The Australian Queer Student Network (AQSN) celebrated its inaugural awards ceremony on the 5th of July during Queer Collaborations at the University of Queensland.
The awards acknowledged students and groups who have made important contributions to the queer community.
Founded during Queer Collaborations 2011, AQSN is a national body for queer-identifying tertiary education students that aims to ”increase accessibility and acceptance for students of diverse sexuality and gender across Australia”.
Author, actress and Queensland director of Out for Australia, Paige Wilcox, was a keynote speaker for the event.
Commonwealth Bank Walkout
Several attendees staged a walkout during Commonwealth Bank Queensland Regional Sales and Service manager, Kylie Hall’s speech.
The Commonwealth bank was a sponsor of Queer Collaborations.
Lulu Thornley walked out of the event, stating her displeasure with the bank “paying a considerable amount of money” to speak to the group.
“It did not feel right to me that there was a speaker there simply because someone paid for them to be there,” she told Catalyst News.
“Being able to stand up for what you believe in is important, and that’s why I think it is important that we were able to simply walk out for the speech and were able to return afterwards.”
Ms Thornley believed corporations often sponsored queer events, such as pride, as a way to seem progressive while not fully committing to social change.
“They often promote a sense of queerness that is palatable to mainstream society and ignore parts of the community that are still battling for acceptance, such as the trans community,” she said.
“My main concern is that these big corporations are sponsoring queer events such as Queer Collaborations as a way to further their business interests, rather than to actually help Queer students.”
Jacinta Nile, who also attended the awards ceremony, was conflicted about the walkout.
“While I disagree with Commonwealth Bank’s standards, I was more interested in the fact that [Kylie Hall] is an elder of our community who has worked in one of the most misogynistic industries,” she said.
“I was amazed to see how much work she has done to change the [finance] industry.”
Ms Nile said the event was “meant to have a safe and respectful space” which should have been “extended to our guests as well” but instead attendees “showed such a level of disrespect towards [Ms Hall]”.
“I feel that she was there more as an elder of our community more than a simple representative of the Commonwealth bank,” she said.
“I feel that we should have acted better than how we did.”
RMIT students acknowledged
RMIT’s Queer officer, Ray Adcock, won the Quiet Achiever Award for their work as the Queer Officer at RMIT.
The Quiet Achiever award is given to queer students who make enormous contributions to the community, outside of traditional activism channels.
Ray had been RMIT Student Union’s Queer Officer since 2017.
They were instrumental in establishing a new venue for the queer department lounge at RMIT’s City Campus.
They were also recognised for their work in increasing awareness of the department on RMIT’s campuses.
Social Impact Award
Best Poster Design
Ursula College – Gender and Sexuality ANU (for campaigning in response to homophobic incidents at Ursula Hall)