Get to Know Your 2018 Women’s Officer

Name: Laura P

Pronouns: I’m a cis woman and I use she/her/hers pronouns.

Study: I’m heading into my fourth year of law/arts (anthropology).

Home: I currently live in Kaleen, Canberra – but hail from Liverpool in Sydney’s south-west.

Languages: English and some (very bad) Croatian.

Favourite word: “legit”.

Favourite colour: all shades of blue.

Favourite genre of movie: science-fiction and romantic comedies.

Favourite song of all time: ‘Landslide by’ Fleetwood Mac.

Drink of choice: iced coffee or a gin and tonic.

Tell us a joke: ANU’s idea of student survivor consultation.

If you were a flower …

I would be lavender or rosemary – they remind me of home and heritage.

If you could choose your last meal …

Sarma: a Balkan dish of rice, spices and meat, wrapped in cabbage and served with potato.

A good life is …

A happy, fulfilled life.

Your five-year goal …

Hopefully I will have graduated. I honestly don’t have a specific career path in mind, but would love to be doing work in the social justice sector. Let’s be real though – I will probably end up in the APS along with half of ANU’s graduates.

Biggest inspiration …

The countless amounts of brave, inspiring women and non-binary people I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with over the past three years at ANU.

Define feminism …

Feminism means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To me, it means acknowledging and working towards dismantling systems and structures of oppression such as the patriarchy and white supremacy. But it also means solidarity and community, and the countless powerful and inspiring people I’ve had the fortune of knowing.

Tell us a tiny bit about your work with Restorative ANU.

Restorative ANU is a movement of students, staff, and alumni dedicated to advocating for change in how the ANU responds to violence and sexual assault. I’m really excited for what we have planned over summer and the next year, and to work with such a great group of activists and advocates.

How do you intend to interact with the university in demanding positive action to combat the culture of sexual violence at ANU?

I want to take on the feedback from previous student representatives and how they have managed working relationships with the university. I think there needs to be a balance between assertive advocacy and more behind-the-scenes negotiation, and this will depend on context and audience. Of course, my perspective on this is open to change. After seeing decision-makers drag their feet on discussing and implementing our recommendations, create committees that eventually drive out student and survivor voices, and continuously disrespect the needs and experiences of survivors, I have become increasingly sceptical.

Pastoral roles are incredibly demanding; how will you actively look after your own mental, emotional and physical health in your capacity as women’s officer?

Previous women’s officers have been into yoga, but I’m more of a swimmer. I’m also going to be structuring the role and delegating responsibility to make it more sustainable and hopefully prevent burnout. Department officers and other students in pastoral care roles should be able to take leave from their responsibilities when they need to, and should not be expected to be constantly available. I want to continue emphasising that the women’s officer is a referral service rather than a crisis service, which will hopefully make the pastoral care easier to handle.

What did the Department do well this year?

I think the mobilisation and momentum we gained on our campaign addressing violence on campus following the release of the AHRC Survey is something that we did really well this year. We got a lot of media traction, and did a lot of things we can expand upon in the next year.

What could be improved about the Department?

I want to make our events calendar and community outreach more consistent and inclusive – we need to actively make the Department a space where people feel welcome and empowered. This is particularly important for members of our community that are less visible, or face specific experiences that make it difficult to engage with the Department – such as gender diverse members and international students.

What are your B I G ideas?

  • A fortnightly events calendar.
  • A big event, series or campaign every term.
  • Campaigns to engage members of the Department who have been less visible or engaged thus far.
  • A weekly meeting structure with alternate times: Monday 6.00pm one week, and a time in business hours the following week.
  • Effective delegation of responsibilities among deputies and the collective
  • Empowering members to run their own events, campaigns, groups and advocacy.
  • ‘Portfolios’ of small, tangible and trackable responsibilities that people can sign up to complete and pass on easily.
  • Stronger relationships between the Department and residential advocates.
  • More resources: a list of bulk-billing doctors in Canberra, recommended hairdressers, a guide to how the university administration works, a list of ANUSA services, and more.
  • Disciplinary action for perpetrators of violence and the implementation of a restorative process.