CW: Sexual assault
Tanya Findlater is a Willowbank loving, third year Media Film and Communications student here at Otago. Aside from her studies, Tanya is also the head of Thursdays In Black at Otago, as well as a board member for Dunedin Pride.
For Tanya, community activism started early. “With Dunedin Pride, it started in high school. I was interested in creating the Rainbow Diversity group in my school, and then after high school I thought ‘oh shit what am I doing now?’” She then became involved with OUSA Queer Support, an organisation that offers support around sexual orientation and gender identity, including a wide range of services. “Peer support involves when someone contacts student support being like ‘I’m struggling with something’ and they’re like ‘ok here’s some of the profiles for some of the queer supporters and we hope you feel like you can match well with one of them’. It’s about having a board to bounce back off.” Tanya works as the Contact Officer for Dunedin Pride, which involves helping facilitating events and social media management. “Dunedin is a really transient city with all the students, so we want to make it sustainable for each generation coming through, and make each generation proud to be here.”
Tanya is also the head of Thursdays in Black at Otago, which is a student run campaign working towards a world free from sexual violence. They encourage everyone to wear black on Thursday’s in solidarity and support with survivors of sexual violence. “There’s no denying that we have a problematic culture within the world at large with consent and sexual violence. It’s also bad when you centre in on New Zealand, then worse when you centre in on Dunedin. It’s a spiral of ‘this is a community that needs to care’, and we can’t ignore the really messed up culture we have to do with it.”
As a group, Thursdays in Black sets up weekly events around campus including free tea and coffee (based off the cup of tea and consent), interactive events like screen-printing, and getting people to write what consent means to them on post-it notes. The main idea is to start a healthy conversation about sexual harm prevention around campus. “Women think about it as a scary topic and a lot of guys switch off, as if being associated with sexual violence prevention makes them associated with sexual violence; they’re two very different things and it’s okay to make the world a better place. You’re not going to be pigeonholed as an offender.”
Tanya was one of the twelve recipients of the Kiwibank Local Hero award in 2018. She won the award for her involvement with the queer community around Dunedin. “It’s something that I care about. Pride and sexual violence prevention – I feel like it’s something everyone should ideally be into. It’s something to pass the time, like, why not? Why wouldn’t I get stuck into them? I gotta procrastinate from Uni somehow, might as well make a difference.”
You can contact Thursdays In Black at email@example.com, or Dunedin Pride through their Facebook page.