“Social justice is, to me, about equality,” asserts Ruby Wawn. “At the heart of it is the constant struggle to create a society that is blind to gender, age, race, ethnicity, class, religion or disability and recognise that humanity transcends these arbitrary differences.”
Wawn is far from shy when talking about social justice. And why would she be? The social inquiry/law student is also the Convenor of Amnesty UTS. This year, Wawn teamed up with the Equity & Diversity Unit, organising a film screening as part of Diversity Week (starting 29 August).
It’s one of the more controversial evening events at this year’s Diversity Week. Chasing Asylum, which will be shown on Tuesday 30 August at 5.30pm, is a documentary by Academy Award-winner Eva Orner. The film features never-before-seen footage from inside Australia’s offshore detention camps.
“Chasing Asylum is Australia’s first look at the atrocities being committed in our name on Manus and Nauru,” explains Wawn.
“With the media blackout on offshore detention, it has been easy for the Australian public to turn a blind eye. This film holds us accountable for continuing to elect leaders who believe in using indefinite mandatory detention as a punishment for fleeing persecution, war and torture.”
Wawn, whose mother is an environmental activist, was raised to be politically aware, but has always felt more strongly about human-centred issues. “When I started at university, became of voting age and felt more empowered to take action, I began pursuing the issues I am passionate about, namely refugee and Indigenous rights.
“I found Amnesty to be a very accessible entry point to becoming involved in human rights activism as you’re provided with opportunities for training and support while learning through running your own campaigns and events.”
This year, other Diversity Week events include unpacking biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexuality in Breaking the Binary training for staff (Monday 29 August); market stalls run by student clubs active in the social justice space (Wednesday 31 August); and a wheelchair quidditch exhibition match between the UTS Quidditch club and other staff and students keen to give the game a go (Friday 2 September).
However, the flagship event of the week is the biennial UTS Human Rights Awards (Thursday 1 September). The awards celebrate the contributions staff and students make to social justice, equality and diversity.
This year’s guest speaker is Professor Pat Dudgeon, a National Mental Health Commissioner and project leader of the National Empowerment Project - an Indigenous suicide prevention initiative working with 11 Aboriginal communities across the country.
All of these events aim to encourage a greater awareness of the diversity of UTS’s student and staff population, as well as celebrate our differences.
Wawn, in particular, is hoping Chasing Asylum will inform Australians about what is happening to refugees and spark change.
“After the release of this film, there is no way we’ll look back in 20 years and feign ignorance and say ‘I didn’t know’.”
Diversity Week will run from 29 August to 2 September 2016. For the full line up of events, visit diversityweek.uts.edu.au