The UWA Women’s Department is a space open to students who have lived experience of misogyny, including all women, trans women, non-binary students, from all socioeconomic, cultural and spiritual backgrounds, across the sexuality spectrum and of all abilities. We aim to support students and fight sexism and misogyny on and off campus.
The start of the Women’s Department dates back to 1912 where it was originally called the “Women’s Club Committee”, existing only as a collective up until 1975. From there, it was officially established as a Department due to the increasing demands of women students to have their needs catered for. The major issues that the Department focused on were birth control, childcare, homosexuality, and education. We stayed active on campus until 1984 but the Department was sadly abolished by the Student Guild and defunded, however the Women’s officer role was kept on the council. Fortunately, in 1985 we were able to secure funding through the Public Affairs Council and with the support of a new Guild Council, regained the Women’s Room. In 1990 we were officially reinstated back as a Department and the following year, in 1991, we were given a vote on the UWA Guild Council!
In recent years, the Department has kept active on campus by advocating on behalf of women and students who have lived experience of misogyny, making safety on campus a priority, and ensuring that we address issues that affect everyone the Department represents. As such in 2016, the Guild Women’s Department took a strong stance against UWA’s resistance to a Freedom of Information request for statistics on instance of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct. With university students known to experience sexual harassment and sexual assault at alarming rates, the refusal of the university to comply with the investigation report into Australia’s university campuses was deeply disappointing. The Department believed that the statistics were needed to begin understanding the experiences of UWA students to hold perpetrators accountable. In 2019, the Department with the support of UWA Student Guild opposed the University’s decision to have Bettina Ardnt speak at UWA. The Department led by Women’s Officer, Bre Shanahan, protested the issue as it was an attack on the accessibility, inclusivity, and safety of the UWA campus. We stand with survivors and will continue our support by advocating for the students we represent.
The Women’s Department welcomes and appreciates all students, we currently have five collectives to get involved with that are part of the Department, the Women’s Collective, the Women of Colour Collective, the Women in Social Impact Collective, the Women’s Access Collective and the LGBT+ Women’s Collective. These collectives host accessible collective meetings where you can meet new people and have open discussions in an inclusive space. We also run our annual magazine, DAMSEL, which is made up of contributions from UWA students who have lived experience of misogyny. We will also be hosting our theme weeks each semester and events throughout the year, so there is always something to get involved in. We hope to see you there!
~ Floretta Susilo, 2021 Women’s Officer