Queer Collaborations (QC) is a national Australian Queer conference. The conference is held annually, usually in July and makes use of the Safer Spaces Agreement. In recent years, the conference has attracted over 200 delegates.
It is often referred to as a student conference, although that is not strictly true. The majority of delegates are students, but the facilitation collectives have not usually restricted registration. The conference has traditionally been supported by the National Union of Students of Australia (NUS) and has used the NUS Standing orders, but officially the conference is autonomous and not affiliated with NUS.
A challenge to the conference occurred in 2001 in Newcastle, when a political dispute caused the conference floor to split. Many of the delegates left the conference, and formed their own conference in a bar down the street.
The University of Wollongong were the 2010 hosts, defeating the Cross Campus Queer Network Western Australia 62-60 in the second round of voting after Monash Clayton was eliminated in the first round.
At Wollongong in 2010 the NUS Queer Officers were censured by the conference floor.
At the 2012 conference, it was determined that a collection of Sydney area universities would host the 2013 event. The Sydney universities were chosen over a bid from Brisbane, who had also bid the previous year.
The 2014 Queer Collaborations Conference is to be held at Monash University in Melbourne.
It is the opinion of some attendees within recent years that QC's main objective of discussing Queer issues has been overlooked in favour of lesser related issues. One such issue is Feminism; Feminism can be viewed as a collection of movements and ideologies, that are at times contradicted between movements; It's important to note that further background knowledge of Feminism should be obtained to enable a well rounded personal opinion before declaring it unrelated to Queer issues.
Another concern some attendees have is the dominating behaviour of delegates who're Socialist Alternative in their political views. In reply to a discussion regarding the seemingly enforced discrimination behaviour at QC one commenter said "...QC is not what it presents itself to be. It has become too political for me to socially collaborate with other people who claim they are tolerant, understanding and accepting. But really they enforce their own set of hate, discrimination, and intolerance towards anyone who has the slightest objection to their world-views. It drives me nuts." The commenter requested to remain anonymous, fearing a mob mentality backlash from QC delegates. Similar opinions from delegates have been met with verbal harassment, enforced social isolation, vigilantism and group bullying tactics.
It's important to note that these are personal views
Safer Spaces Agreement
Adapted from the QC2012 Safer Spaces Agreement.
The Safer Spaces Agreement is a document that outlines behavioural expectations of delegates to ensure all spaces are safer spaces whilst recognising no space can ever be completely safe.
The aim of the Safer Spaces Agreement is to: remind delegates that creating safer spaces is people’s own responsibility, as well as the responsibility of the people around you, remind delegates that words, body language, actions, and behaviour aﬀect other people and make them feel certain ways, remind people to be aware of other people’s personal boundaries; and work preventatively to try and make sure that everyone is able to enjoy conference as much as possible. Please be aware that all delegates are expected to keep the Safer Spaces Agreement in mind at all times, at all places throughout the conference week. Whether you are shopping with a group of delegates, or in a workshop with a presenter, people can still be affected by your actions and words.
All delegates of Queer Collaborations 2014 will keep the following list in mind, and adhere to these points. All delegates will adhere to this agreement in all spaces throughout the conference. The agreement is that delegates will:
Respect people’s physical and emotional boundaries. Always get explicit verbal consent before touching someone or crossing personal boundaries. Respect people’s opinions, beliefs, diﬀering states of being, and diﬀering points of view. Be responsible for your own actions. Be aware that your actions do have an eﬀect on others. If someone is upset or oﬀended by your actions, you need to take personal responsibility for this, regardless of whether the harm was intended. Take responsibility for your own safety, and get help if you need it. Be aware that children may be in the space, and that their safety needs to be ensured. not engage in any behaviour or language that may perpetuate oppression, for example being racist, ageist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, queerphobic, ableist, classist, sizeist, biphobic, whorephobic, polyphobic, femmephobic, transmisogynistic or any bigoted behaviour. Examining our own subtle and not-so-subtle prejudices:
If we profess to be concerned about issues of race, gender, and sexuality, etc., we need to live our lives in a way that proactively seeks to subvert prejudice, to undermine the very possibility that someone will feel discriminated against. This means treating people equally and respecting that everyone has something amazing to contribute. It means not being tokenistic. It means not acting awkward around people because you don’t know what to say because of some perceived diﬀerence. This space aims to explore and acknowledge the subtle (and not-so-subtle) forms of femmephobia, racism, ageism, transphobia, sexism, queerphobia, ableism, sizeism, homophobia and classism within our own spaces and to tackle them head-on.
If the Agreement is Not Adhered To:
A space should be inclusive of every individual where possible, but, if certain individuals are making the conference unsafe, they are making it less inclusive for others. If you feel that you cannot adhere to the Safer Spaces Policy you should exclude yourself from conference. The Grievance Collective is empowered to remove individuals who refuse to comply to this policy. Any individual or group engaging in violence (including sexual violence and harassment) at QC will be immediately excluding themselves. The conference organising committee will ask them to remove themselves from the conference. All delegates have agreed upon receipt of their delegate pass that they will adhere to these policies and may be asked to remove themselves from the conference is they do not.
As a participant of Queer Collaborations 2014, I agree: (Adapted from NOWSA 2014 & QC'13 participant agreements)
1)To uphold and respect the safer spaces and grievance policy. 2)]Respect all opinions as everyone comes from different experiences unless it violates the safer spaces and grievance policy agreements. 3)To listen to everyone’s opinions and experiences without interrupting or arguing afterwards, unless said opinion violates safer space or grievance policy. 4)To recognise that my opinion and experiences may contrast other people’s opinions and experiences and that discussion of this is to be subject to safer space and grievance policy agreements. 5)To respect the physical and emotional boundaries of all delegates and workshop facilitators. 6)To endeavour to not speak over others and help create an inclusive environment which allows for everyone to have their say and not be silence. 7)To take personal responsibility for your own actions and any harm that they may cause regardless of intent. 8)To not generalise your experience to that of various groups of people, and to not generalise opinions to that of various groups. 9)To respect the autonomy of identity groups, therefore the importance of autonomous spaces and discussions. If you do not identify with the group don’t encroach on these spaces through attending or joining the discussions. The responsibility falls to the group to decide who is welcome. 10)To adhere to standing orders throughout conference floor and caucuses. 11)To not touch or encroach on personal boundaries without explicit verbal consent. 12)To look out for all people at all times and not do anything that could, purposefully or not, endanger someone. 13)To make sure that anything that compromises your physical, mental or emotional health is reported to the grievance committee and that you take care of yourself and others around you at this conference. 14)To recognise privacy of individuals and not to compromise any privacy of individuals or groups by discussing personal or sensitive matters with other individuals. 15)To always use trigger warnings when necessary including when sharing personal experiences or opinions and to be aware of trigger warnings for workshops you wish to attend through the reader or from the workshop facilitator. 16)To adhere to speaking lists and speaking times to make sure you do not monopolise discussions, to not respond with aggression or negativity if asked to cease speaking if these boundaries are breached or you violate either the safer spaces or grievance policy agreements. 17)To understand and respect the duty of the Queer Collaborations Organising Committee to ensure a safer space to the best of their ability including in extreme cases banning individuals from the conference if they are deemed to not adhere to the Participant Agreement, Safer Spaces Policy or engage in hate speech.
1.1 Policy Philosophy
The Priority of the policy is to make QC as safe and beneficial an experience for all participants as possible. In relation to grievance and conflict resolutions specifically, our aim is to enact a process that is defined and controlled by the wishes and needs of the parties involved. Our aim will be to resolve the process in a way that allows for everyone to feel safe and able to participate in QC. Having said this, in any situation of violence, threat, harassment or abuse that is sexual, physical or otherwise, our primary responsibility is to the aggrieved party, and to their needs and desires. We also recognise that conflicts, violence and other incidents can have impacts beyond the parties immediately involved and affect the space more generally. As such we think that it is important to have an open and transparent process, and one that is broadly accountable to all QC participants. It is probable that there will be some conflict in the time that we are engaged in the QC space. This can be an incredibly valuable thing if managed in a constructive manner. We have designed a basic process for dealing with conflict, based around the principle that a resolution deemed positive to all parties involved should be sought first. Any conflict arising in the space that at least one party feels cannot be resolved without some help should seek out the assistance of one of the members of the Grievance Collective.
1.2 Standards of Behaviour
As participants in the temporary community of QC, we all have the right to expect a basic standard of behaviour from each other. These behaviours are outlined in the Queer Collaborations 2014 Participants Agreement, and Safer Spaces policy. Any harassment, non-consensual violence, abuse or disrespect is completely unacceptable and it is our responsibility as a community to respond to and address this behaviour. If anyone feels they have been treated in a way that doesn’t meet this standard of expected behaviour they can expect the full support of the Grievance Collective and the wider QC community in responding to the situation in whatever way they prefer
1.3 The Grievance Collective
-A Grievance Collective will be elected by Conference Floor in the opening session of conference. All participants will be able to nominate for a position on the Grievance Collective and vote for the election of the Grievance Officers. -After the first election of Grievance Officers, the autonomous caucuses may elect their own representatives if they feel that they are not adequately represented within the collective; -The Grievance Collective will endeavour to represent people from as many organisations and places as possible; • Training and support will be provided to all participants interested in the role of -Grievance Officer. This training will be provided at the earliest convenience; -Grievance Officers will be identified by a coloured ID during conference proceedings and while on duty. Grievance Officers not wearing the coloured ID are unable to accept grievances; however, the Grievance Collective will communicate to ensure that there are a reasonable number of officers on duty at any one time; -The role of members of the Grievance Collective is to accept grievances and facilitate the constructive resolution thereof; -In the case of a Grievance Officer having a grievance raised against them, the officer in question will be removed from the Grievance Collective for the remainder of the grievance. Another Grievance Officer will be elected in the same manner as the original Grievance Officer election if the need arises.
1.4 Listening Posts
In addition to Grievance Officers a number of Listening Posts will nominated at the first session of Conference Floor. The role of Listening Posts is to listen to people with grievances that do not require further action, they provide an informal way of venting frustration confidentially. These people will be identified by coloured IDs. Listening Posts may nominate themselves at any time or decide to stop acting as Listening Posts either temporarily or for the remainder of the conference.
Every situation needs be dealt with individually and in a way that reflects the needs and wishes of the parties involved, and the wider QC community. We also need to recognise that QC is a temporary space and, as such, cannot offer ongoing support or mediation in response to any situation. The first priority will be to attempt to resolve the situation in a way that ensures safety and comfort for the duration of the conference. For issues that require ongoing strategies for resolution, strategies and actions should be collectively developed with the Grievance Collective and parties involved.
1.5.1 Mediation: Individual
Any participant with a grievance or dispute is encouraged to, in the first instance, approach a member of the Grievance Collective. A Grievance Officer will then attempt to mediate the dispute, however the aim of the process is to give primacy to the wishes and needs of the aggrieved parties involved. Confidentiality will be guaranteed unless all parties involved indicate otherwise.
1.5.2 Collective Community Response
As QC is an event based on collective struggle, solidarity and community philosophies, we recognise that we all have responsibilities to each other and to the broader QC community. Any serious grievance matters will take priority on the agenda of the conference. As participant’s safety is the highest priority, we understand that the running of the conference may need to be interrupted to deal with an issue of conflict, violence and safety. Again, the aim of the process is to give primacy to the wishes and needs of the aggrieved parties involved in the dispute.
1.5.3 Resolution: Outcomes
The following is a non-exhaustive list of outcomes that may be enacted during the dispute resolution process:
-Mediation/apology: Many situations can be addressed through a simple verbal mediation and an apology, or even a clarification, by one or other of the participants. -Changing behaviour: The collective may ask someone to be mindful of their behaviour or change the ways in which they are interacting in this space or within particular spaces such as workshops. For instance, someone may be asked to attempt to be less intimidating, to stop speaking over or silencing other people’s contributions. -Avoidance: The parties involved in a specific incident, or someone who has been subjected to harassing/threatening or otherwise harmful behaviour may wish to simply agree to avoid each other for the remainder of the conference. This may include asking one party to not attend small spaces and discussion (e.g. workshops) that the other party is participating in, as well as giving that person space at larger areas and events. Preference should be given to an outcome that seeks to constructively resolve the dispute if possible. -Specific exclusions: There may be specific concerns with an individual’s behaviour in a specific setting, environment or event. For example, if there are particular issues with someone’s behaviour involving drugs and alcohol, there is the option of asking them not to partake of these substances at QC or in asking them not to attend a particular event. Similarly, a delegate who has acted in a way that has made another delegate feel unsafe may be asked to not attend workshops or conference floor that the aggrieved delegate intends on attending. -General exclusion: It is recognised that there are situations in which no resolution is possible other than asking someone to not attend the remainder of QC. Participants should recognise that this is a serious action and one that will only be taken if there is no appropriate solution. Once this decision is made, it is asked that all participants respect it. In particular, this solution may be appropriate in instances involving violence, sexual assault and threats to the safety of individuals or groups.