Tag Archives: past women’s officers


No Turning Back


So! As O’weeks start to roll around, it’s time to re-launch the new look blog and start looking forward to the rest of the year. This will be a very busy year for Womens departments around the country; not only because the national gender pay gap widened last year, but because sexual assault rates are still disgustingly high, childcare remains inaccessible to many, there are groups still actively campaigning to remove women’s right to autonomy over her own body and women are still facing domestic violence. Women are still far less likely to be CEOs, Members of Parliament, published authors, be signed to major record labels or reach the top of any of their chosen fields BUT Tony Abbott has a legitimate chance of being our Prime Minister.

This is the reality that I find the scariest; Potential Prime Minister Abbott. The man who supports the return of  ‘at-fault divorce’. The man who, when legislation that would allow parents to view their teenagers Medicare consults and claims said “children should not be presumed to be the best judges of their own long-term interests … it is the responsibility of government – and doctors – … to support parental authority.” The man who, when Health Minister, attempted to keep the authorisation of RU486 under his complete control. The man who also misrepresented statistics and regularly attacked and demonised women who sought to access abortions. He said abortions were a ‘National tragedy’ and left a ‘legacy of shame’. The man who, last time he was in government, said “Compulsory paid maternity leave? Over this Government’s dead body, frankly.”

This is a year that we need to put our differences aside and work together to further the cause. We need to continue our work to close the gender pay gap, to put an end to sexual assault, to campaign for accessible access to childcare, to ensure that on September 14 when Australians go to the ballot box they know what is in store for them if Tony Abbott is elected.

Right now I think it is important to not only look forward, but also to consider the past to see where we have succeeded and where we can grow. The Womens department has been one of the most active in recent years- this is something that I am very keen to continue with campaigns running throughout the year which will tackle sexual assault, societal sexism, equal pay and of course – Tony Abbott. With the assistance of campus Womens Officers, feminist and Womens collectives and student organisations as a whole, I want to have an open dialogue with every Womens Officer around the country so that we can work together to tackle the issues affecting women on each and every campus and around the nation.

It is also important for us not to focus solely on womens issues on university campuses but to acknowledge that many issues women face on campus are because they are prominent in society as a whole, and this year is proving to be jam packed with events and ways for each of us – no matter where we live – to get involved. Upcoming events include

1 billion Rising. 


Is aiming to have 1 billion women and those who support women rise up on Valentines Day to end rape and rape culture all around the world.

International Womens Day -THE GENDER AGENDA: Gaining momentum.


Every year IWD is celebrated on the 8th of March to celebrate the political, economic and social achievements of women while continuing the fight for true equality. There will be fundraiser breakfasts in Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane as well as other events throughout March.

To those Womens officers, leaders of Feminist and Womens collectives, Womens rights activist around the country who I have not had a chance to speak with yet, please give me a call, flick me an email, tweet at me hell send me a letter I really want to hear from you so we can have a dialogue and work together.

Talk About It! For those of you who don’t know Talk About It is a survey that is ran biannually that looks into assault, sexual assault and rape that is perpetrated against women and women identifying university students. It is a 100% confidential online survey that only takes 15 minuets to fill out and will help provide statistics for the report to outline the problem and make universities and colleges stand up and take action. Please take the time to fill it out as it is really important that we get as many responses as possible.  You can find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=phTDc3vHxzLaWfL3F%2fiXldMT%2bbTZKzTy7g2AnVGckgU%3d

Finally I would like to – on behalf of Women around the country – thank Noni Sproule (2012 National Womens Officer) for her hard work and dedication to the position in spite of the personal attacks and demonization she faced at times. I know that I have learnt a lot from her as many have and hope to continue on her hard work in the department.  We wish you the best of luck in your post NUS endeavours. Thank you Noni!


Mikaela Wangmann

NUS National Womens Officer 2013

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

Talk About It Interviews: Courtney Sloane


Name: Courtney Sloane,

What Year were you NUS Women’s Officer? 2011

 You collated the results of the Talk About It Survey and created the Safety Blueprint, were you pleased with the final product? Absolutely. Having hard data and a report that had been endorsed by the ERA, Universities Australia and White Ribbon made it a lot easier to demonstrate how widespread the problem was to both universities and the wider community. It also provided an opportunity for students to build constructive relationships with their university on this issue. I am immensely proud of the recommendations: they articulate clearly what can be done to address gendered violence, and they are ours as students – we own the issue and we are driving the shape of anti-violence initiatives on our campuses.

What would you do differently next time around with regards to Talk About It? Tweak the methodology to make it less vulnerable to criticism and dismissal by the bodies we’re trying to influence.

 What do you think should be changed about Talk About It when it’s run in 2012? Partnering with a researcher or research body to ensure the methodology is appropriate and consistent. This is not to say that the methodology was weak the first time around, but having even a slight technical problem made it that much easier for a university to dump the entire report.

 What achievement or campaign are you most proud of? Earlier this year, the ACT Government actually set aside some funding to implement one of the Blueprint’s recommendations across the Territory’s public universities. It’s one thing to have the entire country aware of gendered violence on campus, as they were via the media when the report was released, but to have a government actually implement change was very exciting. I’m probably most proud of the TAI project. From the cooperation that multiple NUS Women’s Officers were able to have, to the development of the recommendations, their endorsement and the subsequent media coverage, the discussion of the issue on our campuses, and the ongoing implementation of the recommendations and other initiatives, the project was hugely successful and a credit to the student women’s movement. It shows what we can achieve when we work together.

When you were women’s officer what couldn’t you leave the house without? My laptop. Maybe some coke.

What are you doing now? Right now, I’m finishing my term on the YWCA Canberra Board and starting out on the ACT Minister’s Advisory Council on Women. I have also just started an organization with another woman named Melanie Poole aimed at harnessing young women in campaigning for reproductive rights in Australia and in our aid policies. We have attracted some seed funding to develop training, campaigns and a website that will mobilise this ‘silent majority’, promote intergenerational sharing, and lobby for full reproductive rights, against a backdrop of the American “war on women” and an increasingly aggressive and radical anti-choice movement here in Australia.

And studying full-time.

What message would you give to young women thinking about getting involved in the student women’s movement?  Do it. There is no greater forum for achieving change. So many “women’s issues” overwhelmingly affect young women. Seeing and learning about the diverse experiences of women, being constantly inspired by incredible women and learning invaluable skills and knowledge in a safe environment will make your experience at university all the more richer.

Would you do it all again?

In a second.