Earlier there was some discussion about what’s happening for O Week at the universities around town.
Yesterday the University of Canberra held their market day — when the various clubs, societies and anyone else wanting to flog things to students set up a stall and proceed to flog.
This being one of the biggest crowd-attracting events (possibly because it’s also about the time people start thinking about everything they need to do to get organised for next week), it was also the day the Student Association and queer collective UCanQ chose to launch their campaign for a dedicated queer space at UC.
I headed on down to the uni in the afternoon, mainly in search of textbooks, cheap newspapers and so on, and caught up with UCSA Sexuality Officer Jessica Rodgers who is leading the campaign.
Jess said the launch included speeches by herself, national Queer Affairs Officer Rachel Evans, Wollongong Uni Queer Officer Karlee Jones and UTS Queer Officer Chris Brew (who is an ex UC and ANU student). It looks like from the photos she sent me they had a bit of a march as well.
At this stage the campaign mainly consisted of getting people to sign a petition to the University asking for a queer space, as well as flyers, posters, chalked messages and a stall all aimed at raising awareness of the issue.
One of the flyers explained that a queer space is “a room for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, genderqueer and questioning students”.
“A queer only space provides a safe space for queer students to meet, socialise, politically organise and simply act without fear in public, in a way that heterosexual students take for granted.”
Jess said, “We desperately need a queer space to help queer students come out. Queer Spaces are safe spaces where queer students can feel comfortable to be themselves and not fear queerphobia, which can sometimes take the form of violence; they can seek out information and build strong networks.”
“We have not identified a space as yet, we are more hoping to build the launch, build interest and get more people to help.”
In the hour or so before I arrived the campaigners collected more than 150 signatures and said they had found most clubs and societies were supportive of their cause. Thirteen activists from NSW universities came to help out and Jess said they were making sure to explain the cause to people signing the petition, not “just shoving it in their face”.
She said she hoped to be able to put in a submission to the University, including the petition circulating yesterday, in a month’s time.