This year has been an exciting one for the National Women’s Department. We’ve taken strides forward with our online and new media engagement, made new connections with other groups within the sector, maintained our partnership with NGO groups working within the women’s sector and run exciting campaigns on university campuses around the country.
In January I launched the NUS Women’s Department website/blog as a way to ensure that a wider group of students had the opportunity to engage directly with the work that we were doing on a national scale. The website also acted as a hub for the resources created by the department, thus ending the difficultly in accessing resources for those not connected in with the national union.
At the same time I created the NUS women’s twitter and facebook page. This was a successful tool in allowing women student’s to engage with the department.
This year we have also created several youtube videos and NUS Women’s now has a youtube channel. The video’s featured active members of the national union and were an effective tool for educating people about the department and what it does. Our first video for the year, released in January, was shared almost 100 times via facebook, including by Emily’s List Australia.
The O-Week campaign was one which carried on several years worth of work from past women’s officers in the area of safety on campus. Women’s safety on campus continues to be a significant barrier for access for women students.
The campaign was called It’s time to demand safety on campus served the purpose of raising consciousness around the issue of violence against women on campus and allowed women’s officers to show their university that students did still care about safety on campus.
The petition that accompanied the campaign received over 5,000 signatures on campuses around Australia. The petitions were then used by campus women’s officers to lobby their universities about specific campus safety issues.
Our work with the women’s sector continued and culminated in their generous support and endorsement of a resource Safe Events Respectful Clubs and Societies (SERCS) which was launched at NOWSA conference in Canberra. The printed resource was distributed to campuses in time for semester two.
The SERCS resource was created following incidents at several campuses during o-weeks and the need expressed by many campus women’s officers and student organisations that they needed more information about what to do to ensure that their events are run in a way which was safe and inclusive toward women. The resource was well received by student organisations and the women’s sector and will be available for years to come to act as a guide book for student organisations and women’s officers.
At education conference and NOWSA I ran sessions on the SERCS resource.
The major campaign for semester two was Blue Stockings Week for which we collaborated with the NTEU to bring to every campus in the country. The campaign, which aims to celebrate women in higher education, was a successful one that allowed women’s departments to target to their specific campus issues. I was lucky enough to celebrate the week in Melbourne and Perth and was so pleased to see the way that people engaged with the campaign.
The final major event for 2012 has been the launch of Talk About It, which first ran in 2010 and is the only student controlled national survey of women’s safety on campus. The launch coincided with the launch of the Swinburne women’s room. The survey will remain open until the beginning of next year.
Talk About It is arguably the most visible and wide reaching campaign that the NUS Women’s Department creates. It will be important for campuses to continue to promote this (and encourage their universities to promote it) until it closes in 2013.
I’ve had the opportunity to engage with campus women’s officers and women’s activists through campus visits. I’ve visited campuses in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. I’ve enjoyed watching their campaigns and participated in running national campaigns on their campuses.
On the whole, this year has been one of expansion for the department. I have worked hard to reach out to those who have been reluctant to engage with the department in the past. Through the website there has been greater access to resources and this has allowed us to engage, not only with affiliates, but also with the broader community.
Building ties with relevant trade unions has been a rewarding experience for the department and I hope to see those relationships built further next year.
I look forward to seeing the department grow next year as we face an election and the possibility of a return to conservative leadership in Australia.
I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who contributed to the blog, engaged with a campaign and worked hard on their campus to ensure that women’s issues are not pushed to the side of our education agenda.
Furthermore, no real change or achievement is possible in a vacuum, this year would not have been possible without the help and support of my amazing comrades around the country. In particular none of this would have been possible without the help of my colleagues, friends and sisters Donherra and Rosa. Their hard work, passion and friendship has made this year possible. Thank-you so much.