UTS’s Watergate – will it go before the courts?

Activist charged over Frances Abbott record hacking, but how serious will ‘they’ consider it?

Report by CHRISTIAN KERR, The Australian

FREYA Newman, the student charged over the computer hacking that led to records of the $60,000 scholarship granted to the Prime Minister’s daughter being leaked to online magazine New Matilda, is part of a new wave of activists who have seized control of the University of Technology, Sydney, student association.

Ms Newman is the association’s women’s officer.

The co-author of the New Matilda article, veteran activist-­journalist Wendy Bacon, has a long association with the university. Although formally retired, Ms Bacon remains involved with its Centre for Independent Journalism as a professorial fellow.

Ms Newman, who is a third-year communications student, touched on a range of hot-button issues in her campaign material for election as women’s officer.

The 20-year-old promised “cross-collective action”, calling for on-campus action on asylum-seekers and action to build links with outside groups, greater ­engagement with Aboriginal and anti-racism groups and the ­creation of “gender and sexuality-based discussion groups and/or events’’.

Ms Newman also boasted about her role in preventing an anti-abortion group affiliating with the UTS union.

She lists her research interests on the academia.edu website as indigenous or Aboriginal studies, settler colonialism and its ­legacies, sovereignty, colonialism, indigenous studies, imperialism and empire. Ms Newman also adds postcolonial feminism, critical race theory, transnational feminism, critical disability studies, feminist disability and gender studies to this list.

She was working as a part-time night librarian at the Whitehouse Institute when computer files were allegedly accessed. The institute has handed over CCTV footage and email evidence.

Ms Newman has been charged with one count of accessing restricted data held in a computer.