Women’s Officer – Candidate Interview

By Ellie Ng

 As part of Tharunka’s coverage of the 2022 SRC elections, we had the opportunity to sit down and get to know the three candidates running for the position of Women’s Officer: 

  • Emma Terry – Left Action 
  • Estell Mathew – Together 
  • Hannahbeth Marchant – Unite 

Emerging from a broad range of perspectives and areas of study, each candidate brought different perspectives on concerns for UNSW, and the policies they proposed to combat this.   

Get to Know Your 2022/2023 Candidates 

CANDIDATE 1. EMMA TERRY – LEFT ACTION 

First question, what is your name, year, and degree? 

My name is Emma Terry, my degree is Social Science, and I am in second year. 

Have you been on or run for the SRC before? 

Yep, I have run for a Councillor position, Councillor A, as an NUS delegate with Left Action last year. 

What do you think are the biggest issues facing students in 2022? 

I think at the moment it’s the blatant inequality that exists in the world more broadly, but really affects students with things like the cost-of-living crisis; affording housing and affording food at the moment, as inflation is up by 6%. On top of that, increasing fees to our education, which I think is part of the broader world system which allows a small minority on the top to take the wealth from everyone else at the bottom, and that’s reflected in how students get to live and interact with their education. I think the only way to make lives better for students is to fight that system more broadly and take on the inequality and injustices that exist in the world. 

So you’re running with Left Action. Why did you choose to join them and how do you think they address those issues that you mentioned? 

Left Action is an activist ticket. I think we’re the only activist ticket currently running, and we want to take on the social injustices in the world, confront them directly, and push for change in a way that looks to mobilise people and students, and fight injustices. We think the SRC should play a role in mobilising students to fight for their demands as well as on broader issues. 

As a Women’s Officer how do you think you would contribute to that? 

I’m not officially on the SRC but I’ve been to most of the meetings in the past year to push the SRC and to show support and solidarity with a range of issues. Specifically for women, I’ve been in a campaign group, Community Action for Rainbow Rights, that have fought the Religious Discrimination Bill and mobilised hundreds of people out on the street against both the Religious Discrimination Bill and also Mark Latham’s Parental Freedoms Bill which were an attack on both trans rights and also women’s rights as it looked to limit their access to the pill and abortion through doctors expressing their religious beliefs as a reason not to provide services. In terms of the SRC, I’ve gone to SRC meetings, put up motions and argued for the SRC to show solidarity with that campaign. I was also a part of both building and running the first massive abortion rights rally which drew out thousands of people onto the street in solidarity with the US abortion rights. I also chaired the second rally and was a part of building that as well. I think to push women’s rights forwards more broadly in society and on campus, you have to confront where this inequality stems from which is a system we live under, a system that puts women second. As a student you have to be a part of mobilising and fighting against that on the street and the SRC needs to play a role in doing that.  

So what do you think that would look like on campus? How do you see mobilisation manifesting in taking place in the context of the UNSW student body? 

The Left Action candidates will, for most rallies, build a student contingent to it. Getting the word out, using the platform and resources of the SRC because they are paid Office Bearers, not just sharing events on social media but getting out there. Leaflets, engaging with students on a political level for the issues they care about, and encouraging people to come out for protests as the only way we’ll get anywhere is if there are more people coming out on the streets.  

How would you respond to the notion that much of the student population is either unaware, disinterested, or apathetic to much of the activism that takes place on campus? What more could you do to engage students?  

I think a lot of it is met with apathy because of the political climate we’re operating in where most political parties actually do nothing to stand up for people, let alone students, and sign off to a bunch of horrible things that happen. And it matters when institutions like the SRC take a stand against these injustices or if they become a barrier to fighting it. So the current SRC has actually been a barrier to fighting things like the education cuts campaign, which Left Action activists have been running, and actually sat in on a meeting and signed off on the cuts with Claire Annesley. And so when you demoralise people because you don’t give them any sort of outlet in which they can express their anger and try to fight it. I think that apathy stems from how both political parties on a more broad level and the SRC here at UNSW act. And its worth saying that most of the people in the SRC want to be a part of these political parties that do nothing to stand up for people, and therefore have no interest in confronting the reality that we live in and fighting against it. They want to be a part of the parties that actually manage all the terrible things have happened to students. 

Was there anything else you that you wanted to say on behalf of Left Action or yourself?  

I think that if students agree with this sentiment that we’re putting out there, it’s not enough to sit isolated and agree with it in your head, you have to be a part of building an alternative to what’s currently in place, which means getting involved and helping Left Action in these elections and also more generally in building activism. If students are interested in actually fighting for a better world, they should join our ticket and help us out.  

CANDIDATE 2. ESTELL MATHEW – TOGETHER  

Introduce yourself with your name, your year and your degree? 

My name is Estel Mathew, I am currently a second-year student and I’m studying law and criminology.  

Have you been on or run for the SRC before? 

I haven’t exactly run for the SRC, but I have spent pretty much this whole year working alongside the current Women’s Officer through my role as the 2022 secretary of the Women’s Collective.  

Could you talk more about working with the Women’s Officer this year?  

One of the main reasons I am running for Women’s Officer next year is due to all the opportunities I’ve been given as the secretary, especially with the aim of advocating for women’s rights. My role as secretary has really enriched my view on the world and also my place in it, especially by working alongside some of the most hardworking women. It has definitely inspired me to not just say I want to advocate, but to put my words into action. And I believe the best way to do that is to become Women’s Officer for next year. Within a year, myself, and the other girls in the Women’s Collective have been able to push for policies and hold events that are all about expressing your femininity and empowering yourself.  

I also just wanted to make a side note: for clarification, when I mention the word woman or female, I mean females and students of gender minorities.  

Continuing on, within only a year, we’ve started up the Women’s Collective, as it did die down a bit in the past few years. Our main goal was to start some of the policies and also get the Women’s Collective known by all the students, which I think we have accomplished. Policy wise, we started our goal of achieving free menstrual products on campus for women to access. So far, we’ve written up a research paper – I’ve been the editor of that. We’re about to hand it into the university. We also aim to create more awareness of reporting and support services as well for any incidents such as sexual harassment and assault on campus. It was quite difficult just simply searching for it and finding it online, so we created a website for us to have resources available and ready for anyone to use. I’ve also attended rallies as the Women’s Collective representative in response to the really devastating results that came from the National Students’ Safety Survey and I was able to network with other Women’s Collectives from other universities, and that was really good. I’ve also been a part of the Gendered Violence Action Plan, so I am in a working group that aims to start a conversation on what gendered violence really is, how to identify it, and what your options are. One of the main things I noticed, and this is pretty much an underlying purpose through all my policies, is that issues such as sexual assault and gendered violence, pretty much any issue relating to women, they’re rarely talked about, and I really want this to change over the next year if elected.  

Why do you feel like Women’s Officer role is important and what do you think are the biggest issues facing women or minority gendered students at UNSW. 

I definitely think that this role has a lot of power, especially as it is a part of the SRC, who are ultimately the student representatives. They are the front end of who communicates with the uni officials as well. It’s easier and more efficient for someone in the SRC to communicate with the uni rather than a student, that’s a longer process I believe. And also just having the support of everyone in the Together ticket, they have been so supportive. This is actually my first time running in the SRC, so I feel a bit nervous and am not sure what’s happening sometimes, and they are always there, always supportive and I think having such a good team really makes a difference in how your policies end up in the end, whether they are successful or not. So I think the SRC hold a lot of power to make change in the uni, and I feel so privileged to even have a chance to have a go at one of the roles, especially Women’s Officer as it’s something I’ve had a passion about for a really long time.  

Are you affiliated with any political party? And also, why did you choose to run with Together? 

I’m not very strict on what I am, but my overall personal values have been reflected through the Together ticket. Just by hearing them talk in meetings, hearing how they support each other, hearing about what they want is ultimately what’s best for the students. It’s nothing selfish, nothing about winning, it’s about doing the best for the students, creating the best team that will work alongside each other for a whole year. A very strong group full of integrity which I really admire. We’re not about attacking or fighting anyone, we’re more about accepting and creating an inclusive environment.  

For anyone who’s not familiar with the Together ticket, can you summarise their main values quickly? Like I said, integrity is one of our main values. We will fight endlessly for the students and we understand that these issues, specifically in my area, so the women’s issues are something that extend outside of uni as well, though ultimately the best place to address these types of issues is within the uni, where students are getting their first taste of life. And this group is incredibly committed to that, texting all the time trying make change happen, we’ve all discussed our policies with each other. It’s not just one person making the policies, it’s more like someone makes policies, and then everyone else goes through them, sees how we can make them successful- it’s just a really lovely group of people.  

Another question, what do you think the role of the SRC is, and how do you see their presence on campus playout on a day to day basis? 

I think the SRC are the middle ground between the students and the uni, so if the students need a specific change in the uni or if they need some help, the SRC are probably the best people to go to because they are so knowledgeable in what to do and who to talk to. Especially when obviously there are issues of trust between staff members, lecturers and students. The Together ticket, the students, and the SRC, we’re the same. You can come to us, we can come to you, and that’s a really good thing about the SRC, especially in the Together ticket, there’s no hierarchy with us. They also do campaigning, lobbying, talk to uni officials about issues, they never minimise your problems. No matter how small your problem is, you can feel comfortable to go to these people to talk to them.  

If elected, what policies are you planning on running as Women’s Officer? And in addition to that, we’ve had a chat with other candidates pushing for a more activism based SRC style of leadership. where do you sit on that? What do you hope to do in the role of Women’s Officer?  

I’ll just start off with the activism question. I’ve seen and heard of people accusing Together of being non-activists, however we want to make it clear that that is not our position. We want to take a more balanced approach to getting things done. Of course, we understand that strong activism is a main part of politics, it’s a main part of getting things changed, and we also on the other end understand that we ultimately have to work with the uni management because they are the ones who have the final say. But regardless of that, we are also comfortable with putting pressure on the uni when needed, so we try to take a more balanced approach because at the end we need everyone on our side. That’s what uni is about, its not about splitting the uni management versus the students, its about bringing everyone together and making the area something special and comfortable and inclusive for everyone.  

I’ll talk about my policies now. I have come up with a few policies that I wanted to implement with the Together ticket. The team has been so supportive and like I said, everyone has read through the policies, gone through it thoroughly and we believe that these changes are very practical to achieve and also very reasonable requests that the uni should uphold. So I have my policies split into themes: first we have the welfare and health policies -These include getting more lights on campus, especially at night time both on the main campus and Paddington campus, just for increased measures for women’s safety on campus, especially these days, its been so dark even just at 6pm, so I feel like that would make uni a more comfortable space for women. We also are going to continue our fight for period poverty. So as I said before, this year we have been working on getting period products onto the campus. That fight is still ongoing and I will be carrying that over next year if elected. I definitely want to include a change of policy that is based on educating women on health issues that they may experience. This is something that is rarely talked about. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone talk about it at uni publicly and like I said before. Most of these issues are hushed and kept on the down low and it’s time to start talking about them. Another thing is that I want to work with the uni and hire more paid counsellors, and also have counsellors that are specifically specialised in women’s experiences, including survivors and victims of sexual assault, domestic assault, family violence and so on. I also plan on extending this policy to queer mental health, and definitely improving reporting platforms, making it more accessible for everyone. I want to implement yearly mandatory sexual assault and consent training, making it available in different languages as well because UNSW is very diverse, there are many international students, and these changes should tend to their needs as well, not just the majority, but also the minorities. I also want to ensure that everyone knows that sexual assault recovery is an option in special consideration. I myself only found only found out a few weeks ago. It’s not known at all, so definitely making sure that people know that. I also have some policies that relate more to the education character building and student connections area. A lot of these ideas have actually been taken as ideas from female students that I’ve spoken to over the past year, so firstly I would like a new university run mentor scheme for women as over a few months ago, the Women’s Collective conducted a survey and we found that one of the main topics that women want to learn about is career skills and how to develop assertiveness, wage negotiations, work-life balance, public speaking, and things like that this scheme could really help them. It will be run through the Women’s Collective as well, so we have direct connection to the SRC and the uni, so that is something I really wish to implement. Also, having trigger warnings for readings that discuss sexual assault. I was shocked when I heard this from a student but apparently that is the case in some courses, so definitely working on that. Getting confidential leave for harassment experiences with the reduction of paperwork, obviously asking someone to prove that they were harassed is a traumatic experience. I want the uni and SRC to acknowledge that this issue is traumatic and we should be more considerate of that. And also encouraging courses to use more female authors, not only during weeks where students look at the feminist experience but also include it, integrate it where possible throughout a lot of the weeks because that is something we’re lacking. Not just the feminist experience but female authors being appreciated for their work. We also wanted to introduce a policy for increased stability about class attendance especially where periods are a hindrance to coming to class, as I know a lot of people have severe issues during their periods. I don’t want people to feel forced or that that they have to go to class because of mandatory course attendance, so definitely looking into that as well.  

That was quite a long list of policies you’ve clearly been thinking about. How would you go about actioning these if elected? 

The way that I would work throughout the next three terms if elected would be firstly, tackling period poverty, increased measures for women’s safety on campus, hiring more counsellors, and also the university run mentoring schemes. But I do understand that it will take a while corresponding between the uni management and us, so my plan is to have one main policy change a term at least, and under it, I will keep working towards the small ones such as ensuring people know about sexual assault and encourage courses to use more female authors. Obviously I will have the Women’s Collective and the Together ticket behind me as well, so it’s not like I’m doing it all on my own.  

Was there anything else you wanted to say on behalf of yourself or your ticket? 

Just that I have had this passion since a young age. My future goals are woman-related. As you know, I’m studying law and criminology. My aspiration, if I want to call it that, is to start my own firm that targets female victims. I’m currently working in a family law firm that has also had a really big impact on me. Listening to female clients talking about their experiences is honesty really heartbreaking and it’s had a really big impact on me. I know that this will take incredible time and commitment, but I believe that I want this opportunity to make the change.  

CANDIDATE 3. HANNAHBETH MARCHANT – UNITE 

Let’s begin with your name, your year and your degree. 

I’m Hannahbeth, I’m in my second year studying a double degree in Mechatronics and Biomedical Engineering.  

Have you been on or run for the SRC before? Or have you been a student representative in any way? 

I haven’t been a part of the SRC, but I’ve been a student representative in quite a range of clubs and societies in UNSW. I have the technical side like Engineering Society, Mechatronic Society, all the way up to business such as UCC which is a UNSW consulting one. 

What sorts of roles have you occupied within these clubs? Have you been on executive teams as well as a member?  

I’ve been a member for a lot of those, but this year I am exec for a lot of the roles as well, so I do a lot of initiatives for a lot of those societies. 

What do you think are the most important initiatives you’ve been involved in throughout any of those leadership positions? 

I’m very passionate about education and bringing awareness. So one of those initiatives was basically teaching people how to present and storytell and consult. Also, I’m currently in the process of helping to organise an event for Pride in engineering. So anything about awareness and bringing light to people that usually are overlooked or don’t feel supported – I’m very passionate about things like that.  

You’ve clearly been involved with a lot of different societies in the university, why did you decide to run for the SRC and why specifically Women’s Officer? 

I’m running for the SRC because you can actually make a lot change, especially as a student and especially myself, as woman running Women’s Officer. I know the challenges you face as a woman doing a stem degree, so that’s a reason I want to be part of SRC. To actually embody and reflect what the student life is like, and to tell that to people and actually make a change, a holistic change, across the university. In terms of Women’s Officer, I’m passionate especially about women in stem, having women feel united and supported and heard.  

You kind of touched on your concerns on issues surrounding women in stem, what then would you say are the biggest issues that female identifying students face at university?  

I feel like women feeling supported and heard is something that goes beyond just stem degrees, its just that stem degrees are very male dominated. I feel like females need to be heard more and supported more. Also, unfortunately there is a lot of assault that women experience within universities that aren’t touched upon and they don’t get enough help or awareness when it comes to that. 

Why did you choose to run with Unite? 

I chose to run with Unite because [of] a lot of their policies. They have a really big emphasis on the students. You know how they have cut a lot of arts degrees and shoved them all into one degree? They show and talk about what students actually want on a very holistic level, so we cover everything. I also think that the team is really good: we’re all executives of clubs so we’ve actually worked very closely with a range of different people, so I feel like our experience really helps with our actual policies and campaigns. 

How long have you been working with Unite? 
Since around 2 months ago. 

And was that in preparation for running for the position? Or was it something you wanted to do regardless. 

It was something I wanted to do regardless, and the opportunity popped up so it was perfect timing. 

What do you think the role of the SRC is? 

I think the role of the SRC is to actually reflect what a typical student feels. Their trials and tribulations, and so on and so forth. To be very transparent, and to be a vessel to show what students are feeling, what they want, what they’re happy with, what they’re not happy with; and to talk about that, bring awareness to that, and then ultimately make change.  

What policies are you planning to potentially run as Women’s Officer? 

I have a few policies. One of them I kind of said before, is trying to help and support women more.  A peer mentoring program with Arc, so it’s more a holistic (approach), rather than each individual club trying to help women feel supported and heard. And it will unite women as well, as they get to meet people from different areas. I think that’s one of the biggest things I’m hoping to implement.  

Talking to other candidates, we’ve heard a range of approaches when it comes to the role of Women’s Officer for the next year. Why do you think yours is going to benefit students the most?  

I think our approach is beneficial just because we aren’t neglecting anyone. We represent everyone and we communicate with them without any pre-judgement or bias. I would say we’re just very transparent, very holistic, very real. We’re students ourselves, and we understand that we’re just students trying to help other students.   

 *Responses have been edited for grammar, brevity and clarity. 

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