UniSA has many great clubs that offer all sorts of opportunities, communities and services for a whole range of students. In this edition we talked to The Rainbow Club about what they are all about and how to get involved.
The Rainbow Club has been around for a while now, when did it get started and how has it changed over time?
UniSA briefly had a Pride Club between 2011 and 2014, but unfortunately the people who ran it graduated with no one to handover the Club, so we were again left without a club for queer students. In late 2015, a few of us wanted to start up the Club again, so we met, formed a new Executive Committee, and registered the Rainbow Club with USASA. It was certainly an exciting inaugural committee, with people across the political spectrum finding a common cause to work towards.
We’ve come a long way over the past 3 years. In 2016, most of our events were either poorly-attended drinks nights or barbeques. 2017 was a tough year, so we focused more on activism like putting up ‘YES’ posters on campus, to having Penny Wong join us talking to students about enrolling to vote in the Marriage Law Postal Survey. We also began collaborating with our equivalent clubs Flinders University Queer Society (FUQS) and the Pride Club of the University of Adelaide on running a joint event during Feast Festival, which helped boost our profile and attendance at our events. We ended up being the 7th largest USASA club with 112 members – a huge difference given that our predecessor club had a mere 24 members at its conclusion. In 2018, we’ve expanded our Executive Committee, made a commitment to run pop-up Rainbow Room and bake sale events on all campuses, continued working with staff to improve queer rights at UniSA, and kept collaborating with FUQS and Pride Club Adelaide. We’ve also collaborated with other USASA clubs on events, and are working with the Australian Queer Students’ Network on the Ending Queer Youth Homelessness campaign, so we’re always busy either doing or planning something; our exec group chat is active every day.
Is there a mission statement that the club follows?
Yes, our mission is to provide an inclusive, safe, fun, engaging campus environment, and bring representation to students of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, and biological sex at the University of South Australia.
What sort of services do the Rainbow Club offer?
Our close links with many queer-specific groups and services throughout Australia enable us to provide a variety of opportunities. We hold events such as coffee and pub crawls, competitions, bake sales, see performances, march at rallies, promote awareness days, and participate in community workshops. Our Executive Committee attend conferences, and regular meetings with university staff. We are managed by queer students, so we understand the sensitive nature of issues such as coming out as queer-identified, finding like-minded friends, internal conflicts (personal, moral, and religious), questioning one’s gender identity and sexuality, and relationship challenges. We aren’t a counselling service, but we can provide a connection to appropriate counselling services such as QLife. Our Club is also very culturally and ethnically diverse, so this year we had our brochure translated into Arabic, Mandarin and Spanish so that we can reach out to students who speak English as an additional language – these brochures are available on our USASA page, and translations into more languages are being planned.
Why is the Rainbow Club so important to the University of South Australia?
Unfortunately, UniSA is one of the worst universities in Australia for queer staff and students. We’re one of the few universities in Australia without a dedicated queer space, Ally Network, and Queer Officer student representative. Thankfully, the University has been supportive of addressing our concerns, and is committed to making UniSA one of the most queer-friendly universities in Australia. We’ve been working together to develop an Ally Network and training program for staff, and auditing toilet facilities to find unisex toilets on each campus. The more complex issues of the female/male binary system, getting a dedicated queer space on campus, and having a Queer Officer on the USASA Student Board are long-term projects, but we’ve started work towards them. It’s shameful the reports students and staff have given us about discriminatory behaviour they’ve experienced here. We’ve had a range of issues brought to our attention such as counsellors refusing to help same-sex attracted students, campus central staff refusing to change the titles and sex/gender markers in the files of transgender students, intersex and non-binary students being refused placements thus being unable to complete their degrees, and only having the binary options of female or male when enrolling as a student or signing a staff employment contract – despite it being legal in South Australia to be non-binary, intersex, intermediate, or unspecified since 2017. It’s unacceptable, and nothing was being done until our Executive Committee brought a list of concerns to the Pro Vice Chancellor: Student Engagement and Equity.
If someone was to go to a typical meet up for club members, what could they expect?
They’ll meet our Executive Committee, and other queer students. Every event is a little bit different. Our more recent events have been our Pop-Up Rainbow Rooms, which has a chilled-out vibe, both for studying and for meeting new people. At a joint event they’ll have the opportunity to meet queer students from Adelaide and Flinders.
If the Rainbow Club was to be described in three words, what would those words be?
Dedicated, compassionate, fabulous
If someone wants to join or find out more information about the Rainbow Club, what can they do?
Membership is free and open to anyone, not just UniSA students or staff. Click the blue Sign Up button on our Facebook page, then log into/register your USASA account, and click ‘Join or Renew’ on our Club’s page. We also have a secret Facebook group for people who aren’t out. Come along to our Executive Committee meetings with ideas and suggestions, or join our volunteer Facebook group. We hold our Annual General Meeting in March, where we elect our Executive Committee for the year.
Words by Simon Telford
Image provided by The Rainbow Club