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The Talk About It Interviews: Keelia Fitzpatrick

Talk About It Questions:Image

Name: Keelia Fitzpatrick 

What year were you NUS Women’s Officer? 2010

You created the Talk About It Survey in 2010, what made you decide to do it? The events that took place at St Paul’s College (University of Sydney) in late 2009 were alarming and received widespread media coverage – deservedly. However, they did not push campus safety to becoming a priority for higher education stakeholders as we had hoped and expected. Instead the ‘isolated event perpetrated by rogue individuals’ line was given and things moved on. The fact that sexual harassment and assault is widespread and, in many cases, culturally embedded within parts of universities was ignored. It became clear that in order to force universities to take meaningful action on campus safety we needed data and stories from across the country that illustrated that St Paul’s was far from an isolated event. We took inspiration and guidance from NUS UK’s 2009 ‘Hidden Marks’ survey.

Were you surprised with how much traction was able to be gained around the issue of women’s safety after the release of the survey?

The traction was exactly what we were after. The survey findings were not particularly surprising to many women’s officers and student representatives (or those familiar with campus culture and the safety mechanisms that existed) but nevertheless they were the data and stories we needed to get decision makers to sit up and take notice.  NUS is not a research institute, but its strength lies in its student networks and strong alliances with other organisations. Talk About It and the Safe Universities Blueprint are testament to these strengths.

What do you think should be changed about Talk About It when it’s run in 2012?

 I didn’t have any budget for the project, so all of the promotion was done online (with the help of campus networks) in quite a short space of time. For me the survey is all about engagement, so I think prioritising outreach to as many women students (with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences) as possible is paramount. I look forward to seeing a bigger, better and more influential Talk About It in 2012. 

What achievement or campaign are you most proud of?

Abbott’s Heaven, Your Hell was bold, colourful and everywhere. It was also really important. The danger that Tony Abbott poses to the autonomy and equality of Australian women should not be taken lightly. The campaign delivered this message through a variety of mediums and engaged students who don’t normally have much to do with NUS.

 When you were women’s officer what couldn’t you leave the house without?

I wish I could say my copies of Rules for Radicals and The Second Sex, but really it was my mobile and laptop.

 What are you doing now?

 I am in the final weeks of my Arts/Law degrees and working in the union movement.

 What message would you give to young women thinking about getting involved in the student women’s movement?

Feminism is a vibrant and diverse movement that questions and challenges inequality, power structures and culture. Exploring its ideas and fighting for its causes is an empowering, educative and invaluable experience. Make sure you support your fellow activists. I strongly subscribe to Madeleine Albright’s philosophy that ‘There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’.

Would you do it all again? Yes, but with a few caveats attached.

If you want to get more involved with Talk About It before it is launched on the 17th of August 2012 send an email to womens@nus.asn.au