By Sam Wainwright
Activists from around Australia will be attending the Campus Activist Forum in Sydney on July 16. The day-long seminar will take up a range of issues, including the experiences of campus campaigners from overseas.
Marina Carman, an activist with Resistance and one of the sponsors of the day, explained the impetus for the gathering: "Students have always played an important part in campaigns around women's liberation, the environment, gay and lesbian rights, anti-racism, international issues and education, both on and off campus. It's important that this student activity does not take place in a separated and isolated way, but that all campus activists have the opportunity to exchange experiences and discuss the possibility for more coordinated action."
One of the panels is titled "Education restructuring and student rights under Labor". This panel will look at the way students have been affected by the move to a "user-pays" system of education. Access to education for overseas and women students has been particularly eroded by these moves.
The day will begin with reports from student activists from New Zealand and the USA. "This is a valuable part of the day", explained Carman. "It's not just in Australia that education and student rights are under attack. New Zealand has already had the full-scale introduction of up-front fees for tertiary courses. We can learn from overseas activists about what's in store and how to fight it."
The Campus Activist Forum is the day after the Network of Women Students in Australia Conference (NOWSA) also being held in Sydney. A major panel at the forum is devoted to campaigning for women's right on campus.
Jen Crothers, women's officer for the University of Tasmania student union and panel speaker, said, "There's been a real upsurge of interest around women's rights on campuses around the country, and this is demonstrated by the big attendance NOWSA has been getting in the last few years. I hope the panel will give a feel for what's happening with women's rights on campus and how important these issues are, and also give women's rights activists an opportunity to tap into the ideas and experiences of others."
Voluntary student unionism legislation is being introduced by Liberal governments in Western Australia and Victoria. The last panel for the day, called "Defending Student Unionism", will look at how this legislation attacks student unions, and its implications for students' rights and activism. Speakers include Adam Bandt, Murdoch University Guild president, and Rachel Evans, a Resistance activist from La Trobe University.
The Campus Activist Forum is being held on July 16, 10am, Room C 131, University of Technology, Sydney, Market Campus. For information contact Sam Wainwright on (02) 690 1230.