and would often not hear from Student Affairs for weeks. Towards the end of the investigation Student Affairs would not return my calls or emails. I had to push them to find out if the case had been closed or not.”

At the May meeting, the victim asked Wright to make a public apology in the student newspaper, but Tharunka understands that Wright has not done so.

Honi reported that Wright had agreed to the woman’s request, but the University spokesperson told Tharunka that Wright “gave no undertaking to make an apology of this nature”.

Despite Wright’s confession of guilt, “The University took the view that any action [including a public apology] that followed from the meeting should be the students’ choice,” according to the spokesperson.

The University would not facilitate a second meeting and told the woman it was her responsibility to do so, according to the report by Honi.

However, the victim said it was “not possible for me to organise all the parties [his friends especially] to attend an apology meeting”.

Responding to the University’s taciturn response, the victim told The Sydney Morning Herald that “justice done in the dark can’t be seen to be justice”

Wright’s actions have also been concealed by a decision made by the University’s Student Representative Council (SRC), which pushed Honi Soit to censor their original story.

The paper retracted Wright’s name and image within five hours of the story being published, after the SRC was contacted by the University and other parties who expressed concerns for the “privacy” and “safety” of the perpetrator.

The editorial team of Honi was critical of the SRC’s instruction but said they were “bound to comply” with decisions made by the organisation that prints and funds the paper.

This is not the first time the paper has been censored.

Last year, a front cover featuring close-up photographs of 18 Sydney University women’s vaginas in a non-sexualised way was blocked at the eleventh hour.

The cover was intended to draw attention to unnatural and unrealistic perceptions of the vagina, but according to legal advice given to the SRC, the photographs contravened section 578 of the Crimes Act.

The eighteen women whose vaginas had been photographed for the cover responded in a statement published by Honi Soit:

“We are tired of society giving us a myriad of things to feel about our own bodies. We are tired of having to attach anxiety to our vaginas. We are tired of vaginas being either artificially sexualised (see: porn) or stigmatised (see: censorship and airbrushing). We are tired of being pressured to be sexual, and then being shamed for being sexual.

“The vaginas on the cover are not sexual. We are not always sexual. The vagina should and can be depicted in a non-sexual way – it’s just another body part. ‘Look at your hand, then look at your vagina,’ said one participant in the project. Can we really be so naïve to believe our vaginas the dirtiest, sexiest parts of our body?”

The paper was eventually published with thick black bars obscuring each woman’s vulva – which the Crimes Act considers to be “indecent articles”.

The consensual publication of the photographs, which the women considered empowering, could have resulted in a maximum of 12 months jail time.

And yet, Wright has avoided criminal charges because his actions were not known to the victim for more than six months.

Presumably he continued to share the image – which the woman says was even shown at parties – until police deleted the photograph eight months after it was taken.

That criminal law condemns the publication of a newspaper cover designed to empower women by challenging unhealthy and unreal perceptions about the female body, while at the same time effectively excusing the distribution of a secret, sexualising image of a woman that has caused incredible anguish, is deeply wrong.

That Sydney University took six months to remove Wright from his employment, has refused to publicly disclose what other forms of punishment Wright has faced, and has pressured the SRC to censor Wright’s identity, sends a deeply worrying message.

Wright’s victim has called on the Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University to “speak out publicly against what has happened to me and what has happened to other students as well”.

The University’s spokesperson told Tharunka that the Vice-Chancellor was engaged in ongoing discussions regarding “suggested improvements to the University’s processes to handle such complaints”.

However, Tharunka understands that Dr Spence has not publicly condemned Wright’s actions.

The woman told that her experience highlighted a broader problem with “rape culture at Sydney University”.

Her experience of sexual harassment highlights a broader culture of patriarchy, too.

The woman’s ordeal demonstrates how that culture is propped up by bad laws and the silence and inaction of institutions like Sydney University – an institution that should be leading the way in addressing the overwhelming sexualisation and structural disadvantage faced by women.

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ILC funding cuts

By Rebekah Hatfield

The Indigenous Law Centre (ILC) is the only centre of its type in Australia, yet the current government has decided to cuts all of its funding.

The ILC, which was established in 1981, has played a crucial part in Indigenous legal academia, and soon, it will be left to fend for itself, with funding ceasing at the end of the year.

The Abbott government cut over $43 million from its “legal policy reform and advocacy funding”, unfortunately leaving many legal and policy community organisations in the lurch.

The ILC, which produces the Indigenous Law Bulletin and the Australian Indigenous Law Review – the only two journals dedicated specifically to Indigenous legal issues in Australia – has not given up and will continue fighting these cuts, but they still need your help.

There are many things you can do to keep this important centre around, like making a donation or writing a letter to your local member of parliament explaining why you think the ILC is important.

If you would like any further information, please check out the centre’s website at:

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Editor Notes

Indigenous editor’s note:

This year hasn’t been a great year for Indigenous Affairs, with over $500 million worth of cuts to its budget.


That’s why, in a year like this one, it is especially important for the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be heard.

This issue covers a lot of heavy and important topics, such as deaths in custody, increasing incarceration rates, cultural history, the referendum, cuts to education and racism.

These issues have a direct impact on the lives of Indigenous people, and we thank the Tharunka team for helping our voices to be heard.

I am sure this is the start of a beautiful partnership between Tharunka and the Indigenous students of UNSW – a legacy to be continued for years to come.

I hope you enjoy.


Rebekah Hatfield

Indigenous Student Officer, UNSW SRC

Intercultural editor’s note:

2014 is a year of national achievement. Australia has weathered attempts to water down the seldom-applied Racial Discrimination Act. Simultaneously, the Australian government has soldiered on amidst the persistent international condemnation of its 143 human rights violations of persons seeking asylum. It would appear that the old adage of “you win some, you lose some” could definitely apply to the current cultural climate of the fair nation that our bountiful university is situated upon.

However, it’s not all doom, gloom and marginal gains! It is with great pleasure that Bek and I write to you in this very first edition of our student newspaper which is to be comprised – in its entirety – by students of culturally diverse backgrounds. The provision of such an outlet allows us to continually challenge, explore and celebrate the cross-cultural similarities and uniquities that define us as individuals, and as members of the broader UNSW community.

As one of our contributors exclaimed, “It would mean so much to be published!” – and on behalf of the Intercultural Collective, I’d like to express to those who have picked up this issue, that it means so much that you’re taking the time to read and actively listen to us.

Much love,
Rachel Lobo
2014 SRC Ethno-cultural Officer

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Agony Ibis

Dear Ibis,

With all these affirmative action policies giving minorities legs up and Andrew Bolt being prosecuted for speaking his mind, the world has gone over the top with REVERSE RACISM! Haven’t the youth of today heard of the philosophy, ‘do unto others as you would have done to you’?




Dear Stormfront,

I heartily agree! I always follow the Golden Rule when it comes to dealing with minorities, so it’s about time they started treating us the way we treat them. Honestly, I’m sick and tired of the lack of institutionalised racism for People Not of Colour (PNoC). Where’s our disproportionate police violence? Why don’t we get a higher unemployment rate? When’s PNoC history month? Why can’t I experience the thrill of having land stolen from my people? And they say they’re all about equality…



Dear Ibis,

STOP THE BOATS! These queue jumpers need to learn to wait their turn. KEEP STRAYA STRAYAN! We don’t need any more of them ruining the Australian way of life We can’t let these brown people terrrk our jerrbs and leach off our already struggling, debt-ridden economy!

Sincerely yours,

The Australia First Party


Dear AFP,

In light of the Commission of Audit’s report claim that it’s actually cheaper for these boat people to live in the community on a bridging visa than to be held in offshore detention, I propose that we let them all in! It might sound like a radical solution to our 7th Circle of Hell Debt Crisis, Oh Gosh, We’re All Gonna Die, but brown people are really great at doing jobs that nobody else wants to do, like taxi driving, cleaning, and working at Hungry Jacks. It’s a win-win solution, supported by many economists around the world, and would also keep our fair nation in line with several UN Conventions we are currently breaching ;)




Dear Ibis,

Racism is over; Why are all these coloureds always harping on about something or other? ‘You wore my culture as a costume, why are we never represented on TV, don’t stereotype me, you’re a racist blah blah blah blah blahhhhhh’. Can’t they just move on to something more important? It’s not like there aren’t children starving in Africa or world wars are being waged as we speak!


#1 Realist, yo.


Dear #1 Realist,

First thing’s first: these ultra-PC harpies don’t seem to understand that males aren’t very good at multitasking. That’s why in this patriarchy we live in, there exists a hierarchy of Important World Problems that can only be addressed one at a time. The reality is that addressing racism is much further down on the list than intervening in the Middle East for the sake of peace, or collecting your metadata. They’ll get to it when they can. The haters should cut them some slack.

In the meantime, here are a few suggestions for working towards the things you seem to consider more important:

1. You could lend a hand to those suffering hunger in Africa by donating to charities that balance overhead costs with genuinely supporting those in need directly. (No Voluntourism in this solution!) You don’t need to spend $1000’s on a holiday to mingle with the locals and poorly construct their housing or attempt to teach them with your ‘skills’! If you genuinely want to help and not deflect from the very real suffering of ethnics in the western country you have chosen to maintain residence in, donate those hypothetical thousands to actively reduce hunger in Africa.

2. Lobby your governments to directly oppose supporting these wars in the first place. Support those suffering from these world wars being waged by donating time or gifts (in-kind or monetary) to support the local non-governmental organisations and the international non-governmental organisations on the ground.

Sceptically yours,

Overwhelming Agony


Dear Agony Ibis,

I have an opinion on racism. I am entitled to my opinion. People need to stop attempting to silence me just because they simply disagree with my interpretation of racism. What ever happened to FREE SPEECH, or is that yet another attack on our human rights by the Efniksz?


Defiantly yours,

Free Spirit

Dear Spirit,
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, you are correct. Ten points for you! However, if that opinion negatively impacts other individuals (as every action has a reaction or consequence if you will) AND it is an uninformed one (not grounded in reality, verified statistics or genuine fact) then an individual is not entitled to have this opinion heard. I wouldn’t recommend you share or publicise such an opinion UNLESS you are prepared and are expecting other people to express their own opinion of your opinion. Whether or not they may disagree with all or parts of your opinion, you shouldn’t morph into a whiny baby every time they attempt to speak. Open dialogue is great when it flows both ways, amirite? Freedom of speech need not only be for the bigoted!

PS: Keep your ad-hominem attacks at bay when responding to those that may dissent, it lessens the integrity of your ideology.
PPS: Being called a ‘racist’ is NOT an insult. It’s a term defined by people that experience acts or systems of oppression based on race.


Painfully yours,
Extreme Agony

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By Rachel Lobo

How Racist Are You? Test yourself and find out!

Most individuals within the 18 – 24 age range would credit themselves as holding progressive, anti-racist attitudes. Care to find out?


If you had the opportunity to experience a snapshot of seven days as an Indian international student, Indigenous man or Muslim woman, would you? The Everyday Racism app, launched earlier this year and promoted on our campus during O-Week, provides the chance for participants to engage with scenarios over seven days. When players choose the character of “yourself”, you will be asked to respond from the perspective of a bystander.


The Everyday Racism app was created by a coalition of universities – the University of Western Sydney, Deakin University and the University of Melbourne – partnering with the anti-racism, not-for-profit All Together Now. It allows participants the opportunity to explore the concept of subtle racism or racial microaggressions – an indirect or covert form of racial discrimination highly prevalent in Australia and globally.


The project placed second in the United Nations sponsored competition for the 2014 Intercultural Innovation Award, which credits grassroots projects that “encourage intercultural dialogue and cooperation across the world”. Eleven finalists were drawn from 600 entries from over 100 countries, with the app being described as a “world first”.


It’s FREE and is compatible with both Androids and iPhones – so there’s not much of an excuse not to download when you’re in between lectures or waiting for public transport.


Altering the right to respond to free speech

The Attorney-General’s department has proposed modifying the funding and service agreements of community agencies. In effect, these changes would limit the freedom of Community Legal Centres (CLCs) to advocate for legal reform. In 2012, Senator George Brandis, the self-proclaimed freedom fighter of Australians’ right to express themselves, stated, “The measure of a society’s commitment to political freedom is the extent of its willingness to respect the right of every one of its citizens to express their views, no matter how offensive, unattractive or eccentric they may seem to others.” Those without the financial means to access legal representation outside of CLCs are often marginalised in one way or another. As a result, CLCs tend to be in a position to advise the government of unfair impacts of legislation.


The People’s Champion, demonstrating with effortless tact his commitment to free speech, continuously challenged the right for the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Tim Soutphommasane, to convey his views on the changes to the RDA during mid-year Senate estimates hearings. Yet another contradiction in an old white man’s endless quest for “freedom”. One skim of the applications of defamation laws in this country and the question arises, “Whose freedom is being defended exactly?”


Solidarity in life and death

Hamid Khazaei, a 24-year-old Iranian asylum seeker who contracted a skin disease on Manus Island, resulting in his passing on 5 September 2014, will be honoured with an Aboriginal passport. Organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA), and in agreement with Hamid’s family, the gesture was in recognition of his unlawful suffering at the hands of the Australian government, and his parents wish to donate their son’s organs to Australian citizens. ISJA sees the passport as an expression of solidarity from the traditional owners to new arrivals in Australia.

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