By Janine Prince and Philippa Stanford
BRISBANE — Women on campus here are fighting to maintain services and rights that are under attack.
The women's rights area at the University of Queensland is threatened by a student executive that has already axed the full-time organiser positions for external, part time and overseas students.
The women's organiser position is vacant after the last organiser resigned due to persistent harassment from those wishing to close the area. Instead of advertising the position immediately as is usual, the executive set up a committee to review the area. A part-time interim organiser has been appointed, but this is in no way adequate.
The union has a no-racism and no-sexism policy, but this is treated as a joke by a student union which denies the necessity of full-time staffed counselling and support for women, especially lesbian, murri and migrant women, for whom there are no specific union services.
The women's collective and supporters have mounted a campaign to defend the area and have presented the executive with a list of demands.
The story is very similar at both Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University. The GU organiser's first action of the year was to resign, and the student union has done nothing to fill the position. At QUT, there is a women's officer but sightings of her have been few. In both cases, the women's collectives are strong and organising to support the area.
At the end of last year, there was a series of rapes on both Griffith and Queensland universities. Security on both campuses consists of a widely used security bus, which is not adequate on its own.
There are also security guards whose main job is to secure the buildings. They can be reached by telephone, but unless you can get change from your attacker to use the pay phone, you can't contact them.
The geography of each campus further compounds the problem. GU is situated in the middle of a forest (hard to light with plenty of hiding places). QU is a vast campus next to a river, with well-traversed areas unlit.
The security campaigns aimed at three goals: that university administrations increase the number of security officers; that a button phone system be installed upon walking tracks; and that lighting be upgraded and expanded throughout the university.
These campaigns are continuing this year because nothing has changed.
The recent amalgamations with Griffith university have increased the total number of campuses to four. Student representation has not expanded, neither have communications between the campuses. As for the women's area, there is one room and one officer between the four campuses.
QUT and QU have also been amalgamated with other institutions. Quite often these are miles away from each other, with only one or at most two people to service the women's areas for all campuses. Women need to organise and protest against all these attacks at both the campus and broader level.