<p>The Faculty of Arts’ Encounters with Writing Mini-Festival, held on 18 October 2018, displayed a work by woman-identifying student artists about rape on the University of Melbourne campus, particularly in the residential colleges. Encounters with Writing is an exhibition showcasing the works of University of Melbourne’s third-year undergraduate students who are completing their creative writing major. </p>
Content warning: sexual assault
The Faculty of Arts’ Encounters with Writing Mini-Festival, held on 18 October 2018, displayed a work by woman-identifying student artists about rape on the University of Melbourne campus, particularly in the residential colleges. Encounters with Writing is an exhibition showcasing the works of University of Melbourne’s third-year undergraduate students who are completing their creative writing major.
The installation, created by students Claudia Seers, Ellie Woods, Vanessa DiNatale, Grace Bocquet, Grace Coppinger and Lara Navarro, encompassed a mock bedroom. The bedroom staged a historical timeline of women’s presence at the University of Melbourne and demonstrated the history of male privilege in the colonial tertiary setting. It also contextualised protesting a better and safer future for women in tertiary education and the broader world.
The aim of the installation was to raise awareness and increase conversations about sexual violence on campus. It also aimed to implement better measure and policies that can realise a safer learning environment for all, especially for women, as they have been affected the most. The artists spoke to Farrago on the installation.
“The whole idea for this installation took a lap on its own. When one person says something about it, it inspires the next person to tell about their experience. It almost feels like everybody knows somebody, but it is not something you necessarily are aware about unless someone brings it up,” said Bocquet, Coppinger and Seers.
Woods used to live in the University’s Ormond College.
“It is important to talk about college is because the University is very large and anonymous, you will never know [about the sexual violence that occurs] unless someone you know tells you about it. So it is important for students to hear what is happening to their peers. In colleges, you are putting a large number of young adults in one space 24/7, where there’s inevitably parties and drinking going around. Although I don’t think it is a direct cause, it creates an environment where these kind of incidents are more likely to occur. It does happen, and it really is problematic,” she said.
“And I think what is significant as well about this installation is that this bed itself is permanently located here, in one of the university buildings. For college residents, there is no separation between uni and home life. If you deal with issue of rape, you are dealing it both at University and home, because there is no in-between.”
Di Natale had strong opinions on how the University’s current policies are failing its students, and how it could be doing better.
“The University and colleges are well aware that it is a problem on campus and because it damages their reputation, at the moment, all that has been done is symbolic, soft and educational solutions. Implementing measure means transparency, having an independent body to do reviews and storing statistics on what is actually happening. It is also about creating a balance between transparency and confidentiality, so that people will feel safe enough to share what happens to them. Transparency is important, because how can you implement change if you don’t have access to the information? It is also important that students are given a platform to start a dialogue with people that are making policy, so that policies are survivor-centric,” she said.
For these students, the issue on rape and sexual violence is not going to change overnight, but they are trying their best to make a better world.