By Jo Brown
MELBOURNE — The annual Network of Women Students in Australia (NOWSA) conference will be held at Melbourne University July 3-7. The conference, which has attracted up to 500 women in recent years, promises to be an exciting opportunity for women from around the country to meet and debate issues ranging from free education to environmental destruction, to the way forward for feminism.
The organising collective has decided on "Revolt!" as the conference theme, to indicate that the conference will be political and challenging and aims to inspire women to take action against the many forms of oppression they face.
The conference will include workshops on a wide variety of issues and debates, as well as opportunities for skill-sharing and discussion about campaigns. There has been a proposal, for example, that women involved in the campaign against up-front fees could meet to share experiences and discuss the importance of free education for women.
There will be six major plenary sessions taking up issues of interest and relevance. One plenary, titled "The Way Forward For Feminism", features speakers representing some of the many perspectives within the women's movement. Another, "Women in Revolutionary Struggles", will include speakers from East Timor, Latin America and the Aboriginal community.
"Women and Social Control" will look at private prisons, the legal system, police powers and other issues. The issue of transgender access to women's and lesbian spaces will be taken up in a plenary on "Gender and Identity: Who's Welcome in Space?".
Debates about population control and women's relationship to the environment will be discussed in a plenary on "Environmental Responsibility, Control and Blame" and there will be another on "Education in Context" looking at trends in higher education and the threat of fees.
A public meeting on the night of July 5 titled "Feminism and the Family" aims to respond to the Australian Family Association's conference, being held in Melbourne at the same time.
NOWSA organising collective member Di Quin told Green Left Weekly, "We have already received over 100 registrations and a wide range of workshop proposals. We hope that this year's conference will be a vibrant and exciting gathering of women with different perspectives and experiences, and that it will continue the tradition of encouraging discussion and networking amongst women."
The conference is open to all women. Registration is $25 concession, $50 for workers and $100 for fully funded office bearers or researchers. Entry for high school students is free. Child-care will be available, and there is billeting for women attending from interstate. For more information telephone Bridget or Kate at Melbourne University on (03) 9344 4817 or Simone at La Trobe on (03) 9479 2976.