Tag Archives: safety on campus

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.

State Women’s Profile: Raveena Toor

Raveena Toor is a woman who I have been watching, with admiration and respect, for a very long time now. That is because Raveena has been working very hard for women on campus for a very long time. Raveena manages to take on the hard stuff (unilodge, anyone?) with everything she’s got, and with what seems to be endless amounts of tolerance for bureaucracy and energy for what has to be some of the most testing roles an engaged student can face. Did I mention that Raveena manages to study Arts/Law whilst simultaneously being a ass-kicking, name-taking feminist? Total feminist crush!

What are you working on the moment? 

RT: Right now, as the ACT NUS Women’s Officer, I’m working on the NUS Women’s Department’s “It’s Time to Demand Safety on Campus” campaign. This Campaign is all about addressing the issues around safety on campus for women and making sure that the Universities in the ACT take seriously the urgency for which these issues need to be tackled. More specifically, I’m also working with the UC Women’s Officer to build up a Women’s Department, a Collective and a functioning and appropriate Women’s Space on her campus.

What is something you’ve achieved that you’re really proud of?

RT: Over the past few years I’ve consistently lobbied ANU to take the safety of female students seriously, and to take measures to reform existing policies and attitudes regarding the issue. When I started, it felt as though there was no hope. But now, a few years later, I can be proud that I never gave up. As a result of my persistence, the pastoral care staff in the Colleges are better trained in Women’s issues and sexual assault response, Women’s Officers are considered a necessity and the University is willing to completely fund an ANUSA safety campaign. The University’s increased receptiveness is an achievement that I’m proud of.


What are your hopes for ANU this year or years to come? 

RT:I hope that ANU can become a leader not only in academic performance, but also in valuable social experiences that students can carry with them always. Ensuring the wellbeing and safety of the majority of their students is the first step, and I hope that 2012 is a particularly productive year in this regard.


What is a campaign that you really like at the moment? 

RT: I’ve really been into Men Can Stop Rape (http://www.mencanstoprape.org/) for a couple of years now. It’s a well-established campaign in the US and UK, and focuses on education and opening a dialogue around sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence. Its focus is on teens and young adults, and is particularly effective because it’s perpetrator focused. Rather than the usual rhetoric that teaches girls and young women how not to get assaulted, it focuses on potential perpetrators and instead teaches them where the line is, what consent involves, and that assaulting women is unacceptable.

What do you do when you’re not being a badass feminist?

RT: Well, I tend to spend a lot of time procrastinating by watching hours of tv shows. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting through an entire season of friends in a night when you really should have been pumping out an assignment. Right now I’m really into Nikita (all about a kick-ass female spy), but some good old favourites include The West Wing, Seinfeld, Friends and Alias.

This post originally appeared on http://anuwomensdepartment.com/. For more great articles check them out!