National Womens Officer
The NUS Womens Department is responsible for advocating on behalf of all women in tertiary education, lobbying relevant government ministers and university administrations, and working with Student unions and activists on university campuses to run campaigns around issues that affect women students.
In 2017, the NUS Womens Department will be running campaigns around a number of issues including cuts to higher education, and funding for women’s departments and services, sexual assault and violence on campus, the tampon tax, equal pay and promoting women’s representation in student unions. Sign up below to stay up to date with the 2017 NUS Women’s campaigns!
You’re worse off as a woman, fight back against the Liberals!
Women at university are worse off under a Liberal government.
The Liberal Government has scrapped bulk-billing incentives for pathology services and diagnostic imaging. This means that women may have to pay up-front $30 for a Pap smear, blood or urine test, and from January 2017 as much as $173 for x-ray or ultrasound imaging. Women regularly rely upon these tests for the prevention or early detection of pregnancy, obstetric complications, cancers, STIs and UTIs
The Liberal Government freeze on indexation of the rebate for GP consultations under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) until 2020 has already seen hundreds of practitioners around the country cease to offer bulk billing as they are forced to transfer increased costs onto patients.
Most women students can not afford these increased costs of healthcare, and are forced to forgo necessary doctors visits, diagnostic testing and treatment.
This poses critical risks for women’s health. Without early diagnosis and treatment, risk of poorer prognosis is high and the burden of disease, personal and financial costs on patients are increased.
Education- cuts to funding
The 2016-2017 budget revealed that Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals want to decrease funding to tertiary institutions by 20% as well as lower the tax repayment threshold by 10%. It was also strongly indicated that the Liberals will bring back fee deregulation.
Universities are unlikely to put their hands in their own pockets to make up for funding cuts, choosing rather to cut vital student support services than risk jeopardising ‘important’ business projects
Cuts to higher education will mean that women who are already disproportionately affected but a lack of funding will take longer to pay off their HECS debt and face a greater pay gap in the workforce.
Cuts to university services
Severe lack of funding available for women’s services on university campuses. When the federal government make cuts to the higher education sector, often basic services relied on by women are the first to go.
Universities across Australia do not prioritise the welfare of students, this consequently has a greater effect on women due to structural barriers which make it difficult women to go to university and study.
As revealed in the results of the 2016 ‘Talk about it’ survey women students are likely to face harassment and sexual violence on university campuses. Due to a number of factors, including inadequate help services, women are strongly deterred from seeking help from university.
Women should be able to balance university life as well as home life, and should not be forced to choose between the two. Services focused on assisting students who are also mothers have been neglected for too long. Many universities are lacking parent rooms, for mothers to comfortably breastfeed.
Underfunded services have a detrimental effect on those who use them most, women are already limited by a culture of misogyny on campus and an initial lack of policies and services to protect them.
Due to the lack of services and policies, many universities do not adequately address incidents of harassment on campus, making university an unsafe place for women.
Universities receive funding from the student services and amenities fee annually, a small portion of which is usually allocated to the student union on campus. The rest of the SSAF is allocated to funding university projects, a funding increase to women’s services could be done through this avenue.
When the Liberal government make cuts to higher education universities will make cuts to student services.
In order to address the stark difficulties of women accessing higher education the NUS women’s department is running an O week and semester one campaign which will encourage women to support, promote and attend the National Day of Action on March 22nd.
This NUS women’s department campaign will aim to put pressure on universities to start addressing the specific concerns of women, through more funding to services that women access
The campaign will:
Encourage and promote the March 22nd National Day of Action
Focus on supporting women in higher education in the face of an aggressive conservative federal government.
Lobby federal members of parliament and ask that they do not support cuts to higher education, health and welfare.
Highlight the challenges that women face in higher education specifically around education and health.
Lobby universities to provide more funding for student services, especially services that women frequently use, e.g childcare services and parenting rooms.
Produce a submission on June 8th
Promote and sign the NUS Women’s petition!
Sign up to the email list to receive updates on the campaign
Host stalls promoting the women’s campaign, collect signatures for the petition and engage with women regarding the higher education campaign.
Hold a photo campaign on your campus
Promote the National Days of Action
Attend The International Women’s Day March in your state on the 8th of March and send a picture of you to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s about bloody time! Axe the tampon tax
Since 2000, menstruating Australians have had to pay an additional 10% on sanitary items such as pads and tampons as part of the goods and services tax.
While many other sanitary products are listed as essentials and are not taxed, pads and tampons are considered non necessities. GST free sanitary items include; condoms, lube and sunscreen.
It is estimated that the federal government make an average of $30 million a year from tampons and sanitary napkins, according to budget watchers Deloitte Access Economics.
The tax on menstrual products disproportionately affects one portion of the population. People who menstruate purchase these sanitary items to maintain a standard of hygiene and comfort, not because it is a luxury.
Women already face financial inequality in Australia, this is exacerbated by the tax on sanitary items and only allows for a system which deprioritises the health and comfort of women.
This campaign will aim to change legislation, and see pads and tampons go GST free. This campaign does not have an end date so can be carried on into future years. The campaign will also focus on encouraging women to get involved in their campus womens department/ collective.
The campaign will:
Lobby state treasurers to support removing the tax on pads and tampons
Collaborate with organisations such as get up in organising a stunt
Promote women’s departments and collectives around the country
Promote and sign the tampon tax petition!
Sign up to the email list to stay in touch about the campaigns being run by the womens department this year.
Promote the campaign through O week and the semester
Send a letter to your state treasurer
Hold a photo campaign on your campus
Send pictures to me and I can post them online.
Sexual assault campaign
When federal funding is cut universities will consequently cut funding to student services which deal with the prevalence of harassment, assault and gendered violence on campus.
Data from the 2015 NUS Talk About It Survey Report showed that 27% of women students had experienced some form of sexual assault, 72% had experienced harassment and 15% had been subjected to physical violence
This is supported by Talk About It Survey data which showed that 94% students who experienced sexual assault, harassment or violence didn’t report the incident to the University, and of those who did only 28% were satisfied with the response.
The high prevalence sexual assault, harassment and violence against women students is recognised as due to factors such as a pervasive culture of sexism on campus, deficient policies and misconduct procedures, inadequate and inaccessible reporting mechanisms, institutional cover-up by universities and colleges, a lack of support services and little preventative education or awareness-raising.
This year the Australian Human Rights Commission will be releasing a national report investigating sexual assault and harassment on campus.
The NUS Women’s department will be working to ensure adequate recommendations are made by the AHRC and that they are effectively and meaningfully implemented.