The UMSU Wom*n’s Department

As an O-Week host this year, I encountered some confusion from my group when I explained the concept of the student union’s Wom*n’s Department to them.

Personally, I only worked up the courage to visit the Wom*n’s Room on my last day of second year.

I’m so glad that I did though, as I now know that it’s a great opportunity and resource for women on campus, and it’s something that I’d like to share with other women at the University of Melbourne.

Where is the Wom*n’s Room located?

First of all, the Wom*n’s Room is opposite the Food Co-Op on Level 1 of Union House, and is a safe space for all women attending the university, open throughout semester.

Source: Wom*n's Department Zine 2015
Source: Wom*n’s Department Zine 2015

The room provides free tea, sanitary products along with condoms and dams, as well as access to a microwave, computer, fridge and couches.

There’s also resources and information along with books. I often find myself using it as a quiet place to study and reflect.

What is the Wom*n’s room all about?

Pictured: UMSU Wom*n’s Officers Lucy Curtis and Allie Ballantyne. Source: UMSU

I spoke to UMSU’s 2015 Wom*n’s Officers Lucy Curtis and Allie Ballantyne to find out more about the Wom*n’s Department.

They talked about the department’s role in advocating for women students, along with their mentoring network, social and weekly events. These events give women the chance to meet each other, learn about women’s issues and provide an opportunity for activism.

Also, the Wom*n’s Room is an autonomous space, meaning that it is only open to women. This has led to some questions and confusion from students of all genders.

Allie described the Wom*n’s Room as a safe space on campus and that the department itself recognises that women are ‘subject to structural disadvantages’ in society. Because of this, women have specific needs. This is why the student union has a dedicated wom*n’s department and room, and not one for men.

The Wom*n’s Collective

I attended Wom*n’s Collective the other week and was delighted to find snacks, exciting discussion and friendly faces.

We talked about subjects as diverse as TV shows that we used to watch as children, the week’s Q&A episode for International Women’s Day and bisexual erasure.

Wom*n’s Collective is held on Wednesdays between 12 and 2pm, and I highly recommend it for any women who are interested in making new friends and talking about women’s issues.

The officers also emphasised that the Wom*n’s Department is trans-inclusive, as seen through their collaboration with the Queer Department for Femme Afternoons on Wednesdays at 3pm.

There is also a Wom*n of Colour Collective on Tuesdays at 2pm, Queer & Questioning QTs on Thursdays at 1pm and, on Thursdays during even weeks at 4pm, there is Crafternoons.

Finally, Lucy’s advice for first year women students was to go to the Wom*n’s Room and use the space, even if they’re not comfortable with coming to events.

Also, you’re not required to sign up to anything, as it is run through the student union.

So get in there and get involved!

– Danielle

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