What is Affirmative Action?
Affirmative Action (AA) is a policy that seeks to redress past discrimination and increase representation of underrepresented groups through active measures to ensure equal opportunity.
There are many forms of AA, including for racial minority groups and queer-identifying people. AA provisions for wom*n exist in many countries, organisations and political parties.
Does the USU have an AA policy?
Yes. The USU has AA provisions that apply to people who are wom*n-identifying, i.e. those who identify as a wom*n or who have lived experience as a wom*n.
What are the USU’s AA provisions?
This extract from the USU Constitution details the AA provisions that apply to the annual election of Board Directors.
10.2 (c) Five Directors shall be elected during years ending in an even number and six Directors shall be elected during years ending in an odd number provided that in any year ending in an even number, two, and in any year ending in an odd number, three such elected Directors shall be wom*n-identifying.
Why does the USU practice an AA Policy?
The USU practices an AA policy because the USU is committed to promoting gender equality.
The USU will always strive to remove obstacles against wom*n by providing opportunities for greater involvement within the USU, University and broader community.
AA was passed at the 2006 Annual General Meeting and first implemented in the 2007 Board Elections. It was introduced because a strong need for increased wom*n’s representation was established after only 2 wom*n were elected each year in the 2003, 2004 and 2005 elections.
How has AA affected the results of the USU Board Elections?
AA has had minimal direct impact on electoral results in that it has only been enacted twice in the USU Board of Director Elections. The first instance was in 2007, when only 3 out of 9 candidates were wom*n and all were declared elected at the close of nominations. Then in 2009 when just 5 out of 15 candidates were wom*n. In this year, two wom*n were elected without the use of AA and a third was elected when AA was applied.
Culturally however the impact has been significant, with steadily increasing numbers of wom*n nominating to run for Board. This increase has led to a wider representation of wom*n in campaigning and subsequently on the Board itself.
What else does the USU do to achieve the aims of AA?
The Wom*n’s Portfolio Holder is a Board Director whom represents the interests of all wom*n-identifying students and works towards complete gender equality within the Union. As such, the Wom*n’s Portfolio Holder must consult with the wom*n’s community and promote at Board awareness of issues concerning wom*n. They are also the first point of contact for any matters regarding wom*n’s issues within the Union or concerning the Wom*n’s Room.
The Wom*n’s Room is an autonomous safe space provided for those who are wom*n-identifying or who have lived experience as a wom*n. It contains sofas, beanbags, reading material, sanitary supplies, a phone, a fridge, a change table for parents and is the location for the weekly SRC Wom*n’s Collective weekly meetings. The Wom*n’s Room is located on Level 1 of Manning House.
The Wom*n’s Student Events Coordinator is a student leadership role in the Programs Department. Over the past few years, the Wom*n’s Program has grown enormously. There have been wom*n DJs performing as part of OWEEK, morning teas, panel discussions and film screenings. All of the events are aimed at creating awareness about wom*n’s issues and working towards the abolition of discrimination and harassment on our campus.
Women’s Election Info Sessions, hosted by prominent campus women leaders, are held each year before the close of nominations for the USU Board Elections.
AA principles also apply to the Clubs & Societies Committee, Debates Committee, and the Bull and Hermes editing teams: all of which must have half their members identifying as wom*n.
For more information on anything mentioned in this FAQ, please contact the current Wom*n’s Portfolio Holder, Tiffany Alexander on T.Alexander@usu.edu.au.