Controversial Zoe’s Law divides community and Parliament Reply

by Melody Teh 

Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi said the Zoe’s Law bill was “completely unnecessary”.

Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi said the Zoe’s Law bill was “completely unnecessary”.

A group of protesters with signs proclaiming “Keep your politics out of my pussy” and “Defend abortion rights” stood in front of NSW Parliament on Thursday in protest of the controversial Zoe’s Law bill currently being debated.

Speaking at the protest, Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi said the bill was “completely unnecessary, completely inappropriate and actually really dangerous, not only for women’s rights but for their doctors and lawyers”.

The group hoped its protest would show MPs their deep concern with the bill, which is being put to a conscience vote.

The bill is named in honour of Brodie Donegan’s stillborn child, who died at 32 weeks after Ms Donegan was hit by a car on Christmas Day in 2009. The driver was charged with grievous bodily harm to Ms Donegan but not the stillborn child, Zoe, as the law does not recognise a foetus as a person.

Liberal MP Chris Spence, who introduced the bill after consultation with Ms Donegan, said the purpose of Zoe’s Law was to hold a person criminally liable for the death of a foetus and “does not, nor does it intend to, have any bearing on a woman’s right to choose”.

The proposed legislation would amend the Crimes Act to consider a foetus at either 20 weeks or 400 grams as a “person” for the first time, creating a new crime of grievous bodily harm to a foetus.

This would not apply during medical procedures or “anything done by or with the consent of the pregnant woman”.

However, a coalition of women’s health and legal groups, including Women’s Electoral Lobby, Women’s Legal Service, NSW Women’s Health, Rape and Domestic Services, have spoken out against the bill saying it could have unintended repercussions for women’s rights.

Denele Crozier, Executive Officer of NSW Women’s Health, says their concern lay with the bill’s attempt to separate a foetus from the woman who is carrying the foetus.

“It has been shown in America that when you have the rights of the foetus and the rights of a woman, and they conflict, the foetus often takes the mother to court,” she says.

Ms Crozier also believes the bill is unnecessary. “The Crimes Act was already amended in 2005 to take into account the death of a foetus, which is considered grievous bodily harm to a mother,” she says.

Karen Willis, Executive Officer of Rape and Domestic Violence Services, believes that once the legal system defines a foetus as a “person”, there will be dangerous and far-reaching consequences for women’s abortion rights.

“Once those laws are in place, they can always be changed. So a foetus at 20 weeks is a person, but down the track this can become 16 weeks,” she says. “This is exactly the process that was used in the United States in making abortion illegal. The very first step was giving living person status to a foetus separate from the mother.”

As well as fears for women’s access to abortion under this proposed bill, Ms Willis is concerned that women could also be prosecuted for unintentionally damaging their foetuses.

“A mum might consume too much drugs and alcohol and if there is subsequent damage to the foetus past that 20 weeks, there is potential to take action against her,” she says.

She is also concerned with the implications of women in domestic violent relationships.

“We know the impacts of trauma on people who experience sexual assault are quite extreme. Sometimes that trauma makes doing everyday ordinary things really difficult, let alone realising that they haven’t had a period in while. They might get to a position of late term pregnancy and all of a sudden no service providers will touch them because they are afraid of legal action,” she says.

Ultimately, Ms Willis says she cannot support a bill that “separates a foetus from the woman carrying it”.

“The bottom line is that it’s a woman’s right to make choices about her body. This concept of the foetus as separate from the mother is, well, it simply is not. It’s part of her developed form,” she says.

The bill has divided NSW Parliament in the three debates since its introduction on 29th August and is due to be debated again, and most likely voted on 7th November.

From hand-made zines to published novels Reply

by Kate Thorburn

Zinester, author and tour leader, Vanessa Berry at large in King Street, Newtown

Zinester, author and tour leader, Vanessa Berry at large in King Street, Newtown

Vanessa Berry is a woman of many talents. She is a lecturer, blogger, raconteur and artist. She can now also add author to the list, following the recent release of her second book Ninety9. And she is a zinester.

A zine, she says, is a hand-made original magazine that is photocopied for small-scale local distribution. Vanessa is a prolific zinester, having created 130 zines since she began zine-ing in 1996. “It’s all very casual,” she  says. “I don’t have a regular publishing schedule. I’m not even in the practice of counting my zines.”

Vanessa’s zines  contain short stories, drawings and memories. They vary in length from a few pages to over 70, as was the case of her 1999 Vinnies  zine, a documentation of every Vinnies op shop in Sydney. She recalls another of her more unusual zines Laughter and the Sound of Teacups that she wrote from 1997 to 2002. It was an unfiltered account of everything she did on the 23rd day of the month. “They got really super long by the end,” she says, “but I regard them as my apprenticeship for writing.”

Vanessa moved from the world of zines to the world of books when she wrote her first novel Strawberry Hills Forever, an anthology of stories from past zines, published in 2007.

As the title suggests, Ninety9 is a memoir of the 1990s, a decade when she was an adolescent in Newtown.

“My age and the nineties match up quite well; at the start I was 11 and at the end I was 20.” During the nineties, she says Newtown experienced extensive gentrification as a café culture flourished and students and artists who had made the suburb their home were gradually pushed out by the increasing cost of living.

In conjunction with Newtown Library and Art & About Sydney, Vanessa held a walking tour through her former stomping ground in October. She even created a map of the topography of King Street in the 1990s so tour participants could revisit the Newtown of old.

“I came up with the idea of doing a King Street walking tour because when I wrote Ninety9, I thought about coming from the suburbs into places like Newtown and it being somewhere I could connect with, a world I wanted to be a part of.”

Vanessa’s three-hour nostalgic Ninety9 and 1990s Walking Tour started at Newtown Library, moved towards Newtown train station, then stopped at historic sites like the former Burland Community Hall and late-night kebab shop King of Yeeros. Along the way, Vanessa told stories from the 90s about each site.

Ninety9 is more of a novella than a novel. From the start, she approached as a book whereas says her zine-writing process is similar to writing a letter to a close friend. “With zines you don’t have to polish the writing, you don’t have to get rid of all the tangents or digressions,” she says.

Vanessa’s next project is another book, but she says she will always find time to zine. “I love writing about the past and reflecting on the past,” she says.

Yabun Festival 2014 working around funding cutbacks Reply

by Joseph Ratcliffe

Getting with a beat at the Yuban Festival.

Getting with a beat at the Yuban Festival.

While much of Australia celebrates the arrival of the First Fleet on January 26, Victoria Park in Sydney is transformed for the annual Yabun Festival that celebrates the survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.  However, cutbacks in funding could threaten the festival’s future.

The 2014 Yabun Festival, organised by Koori Radio, a part of the Gadigal Information Service Aboriginal Corporation, will once again coincide with Australia Day to present the best of Indigenous music, dance, ideas, and sport.”

“What you get out of it is an experience of Aboriginal culture,” says Kieran Satour, Events Production Co-ordinator at Koori Radio, who will be organising the festival for the first time.  “ And you could learn a lot about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living today and how our culture has adapted to urban life.”

At this year’s Festival, there were a number of stages and tents presenting a program that ranged from music and sports, to panel discussions and speakers. The two music stages were the Main Stage and the ‘Young, Black, and Deadly’ Stage, and as well as the children’s Jarjum Tent, the Kulture Tent, and the Speak Out Tent.

On the Main Stage, the MCs were burlesque performer Constantina Bush and Redfern Now actor Alec Doomadgee. Musical highlights included JPoint, Thelma Plum, Dizzy Doolan and Vic Simms and the All Star Band. A favourite with the crowd was ARIA award winner Archie Roach who sang the powerful Old Mission Road that tells his story of having been taken from his parents when his was three.

The Festival also included a rock-climbing wall, jumping castle, market stalls, and the Art Embassy that displayed works by indigenous artists. And there were sporting activities hosted by the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and  panels led by Indigenous journalists Brooke Boney and Stan Grant.

However, next year’s Festival will be presented with a small budget than previously. “Yabun Festival 2014 will be scaled back quite a bit. We will only have the Main Stage, so there will be no ‘Young, Black, and Deadly’ Stage. What we are going to do with the Speak Out Tent and the Kulture Tent is combine the two,” Kieran Satour says.

“We’re working with different service providers to find cheaper ways to do things like the Jarjum Tent. Yabun started out as the Survival Day concert, so it was all about the music, and we are seeing a return to that because of our budget,” he says.

Kathy Dodd Farrawell, a Kaanju/Birri woman who has lived in the Glebe area for 40 years, attends the Yabun Festival each year with her family. 

“It’s a time to be able to catch up with people you haven’t seen for a while. I think it’s important for the little ones to experience their people meeting up,” she says.

As for the Festival being scaled back, she says it all depends on how it is handled. She accepts that changes have to be made but hopes they are not at the expense of the Festival maintaining a strong connection to community and continuing to include the presenters and young ones.

Yabun Festival also includes a film night on the Friday before January 26 held in association with Leichhardt City Council. Even with the cutbacks in funding, there are plans for Yabun to expand even further beyond the Victoria Park festival and the film night.

Kieran says, “We are looking at expanding so there are satellite festivals around the same time that contribute to that celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander cultures across a one or two week period. Having the satellite events means we can promote different aspects of our culture.”

The cutback in funding doesn’t just mean less tents and stages. Koori Radio is currently searching for extra volunteers in 2014 to help with running the Yabun Festival.

“We always rely on our volunteers and we had about 120 this year, but with the decreased budget, we really want to increase those numbers,” Kieran says.

Vivid Waltz set to challenge representation of ballet Reply

by Sarah Chlala

Images from Vivid Waltz, an animated installation by Jacqueline Livermore. Photographs: Sarah Chlala

Images from Vivid Waltz, an animated installation by Jacqueline Livermore.
Photographs: Sarah Chlala

From preliminary watercolours  to an animated ballet installation, Vivid Waltz is a unique and non-traditional way of representing ballet. It utilises a sequence of hand-painted works to portray the movements of a ballet dancer.

Director of Vivid Waltz Jacqueline Livermore, a Media Arts & Production student at UTS, says, “I’ve always been interested in non-traditional versus traditional. Vivid Waltz takes an old art form, combines it with new ones like animation and installation, and creates a totally new way of representing feeling and movement.

“I am not the audience for skateboarding, but I was inspired by Matt Box’s Acid Drops. When I watched his video, I was mesmerised by the way he used fluid watercolour paint to capture skateboarding. I wanted to replicate his technique so that’s when I started looking into ballet and that’s where my whole concept started,” she says.

What followed was the challenge of applying her ideas. She says she wanted to communicate the grace and vitality of the dancer’s movement to the audience through a projection screen.

“The dance lasts for a minute and can be viewed via loop. I painted 800 paintings. A usual video is 24 frames per second. But I made it 12 frames per second because 12 frames per second is the minimum you need to deceive the human eye that you are seeing movement. So I chose the minimum amount of frames and painted 12 frames for every second of video,” Jacqueline says.

Fellow student Natalia Newling, who is the editor of Vivid Waltz, says, “An interesting thing about the installation is that you can see all the brush strokes and you can tell that Jacqueline has painted every single one by hand. It really resonates.”

Jacqueline believes her approach is unique to the world of ballet.

“I want to take this animation far beyond a mere video of a dancer. I want to create a space whereby the audience becomes intimate with the paintings, movement and music surrounding them. A production like The Nut Cracker is focused on technique and storyline. Vivid Waltz is focused on the representation of ballet and the way in which it is perceived. Even though many videos of ballet productions exist, my depiction is unique in its involvement of the audience and its expressive approach,” she says.

According to Natalia, what makes Vivid Waltz interesting is that Jacqueline has chosen to do it as an installation piece.

“It’s not a stop-motion video and that’s what separates it from other production projects. It’s the idea that you’re surrounded by this dancer and you really feel like she’s dancing around you. That’s what struck me as an exciting part of the project.”

Immersing the audience is high on Jacqueline’s list of priorities for Vivid Waltz. In the initial stages of planning, she says she consulted with students, teachers and producers and received an overwhelmingly negative response to her ideas. She says people weren’t keen on the ballet theme but seemed to light up when she mentioned that the audience would feel a sense of involvement by standing in the middle of a 580-centimetre wide semi-circle projection screen.

“People aren’t keen on the ballet but they’re keen on being involved in the ballet,” Jacqueline says.“I wanted to make audiences realise that ballet is not just high art and that it can be accessible. I wanted to find a new way of representing ballet,” she says.

Natalia Newling says that while she doesn’t have any interest in ballet, she found that through editing the film and watching it over and over again, she began to find it technically interesting.”

The project, launched at UTS on November 15, has been a work in progress for Jacqueline Livermore for a year.

Study shows alarming rates of stuttering in Aussie classrooms 1

by Jessie Davies

A message loud and clear. Image by Jamie R. Rytlewiski

A message loud and clear.
Image by Jamie R. Rytlewiski

A recent study by Professor Mark Onslow, Director of the Australian Stuttering Research Centre at the University of Sydney, has shown that alarming rates of young students suffer from severe stuttering, and may suffer from anxiety as a result.

He says the social anxieties resulting from stuttering  can lay the groundwork for under-achievement at school and reduced employment outcomes later in life.

Professor Onslow estimates that as many as one child in every Australian classroom suffers from the disorder but often go unheeded. “Children who stutter in primary school often go undetected as they sit in class and avoid saying anything, effectively disappearing into the background.” 

Sydney postgraduate student Caroline Geroyan, 23, knows what it’s like to be the stutterer in the class. When she was 10, she developed the disorder which, she says, made her feel like a different person. 

“I’m naturally an outspoken person, so when I developed my stutter all of a sudden, I couldn’t speak properly and that really affected me. Unless I knew exactly what I was going to say, I wouldn’t talk,” she says.

Caroline experienced anxiety, especially when asked to contribute to class activities. “I hated reading in class. If I stuttered on a word, then it became worse and worse. I was so harsh on myself back then; I was my own worst critic,” she says. 

Peter Kingston, from the Australian Speak Easy Association, a nation-wide support group for people who stutter, says that while it certainly isn’t easy for children, adults suffer from the disorder, too.

“Before I learnt to manage my stutter, tackling everyday tasks could be daunting. I used to hate introducing myself to people, answering questions, and using the phone,” he says.

At Speak Easy, Peter helps run monthly support meetings for people who stutter.  The idea of the meeting is to provide a forum for participants to practice the speech techniques that have been taught to them by speech pathologists. 

“The problem with stuttering is there is no cure. Basically, you have to do your fluency practice every time you speak. In our meetings, we try to practice this through group discussions and impromptu speeches. The practice does imbue you with a feeling of confidence, and the more confidence you have, the level of anxiety you have goes down,” he says. 

With the level of competition in today’s job market, Peter says that managing one’s anxiety is crucial in order to make the most of potential opportunities. 

“These days it is so difficult to get a job, there’s a lot of competition out there.  For one job, there could be 100 others going for it and that’s why I always underline how important it is to get treatment and to practice, practice, practice. If you leave it, it will only get worse and limit your opportunities,” says Peter.  

In his 30 years at Speak Easy, Peter has met many people whose hard work has paid off. “We have had many successful people come through who haven’t let their stutter stop them.  We have had engineers, doctors and barristers, to name a few.”

Similarly, Caroline Geroyan didn’t let her disorder get in the way of her success. In senior high school, Caroline entered the Sydney Morning Herald Plain English Speaking Award and won. 

“Winning the competition made me feel very proud, very accomplished. It was a blessing because it gave me a lot of confidence. I thought, ‘I can do this! If I can speak in front of 1000 people, I can speak in front of my friends’.”

Laws shine new light on impact of discrimination Reply

by Rosanna Kellett

SpringOUT Festival is a cultural, community-driven event aimed at promoting community connectedness and raising awareness about issues relating to marriage equality and discrimination.

SpringOUT Festival is a cultural, community-driven event aimed at promoting community connectedness and raising awareness about issues relating to marriage equality and discrimination.

Like a magic trick, one law has made once-invisible relationships visible. This reappearance act has also focused attention on the impact of discrimination and the social problems and costs it causes.

Following last week’s passing of state legislation to legalise gay marriage in the ACT, support groups and activists in Sydney are continuing to work to support victims of discrimination and raise public awareness of related issues and problems it causes in the community.

The November SpringOUT Festival in Canberra is a cultural, community-driven event aimed at promoting community connectedness and raising awareness about issues relating to marriage equality and discrimination. Committee member Keiran says that while no protests had been arranged, there were marriage equality groups passionate about make their presence and displeasure known.

Keiran says the removal of discriminatory laws and attitudes was necessary for the social well-being of the community.

“There is a problem with homophobia, bullying, discrimination, depression and self-harm, even here in somewhere as generally progressive as the ACT. Wherever people are marginalised, be it by societal norms and values or by those of their families and friends, there is increased likelihood of problems with mental health arising.”

Keiran says the purpose of the festival was to address such issues by providing an environment of inclusion.

“Social connectedness is incredibly important for resilience so that you don’t feel so isolated and vulnerable,” he says.

In Sydney alone, a significant portion of the community struggles with issues of identity, sexuality and thoughts of self-harm.

Dr Michael Flood, editor of The International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities, has researched the social and personal impact of discrimination and says, “In schools, same-sex attracted people typically experience patterns of bigotry, exclusion and harassment.

“The consequences of this include marginalisation, higher rates of personal stress and alienation, lowered self-esteem and self-hate, lower school performance, dropping out of school, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide.

“Unfortunately, gay and lesbian people’s difficulties are usually interpreted as a product of their sexual orientation, rather than as a perfectly understandable response to ongoing prejudice and oppression.”

Statistics gathered by telephone helpline, Lifeline, show that feelings of being “different” or stigmatised by society, laws or attitudes and fear of rejection are major contributing factors to feelings of loneliness and isolation, and self-harm behaviour.

Kid’s Help Line research into help-seeking activity in NSW in 2012 found that 49.5 per cent of all calls to the helpline related to concerns about mental health and emotional wellbeing, which included the 7.3 per cent of calls concerning self-harm and 10.8 per cent concerning suicide. The research calculated that 1 in 10 of its phone counselling sessions related primarily to issues concerning self-esteem, self-image, self-concept or identity.

Research by the Headspace National Mental Health Foundation has found that suicide and self-harm combined account for a significant portion of the burden of disability and mortality among young Australians, with 24 per cent of females and 18 per cent of males aged 20-24 reporting self-harming at some point in their life.

The research estimates that 21 per cent of “years life lost” because of premature death among young Australians in 2004 was due to suicide and self-inflicted injury. Non-fatal suicidal behaviour and self-harm are linked to disability and loss of years of healthy life.

A wide range of initiatives in the Sydney area continue to tackle these issues in the hope that recent activism will raise public awareness of the impact of discriminatory laws and attitudes.

A University of Technology, Sydney study in 2005 found that the presence of a “homophobic culture” caused young people to feel “isolated at school, at home and in society, often experiencing an identity crisis and facing a number of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation, loneliness and thoughts of suicide”.

A 2010 national study by La Trobe University found that, of the 60 per cent of homosexual young people who had experienced verbal abuse and the 18 per cent who had experienced physical abuse, 29 per cent said the abuse meant they could not concentrate in school, 21 per cent said they had missed classes, 20 per cent reported a drop in their marks, 9 per cent were too afraid to use a toilet and 8 per cent had dropped out of school.

UTS Queer Officer Andy Zephyr was recently elected President of the UTS Students’ Association on a platform of initiatives focused on equity and inclusiveness, including campaigns to stop discrimination on campus, support for broader campaigns for marriage equality and reintroducing STUVAC (study vacation) in order to give students a mental health break.

He says the UTS Students’ Association supports the cause for equality through a range of services and organising events such as Pride Week.

“People come to events, or the Queer Space with the knowledge that they don’t have to face the bigotry that exists in our society.”

UTS has several initiatives and resources in place to address these issues, and people seeking help or information can contact the UTS Student Association Queer Collective, UTS Counselling or the UTS Equity and Diversity Unit.


Police raid on family shocks neighbourhood 1

Mrs Nawal Houda suffered multiple injuries and was treated like a common criminal when she awoke to find the riot police squad handcuffing her son. This was a case of mistaken identity and authoritative intimidation gone wrong, reports Ak Akkawi.

Not in our neighbourhood. Picture: neeravbhatt

Not in our neighbourhood.
Picture: neeravbhatt

On October 16th, Mrs Houda was with her two boys, Abdul, 19, and Ahmed, 21, in her Lakemba home. She was asleep in her room while her sons where with friends in the side garden.

At midnight, the police riot squad parked itself outside Mrs Houda’s home. Her boys ignored the commotion. “My son was with his friends, he wasn’t doing anything wrong. The police had no reason to stand outside my house. They had no reason to arrest my son. They had the wrong person,” Mrs Houda said.

Fearing the worst, Abdul decided to take his friends into the garage hoping the police squad would go away. “It seemed like the entire police station was parked outside of my house. They stood there and began calling me names. Inappropriate names, swearing at me, it seemed like they wanted me to react,” he said.

Moments later, police officers tore open the front door and swarmed into the house without showing a warrant. They did not explain their reason for being there. 

“The police officers had their guns out and were pointing them at Mrs Houda’s two boys. The boys had no chance to resist,” said neighbour Sarah Allen. “They dragged the boys outside and began using their torches as a weapon, laying into the two boys. All the while, their guns were still pointed at them, the police screaming ‘do not resist’. They were not resisting.”

Mrs Houda woke to the sounds of her boys screaming outside and police officers in her house. She did not have time to put on her head scarf, an obligation for a Muslim woman.

“I saw my two boys being beaten on the ground by the police and then handcuffed, and I got worried. I told the police to let my boys go, they’ve done nothing wrong when a female officer struck me across the head. I do not recall with what,” Mrs Houda said.

Mrs Houda continued to ask the police for answers. She still had no reason why the police where doing this to her family. “They refused to answer me. The next thing I knew, I had my legs kicked out from under me by a police officer. I landed on my backside, with my left ankle and toe broken. My hair was pulled as I was rolled onto my stomach, handcuffed and made to sit on the curb with my children. I was not provided with a scarf to cover my hair,” Mrs Houda said.

She also suffered bruises to her arms and legs and a pulled shoulder muscle. “Is that the sort of treatment a mother deserves for worrying about her children? The police did not find anything illegal in my home. They had no right to be in my home, they had no right to treat me and my boys with such violence and hatred,” Mrs Houda said.

The handcuffs were removed from Mrs Houda and Ahmed. Abdul was taken to Campsie Police Station and held for four hours. “The police were unapologetic. They told me they were after Ian. Ian is my neighbour, an older white man, and a drug addict. They mistook my son, who looks Lebanese, for a white older male,” Mrs Houda said. 

According to Civil Liberties Australia, “The police can enter your premises with your consent. The police can only search your premises with a warrant. If the police have a warrant, they can break open the premises to enter them if it is necessary.” A warrant was not provided throughout the ordeal. Mrs Houda was not provided with an explanation.

Mrs Houda and her two boys were not cautioned by the police. “Our rights were not read out. They did not say we should have a lawyer present,” Mrs Houda said.

 “I’ve always believed that the police are here to protect. I find it hard now, to respect police officers when they resorted to third world tactics,” Mrs Houda said.

Stop the violence, break the silence Reply

by Uthra Jayakumar

Reclaim-the-nightMay was playing hide and seek in a dark room when she was first sexually abused by her cousin. Back then, she thought they were just playing. However, it  wasn’t an isolated incident and it wasn’t until a few years later that she came to understand what had happened.

Now an adult, May has overcome her childhood nightmare to some extent but she still fears going out at night and her parents’ warnings ring in her ears every time she steps out the door. 

Like May, many women are hesitant to venture out at night for the fear of being harassed.  Reclaim the Night (RTN) is an annual event that aims to fight this problem. 

Kate Bullen, organiser of Reclaim The Night 2013,  said,  “This event hopes to raise awareness about violence against women. It is important to recognize that RTN is not only for women, it is for anyone with lived experience as a woman.”

The event is also known as ‘Taking Back The Night’ in some countries. Reclaim the Night first took place in Australia in  1978.

“There were many challenges along the way,” Kate Bullen said. “We tried to be conscious of all experiences and that’s why we settled on the picnic/rally/march structure, to try and cater to a variety of women with a variety of lifestyles.”

Reclaim the Night this year, held in Prince Alfred Park near Central Station on October 26, was an emotional occasion for most women. There were inspirational speeches by Karen Willis, Executive Officer of NSW Rape Crisis Centre, Lily Edelstein, a writer for Birdiee magazine, and Anoop Johar, Bilingual Community Education Program Coordinator,Western Sydney Local Health District. 

After the rally, picnic and speeches, everyone gathered their banners and walked through the nearby streets shouting in unison “Stop the violence, break the silence.”

“I will never forget the march,” May said. “I was walking at the back of the crowd and a group of men laughed and passed derogatory comments.  One of the ladies walked up to the men and with her megaphone shouted the chant at them. They seemed deeply ashamed.”

RTN hopes to empower women and also stop victim-blaming. In her speech, Lily Edelstein commented on how females from a very young age are given warnings such be careful while going out at night, go to places in groups and always sit in the front seat in a bus while advice given to their male siblings is always to take care of their wallets and to not get in a fight. 

Hannah Smith, a student from Sydney University and an organiser of last year’s event, said, “RTN means stepping away from harmful discourses about women’s ‘safety’ and proudly and openly pushing a discourse of perpetrators’ responsibility for their crimes.”

For women who suffer in silence, Hanna said, “Don’t be ashamed. When you are ready, there will be support for you and you will be surprised by your own fortitude and stoicism.”

It took May 10 years before she could stop being afraid and talk to her family and friends about what happened. 

“I was mortified at the idea of telling my family and my partner about what happened to me, because I thought they would judge me. But when I did, they were very understanding and supported me and I stopped feeling bad about myself,” she said.

 “This is my first year participating in Reclaim the Night. I feel empowered marching with like-minded women; it was a very emotional moment for me, I  felt proud of being a woman.” 

Understanding international students at university Reply

by Siqi Yuan

Students from Peer Network at UTS dress in distinctive orange T-shirts and offer help to new students during Orientation Week.

Students from Peer Network at UTS dress in distinctive orange T-shirts and offer help to new students during Orientation Week.

More than 460,000 international students came to Australia to study in the first eight months of 2013. As a strongly global multi-cultural country, international students have become an important part of Australian tertiary education. 

This year’s enrolment represents a 0.8 per cent increase on the previous year and compares with the average growth rate for enrolments of 5.7 per cent  per year in the preceding 10 years.

Even though the numbers have decreased in recent years, there is still a huge population of international students in Australia. These students come from at least 40 different countries and regions.

“International students are very diverse.  They are not all the same, they come from many different countries, they have many different backgrounds”, says Katherine Gordon, head of Internationalism at University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).

This year, 9751 international students enrolled at UTS, spreading over most of the faculties and different course types. And the number is steadily increasing year by year.

Studying at overseas universities is not easy. International students not only deal with study problems, but also with negative feelings. 

It is easy to feel isolated. As Ms Gordon says, even if students come from America or England, and English is their first language, Australia is a different culture. When local students talk about the political situation, the economy or the society in class, it is difficult for international students to interact because they are not familiar with such topics. 

However, universities are working to create opportunities for international students to mix with local students. There are various types of programs and activities organised through the Orientation Week with bands of established students dressed in orange T-shirts from the Peer Network to help new students. And during semester, universities create opportunities for international students to get to one another and local students.

“We set up a whole arrange activities and free events to help students engage with each other,” says Fiona Tschaut, manager of Leadership and Community Connections at UTS. She says there are at least 150 clubs for students, and there are always free events to encourage students to join in.

However, such strategies don’t always work.

‘’The events did help me a lot. I joined in some events at university, met new students. But I didn’t make many local friends there,” says Babak Azari, an Iranian research student at UTS. 

International students still tend to mix with one another rather than local students. One of the main reasons is that many local students do not necessarily make friends at universities. They maintain friendships from high school or childhood more strongly than the friendships they make at universities. Moreover, they have a very busy schedule of work. 

Even though universities try really hard to make students “stick around” the campus, and they have many places and computers for them to study and chat with each other, after class local students often just go home or to work.

No matter what universities do, some students still live with depression as they struggle to adjust to a new way of life.

Katherine Gordon emphasises the importance for students to keep a steady mood, and to understand that even if a student sometimes feels homesick or unsettled, this is natural. She says it is important for students to understand that even if they feel down today, tomorrow will be better, that it will not last forever.

“It is important for international students to understand the process they are going through, and try to keep a positive mood, to keep in good mental health, to exercise, and eat well,” she says.

Furthermore, there are many services at universities to give international students academic help, career advice, health care, and accommodation.

“As an international student, even though the university helps us a lot, it’s still hard. I think it is most important for us is to stay strong,” says Helen Wu, a Taiwanese Master of Business Administration student at UTS.

The great book fest for Indigenous children Reply

by Catherine Bassey 

 Melbourne schoolboy Lachie Coman and children at Tjuntjuntjara remote community. Together Lachie and the children compiled the book How does your Garden Grow?

Melbourne schoolboy Lachie Coman and children at Tjuntjuntjara remote community. Together Lachie and the children compiled the book How does your Garden Grow?

“If you can make children fall in love with a book, you know they will go on reading throughout their lives, and they’re going to read to their children, so you start the circle of a reading culture,” says popular children’s author Andy Griffith, who is an Indigenous Literacy Foundation ambassador.

This is one of the aims the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) seeks to achieve, and it is what Indigenous Literacy Day is about – helping bridge the literacy gap in Australia.

The ILF’s seventh fund-raising event, held at the Opera House recently, was for an enthusiastic audience of children – including a group from the remote Tjuntjuntjara community in Western Australia –  with special activities such as the Great Book Swap. 

The event, hosted by news presenter Natalie Ahmat, of National Indigenous Television (NITV),  was attended by Andy Griffith and another ILF ambassador, award-winning musician Josh Pyke.

Juliet Rogers, Chair of the Foundation Board, said the Foundation’s primary focus is to build a platform for literacy in the early stages of a child’s life. Many children in the remote communities where the Foundation works, have no access to books, and miss out on one of the corner stones of literacy. So the Foundation draws on the Australian book trade to provide, at the best possible price, a range of carefully selected new books, such as the old favourite The Very Hungry Caterpillar, chosen by a panel appointed by the Foundation. 

She said a variety of book packages are offered to more than 200 communities who then chose the package they like. 

“The more we can build awareness through social media, traditional media and through schools, the more money we raise and the more books we can supply,” Ms Rogers said  “If communities want further assistance, we work with them either through Book Buzz, which is a program for young children where every child in the community receives his or her own range of books, along with support material and resources to help the families and elders work with the children and help them discover the joy of reading. 

“We also take our ambassadors into these communities and they run workshops with them, a number of which culminate in books that the children put together and that we print and give back to the communities, some in English and some in their own language,” she said.  

As Josh Pyke said, “Creating an environment where people have choices is very important. Literacy opens doors to having that kind of choice, which is what ILF is about.” 

The audience listened intently as individual children went to the stage and took turns to read from their favourite books, among them The Naked Boy and The Crocodile, How does your Garden Grow? (compiled by Melbourne school boy Lachie Coman and children at Tjuntjuntjara following a visit Lachie made there in 2010) and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

“To see how confident they are and how, in their own environments, they can do a lot of things – they can read the land, they know how to survive – but they need literacy in order to engage with the wider world. That’s why it’s very important that they have that choice. Without literacy you have no choice,” Andy Griffiths said.

Author Anita Heiss, a Wiradjuri woman and Adjunct Professor at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at UTS, said reading helps her get by every day. 

“Today, for instance, I’ve read emails from people about work, I’ve read tweets, I’ve read Facebook to find out what’s going on with my friends and family, I’ve read the newspaper to know what’s going on around the country and a the world, I’ve read a warning sign so I can protect myself,” Dr Heiss said 

“Because I can read, I can make decisions for myself in every aspect of my life, what I need to eat, how to be safe. I know how to have control over my life. These are the things I want for all Indigenous kids, being literate means that they can make decisions for themselves, they can be in control of their lives and their future. The reason for the Indigenous Literacy Day is so we can make great changes in the future of young Indigenous people.” 

The event concluded with the much awaited Great Book Swap where the children exchanged books they had read for new ones.