The ANU Women’s Department in 2017

Letter from the 2017 ANUSA women’s officer

Holly Zhang

There’s nothing quite like the clarity of hindsight to give one a broader perspective on things.

Reflecting on my term, I can almost see the contours of the (often stormy) seasons that we went through, and feel the overlapping waves of women advocates who have carried, inspired and found strength in each other to bring the Department forward over the last few years.

Organisationally, the Women’s Department has grown a lot this year, and I’m sure that any member you ask will tell you that they have too! It’s been both humbling and inspiring to watch our new initiatives and diverse communities flourish within our own autonomous space, and then take up the place they have always deserved in the wider ANU context.

As advocates, I know that we had a lot of hopes about what we wanted to see happen this year, particularly following the release of the AHRC report. ANU’s response has been inadequate and disappointing. Pushing for change can be a tough grind, and where we get is almost never as far as where we were aiming for. But I believe that falling short is part of daring to set directions for the future – it is not a failure. Believing in potential is the very thing that keeps us going, even if we have to take breaks occasionally.

I trust everyone in this community will keep learning to work, love and give sustainably. I hope you will all take on the collective responsibilities of being a part of the Department, and support each other’s individual development too – wherever we happen to be. We owe it to ourselves, and to each other, to keep growing and building – together. And I know we will.


Letter from the 2017 PARSA women’s officer

Nathalie Blakey

Ever loved somebody who didn’t love you back? I loved ANU, but I’m not sure it really loved me back – especially in my role as 2017 PARSA women’s officer.


Initially, my mantra was to work with the aim that one day the role wouldn’t need to exist. I wanted to see ANU become a place where sexism was non-existent, or at least not tolerated. Every decision I made or action I took was to create systematic, structural or whole-of-institution change.

The majority of my time was spent on the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus. At first, I was charmed by the University. They fed me a line about owning the problem and wanting to work on it.  I remember not really understanding what the University’s approach to sexual assault and sexual harassment was; I really beat myself up for not getting it and blamed myself every time a postgrad had a terrible experience.

And then I uncovered the lie. There was never a policy dedicated to challenging sexual assault and sexual harassment at ANU; there weren’t any institutionalised resources dedicated to challenging or mitigating it; there was no system for reflection, debriefing or feedback.

When I figured this out I was furious. Not as furious as the Hulk – but it did motivate me to smash the patriarchy. But that task isn’t something one character can do –  it’s not even something that The Avengers or entire Marvel Universe could undertake. Change still needs to be pushed for, so please proactively offer your help and support to Emma (the current women’s officer) and the PARSA team. I threw my punches out of total love for this university. I hope it helped.

I love you ANU. I love you PARSA. Always.


Recap: Intersectionality Campaign

Freya Willis

About halfway through the Intersectionality Campaign, I sat on the steps of the old Union Court, interviewing my best friend, listening to stories about her family, life and culture which were new to me even after over five years of friendship. It dawned on me that in the busyness of everyday life we forget to interrogate some of the most fundamental questions about ourselves and the people around us: who are we? How do people perceive us? How do we experience gender, culture and life?

Intersectionality has become something of a buzz word in feminist spaces. It is such a broad and catch-all term that it often feels difficult to even know where to begin. How do we fight all the forces of oppression equally and at once? How do we capture all the complexities of identity and identity politics? How do you foster representation and fight off tokenism and appropriation?

The aim of this campaign was to put a face to the term intersectionality. To remind people that intersectionality is not just an abstract concept, and doesn’t only exist in feminist academic literature.

The power of such a simple idea became apparent to me when I saw people’s reactions to the photos. They reached thousands of people; hundreds of people liked and commented, many of whom were outside of the ANU community. For me, this brought me back to a very simple truth: the value of diversity is not that it ticks the boxes or looks good in a marketing campaign, the value of diversity is that it offers a genuinely new perspective. This campaign made you stop and think, listen and share stories, and discover new things, even about your best friend.


Recap: ANU Women in Leadership

Jody McPhee

ANU WiL was founded in mid-2016 as a collaboration between ANUSA and PARSA because ANU lacked the space and opportunities for cross-disciplinary leadership and skill development for women and non-binary people. We aim to create opportunities for leadership and skill development and to promote students in leadership roles within and outside the ANU. In 2017, we hosted two panel events: women in community leadership, and women in innovation. We also held a workshop to help people prepare for the professional workplace, a discussion about 50/50 in leadership with Virginia Haussegger, and two networking events with a wide range of accomplished women from the Canberra community. In 2018 ANU WiL will continue to host a range of events and support women and non-binary students. In 2018 ANU WiL will continue to host a range of events, including networking-related ones, which will be open to ANU women and non-binary students, staff and alumni – these will be run by the new 2018 WiL team. In the future, we hope to be able to offer a more diverse and accessible range of events.


Update: Transfeminine Campaign

Celeste Sandstrom

I am a transgender member of the Women’s Department. I identify as transfeminine and non-binary and use they, them and their pronouns.

I became a member of the Women’s Department in 2017 – however, it took me a long time to engage with and feel comfortable in the Department. The Women’s Department (in the online spaces and Rapunzel Room) states that it includes trans and non-binary people as members. However, in the Rapunzel Room, the posters that promote this are not Department-branded. Further, these spaces can be seen as inaccessible by transfeminine people who face a very real fear of identity policing, transphobia and trans-exclusionary sentiments. Indeed, some of the first posts I saw in a Department Facebook group contained this sentiment, denying the lived experiences of trans women as women.

This campaign is designed to overtly present the inclusion of transfeminine people in the Women’s Department. This campaign will also state that transmisogyny (the intersection of transphobia and misogyny) and trans-exclusionary sentiments are not welcome.

Transfeminine, as it will be used in the campaign, refers to people who are transgender and identify with experiences of femininity. This includes trans women, feminine-aligned non-binary, agender or genderqueer people – regardless of pronouns – and anyone who experiences transmisogyny. The use of this term implies nothing about presentation. This is a widely accepted term in the trans and gender diverse community. Further, this term has been selected because it is more inclusive of members of the Women’s Department who do not identify as women, but do identify with the above definition.

This campaign was suggested by Kat Reed in semester one 2017, and I took lead on the campaign in term three. The campaign will consist of two parts. Firstly, a poster campaign in the Rapunzel Room, at Market Day 2018 and in the Department’s online spaces. The posters will read “transfeminine people are welcome here” and include a definition of transfeminine. Corresponding to each poster will be a smaller flier with a similar design and content to be put in as many places as possible around campus. Secondly, a series of two-minute videos interviewing transfeminine people about their experiences and/or concerns with the Women’s Department. This will be produced by Woroni TV. There will be anonymity options available, and the videos will be shared by Woroni and in the Department’s online spaces.