The priority of the “Grievance Policy” is to ensure NOWSA is as safe, inclusive, and as beneficial to all participants as possible. Our aim with this policy 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 any conflicts that throughout the conference in a way that allows for everyone to feel safe and able to participate in NOWSA.
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 their needs and desires. The NOWSA Organising Committee recognise that conflicts, violence and other incidents can have impacts beyond the parties immediately involved and affect the space more generally. As such, we believe it is important to have an open and transparent process, and one that is broadly accountable to all NOWSA participants.
It is probable that there will be some conflict in the time that we are engaged in the NOWSA 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.
The Grievance Collective will also have members with experience in mental health first aid, and can be contacted in situations where you are not feeling safe or comfortable. They are there to listen and help in any ways you might need.
Standards of Behaviour
As participants in the temporary community of NOWSA, we all have the right to expect a basic standard of behaviour from each other. These behaviours are outlined in the NOWSA 2015 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 NOWSA community in responding to the situation in whatever way they prefer.
The Grievance Collective
- The Grievance Collective is made up of volunteers who may nominate themselves before the conference. Upon arrival and registration there will be a brief grievance training workshop upon the commencement of NOWSA.
- The members of Grievance Collective will be made known to the conference on the first day of the conference. Grievance Officers will attend all workshops where possible and will make themselves known at the beginning of the workshop.
- 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.
- Grievance Officers will be identified with a different lanyard than the other attendees. Grievance Officers not wearing this lanyard are not able 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.
- The grievance Officers have the right to self-care and breaks;
- Grievance Officers are acting in their capacity as a volunteer and are not required to hear any grievances or be in any situation that makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable, and will seek to defer the grievance to another Officer when this happens.
- Grievance procedures aim to be supportive, collaborative and compassionate.
- If there are any conflicts of interests that arise in the Grievance Collective during the conference they must be declared.
Every situation needs be dealt with individually and in a way that reflects the needs and wishes of the parties involved, and the wider NOWSA community. We also need to recognise that NOWSA 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, and must be resolved to the best abilities of those involved before the conference is over. For issues that require ongoing strategies for resolution, strategies and actions should be collectively developed with the Grievance Collective and the aggrieved parties’ University women’s collectives to ensure that ongoing resolutions and care are available to the parties involved.
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.
Collective Community Response
As NOWSA 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 NOWSA 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.
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/self-facilitation: 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 stop speaking over or silencing other people’s contributions, or to be more mindful of consent and physical/emotional boundaries.
- 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 NOWSA 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 NOWSA. 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.
- Autonomous grievance resolution: Individuals may wish for their grievances to be resolved within their relevant autonomous collectives or caucuses (Indigenous, WoC, Queer, Disabilities, etc) to ensure that the mediation process is appropriate and safe.
The NOWSA 2017 Organising Committee would like to take the time to thank each and every NOWSA attendee for respecting these guidelines. It is important to understand that constructive discussions are beneficial to wider causes, but that these conversations must be carried out with respect for others.