Murdoch Women’s Collective in leadership meltdown

New women’s representative quits 5 days after by-election

By Madura McCormack


  • July 8: Women’s Representative Bianca Talbot quits in a Facebook post
  • July 21: Guild Council receives two nominations for new Women’s Rep
  • August 3: Rebecca Leighton wins by- election by one vote.
  • August 5: Leighton releases statement regarding her opposition to the invitation of a speaker for SHAG Week which was proposed by her predecessor and approved by the Guild
  • August 7: Rebecca Leighton resigns after disagreement with Guild members

It has been a tumultuous month for the Murdoch Women’s Collective, with incumbent representative Rebecca Leighton quitting after just 5 days in the post.

The final year law student won a tight by-election that was held to replace predecessor Bianca Talbot, who vacated her post in July.

Announcing her new role on August 3, Leighton quit soon after a public disagreement with the Guild over a decision that was made before she took office.

Fight over use of student funds

The former women’s representative, Bianca Talbot, had planned for a member of national feminist group Collective Shout to speak during the upcoming Guild sponsored SHAG Week [Sexual Health Awareness Guidance Week].

It was alleged that $600 had been paid to Caitlin Roper from Collective Shout following Guild approval to speak at the event, which will be about the objectification of women in the media.

The Guild has confirmed that the sum has not been paid, and are currently discussing whether the event should be cancelled.

UPDATE: The Guild has cancelled the event.

Leighton opposes the idea of having Collective Shout speak at the event, releasing a statement to voice her disapproval over what they advocate, and claims the speaker has no relevant credentials and is ‘just an activist’.

“I simply demanded accountability for the misuse of student funds and an opportunity to ensure all views were heard if these people were to speak at a Guild-sponsored event,” Leighton says.

Education Vice President Roland Belford says that while the funds would have come from the Student Services and Amenities Fee [SSAF], no guidelines were broken.

The SSAF is a compulsory fee paid by all students, with the amount depending on whether the student is external, internal, part-time or full-time. The amount is then split equally between the University and the Guild.

Belford says going ahead with the event would promote a dialogue across campus on intersectional feminism.

Guild President Raeesah Khan, who supports Leighton, says the event should be cancelled.

“Collective Shout is pro-life, victim blames and is transphobic… morally as the Guild that’s not what we want,” Khan says.

Women's Rep for 5 days and Education Vice President in 2011, Rebecca Leighton. Source: supplied
Women’s Rep for 5 days and Education Vice President in 2011, Rebecca Leighton.
Source: supplied

Previous drama

This episode follows on from the sudden resignation of Bianca Talbot on July 8, after a spat with Guild President Raeesah Khan on the Women’s Collective closed Facebook group.

Talbot, who has been in Switzerland for a human rights law course, left due to opposing political ideologies and ‘poor leadership’ by the Guild President, Khan says.

Update: Talbot denies this, stating that she resigned because she was “not allowed to represent those that are considered to be ‘conservative’ on campus“.

A by-election was then held within the Murdoch Women’s Collective, who like the Murdoch Queer Collective, enjoy autonomous voting.

This means the representative is elected by students in the collective and not by Guild Council.

9 out of approximately 100 members of the collective voted.

Due to recent events, the Guild has decided to switch back to the status quo. The next women’s representative must obtain 25 signatures of support from female-identifying students, after which the Guild will decide whether to accept the application, reject it, or leave the position vacant.

“I think it’s important because gender inequality still exists,” Khan says, on the relevance of the Women’s Collective.

“It’s important that women have an avenue to discuss the inequalities they face and to provide perspective to the governing body [Guild Council].”

The Murdoch Women’s Collective is part of the Student Guild and is ‘comprised of Female identifying Murdoch students who meet to discuss women’s specific issues on campus’, according to the Guild website.

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