From Green Left Weekly*:
MELBOURNE — More than 500 people attended a protest called by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) outside the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs on January 24. Many city workers attended the lunchtime rally to protest the government’s refugee policy. There were also contingents from the Australian Nurses Federation and the Victorian Independent Education Union (VIEU).
The rally heard about the appalling conditions inside Woomera detention centre from Mohammed Aljanabi, who was detained there for seven months before being granted a temporary protection visa.
Pamela Curr from the Greens explained that hunger-striking refugees in the Maribyrnong detention centre had been refused influenza medication unless they agreed to eat something. Curr made a passionate plea for people to make it clear that the government is not acting in their name by protesting, including attending a February 12 protest outside the opening of parliament in Canberra.
Australian Education Union (AEU) federal president Rob Durbridge called on the ALP to withdraw support for the mandatory detention policy which it introduced while in government. Durbridge also called for the children locked up in detention centres to be allowed the right to educated at schools alongside Australian children.
VIEU general secretary Tony Keenan told the rally that, as a member of the ALP, he also called on it to change policy. Keenan pointed out that the so called “school” children in detention only had access to primary schooling. Older children are denied access to appriopriate education. The AEU and the VIEU have passed motions condemning mandatory detention.
Graham Matthews from the Socialist Alliance argued strongly that only the “power of the people” could free the refugees. He also urged protesters to mobilise that power in Canberra on February 12.</p.
After the rally about 100 protestors staged a brief occupation of the DIMA office. The protestors were applauded by people in the office waiting area when they were informed of the reason for the protest.
From Green Left Weekly:
After organising Australia-wide emergency 24-hour hunger strikes in solidarity with protesting refugees between January 24-27, Resistance is calling on more young people to do the same.
“Philip Ruddock claims that hunger striking indicates ‘cultural’ inferiority”, said Resistance spokesperson Kate Wilson. “But desperate acts are very human reactions to a completely inhuman detention. Our actions show that we too, are prepared to take serious action, to fight racism and persecution.”
See note here