Tag Archives: interviews

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


Interview: Kaitlin Ferris



What Year were you NUS Women’s Officer?


What was the biggest issue for women student’s the year you were women’s officer?

This is a really difficult question.

The issue which perhaps was central and common to an overwhelming number of women, was their experience and perception of violence on campus. The anecdotal evidence of threats to and violations of women’s safety, in educational spaces was astounding. And the work the department has done since, with the survey, has rendered the experiences of women students undeniable to those who refused to acknowledge the problem.

I say it’s a difficult question, because there are so many underlying issues here. The under-investment in services which would assist in addressing the problem, the reticence to disclose information central to making any progress or change, and the threat’s existence in and of itself…these are such deep, entrenched problems, which really were at the forefront of the very preliminary push for change in 09.

What do you think is the biggest issue is for women students today?

I think the violence and sexism which takes place in the classroom is a really fundamental issue. Sometimes blatant, other times more veiled, it is a source of ongoing and frequent oppression.

This kind of fundamental discrimination and rejection of views on a gendered-basis feeds  into the way men will enter the world, and the validation of such behavior, particularly through silence on the part of teachers is a source of grave concern.

What achievement or campaign are you most proud of?

Finally getting somewhere with the safety on campus issue really made the whole year’s toil seem worth it. I hate that it was such a disgusting occasion which brought the issue to the attention of the wider community (the St Paul’s Facebook group). But it meant that people/media/universities had to pay attention to what we’d been trying to get through all year.

I’ve been absolutely amazed by the work Keelia, Courtney and yourself (Noni) have done on this issue in the years since. The survey, and the way it has had a genuine and real impact on changing attitudes to this issue amongst those with the resources to do something about it has been such a source of inspiration.

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

Phone. And whatever sanity I could scrounge up for the day was always  a bonus.

Do you think that the women’s movement is growing or shrinking?

Growing? I suppose it depends on what you’re prepared to include as being part of the movement. Is it attendance at Slutwalk, or at NOWSA which forms the measure of growth in the movement? Or both? Or neither?

I suppose either way, I feel like in my own communities, and to my surprise in my experiences this year especially, there are more women who identify as feminists. So I’m going to remain the eternal optimist and say growing (full stop)

What are you doing now?

I’m a law student. Which is an unexpected place to have found myself in, but one I’m for the most part pretty happy with.

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

Look after those around you, and take care of your health and wellbeing.

Nothing is more important than your family, and your friendships.

And try not to forget the reason you got involved in the first place.

All of these things are easier said than done, of course. But you should do them anyway.

Would you do it all again?

Another difficult question. I worked with some truly amazing people, and there are many moments and things I would not want to take back.

But I wish I’d followed my own above advice a bit better.

I guess the answer is a qualified yes J