UNSW have piloted a student experience reference group in 2020 to reflect and engage with diverse lived experiences and needs of the student body within university programs and broader decision making.

To ensure the Division of EDI is developing principles that are equitable, inclusive and relevant to the diverse student and staff community, this necessitates a duty to thoroughly consult with the broader UNSW community. The need for more diverse, student-centred forums emerged as a key strategy to foster communal understanding.

The Student Lived Experience Advisory Group (LEAG) was established as a solution to accurately identify and remedy the concerns of diverse student perspectives. Students provide consultation in the development and implementation process of EDI-related initiatives at UNSW. This experience also enables students to foster key professional skills.

The LEAG has recruited 14 current UNSW students with lived experience of equity, diversity, and inclusion. The project offers students paid, workplace development opportunities and the ability to build positive relationships with current students, while increasing students’ awareness and understanding of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion across UNSW.

“The aim is to make sure the Division is centring our students’ lived experience in decision making, creating space for students to be actively involved in advancing UNSW’s social justice agenda, and providing supportive pathways for students to develop their professional skills,” Farhana Laffernis, UNSW Project Officer said.

The appointed pilot group reflect the vibrant cohort of students across UNSW. Indigenous students, the LGBTIQ+ community, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, mature students, students with disability, women in STEMM fields, and parents and carers have all been selected to provide nuanced perspectives on complex issues.

“Being part of the EDI Lived Experience Advisory Group is an opportunity to advocate for other students with similar experiences at UNSW. EDI believe in a “nothing about us without us” approach and see this group as a way to make sure we work in partnership with students in everything we do,” Farhana said.

Students consult on a wide range of campaigns and projects and contribute to policy review, the improvement of processes, communications, events, responses to social movements and brainstorming creative ideas. This process enables students to strengthen their advocacy, public speaking, chairing meetings, leadership skills, whilst broadening their understanding of developing and contributing to an equitable, inclusive and diverse working environment.

A co-design workshop has been held with students to develop the Terms of Reference and scope of the group, whilst the first group meeting provided an opportunity for members to share their insights and feedback on divisional initiatives for 2021.

Should you wish to get in touch with the Student Lived Experience Advisory Group, please email Farhana Laffernis at edi@unsw.edu.au.