BY EMILIO LANERA
Student activists say they are outraged at the Australian National University's decision to name Julie Bishop as the new chancellor just hours before their protest in support of sexual assault survivors.
On the second anniversary of the release of the AHRC's Change the Course report, students from the ANU Students' Association (ANUSA), its Women's Department and the Postgraduate and Research Students' Association (PARSA) had planned several sit-ins across campus.
Women's Department officers Nupur Apte and Siang Jin Law said announcing ANU’s first female chancellor on the day of the protest was an attempt to detract attention from the issues.
“It seems very coincidental ... it almost seems as though they were trying to bury our sit-in,” Ms Apte said.
According to the 2017 Change the Course report, the ANU had one of the worst rates of sexual assault on campus.
Black Flags on Kambri lawns, which represent students standing in solidarity with survivors
Photo Joanna Lin
Ms Law said the university had done very little to combat this.
“We have been promised an online reporting tool since 2018 but nothing has happened with that ...the respectful relationships working group is supposed to meet eight times a year but it’s now August and they’ve only met once,” she said.
The One Step-Forward Two steps back report published by ANUSA and PARSA also found the ANU committed to undertaking a second review of sexual violence on campus in 2019, but as of August there had been no progress.
As well as appointing Ms Bishop as the new chancellor, the ANU held a Foundation Day meeting at University House to celebrate the university’s 73rd anniversary.
Former women’s officer Priyanka Tomar said that in previous years the university had held the meeting on a different date.
“I see no reason why this year could not have been the same. This clearly shows a blatant disregard to meaningfully commit to gender equality and safety for women on our campus,” she said.
Former ANU women’s officer Priyanka Tomar (middle) with current women’s officers Siang Jin Law (left) and Nupur Apte (right) Picture:Siang Jin Law
The ANU executive team finished their Foundation Day meeting 10 minutes before the protest was due to begin.
Ms Law said that when the ANU executive team came out, "there were only 10 people there ... they knew we wouldn’t be ready".
Ms Apte said that ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt came outside and "looked at our signs for two minutes".
“Then he came up to Jin and I and said he wanted to flag the importance of today and that we (the university) will do better,” she said.
Both Ms Law and Ms Apte said they were not excited about Ms Bishop’s appointment as the first female chancellor.
“I don't think we should be so fast to congratulate and celebrate just because she's a woman,” Ms Law said.
Ms Apte said she didn't like Ms Bishop's views.
“I don't like her foreign policy, I don't like her views on refugees and her backing of asbestos – what the f--- is that about,” Ms Apte said.
Before being deputy prime minister, Ms Bishop defended CSR against a compensation claim by asbestos mining workers who had contracted mesothelioma while working for the company in the 1970s.
Mojo contacted the ANU but they declined to comment.
Ms Bishop will take over from Gareth Evans as Chancellor on January 1, 2020.