Melbourne Protests to take a break …

After ten years of reporting protest actions in Melbourne, both on a succession of now-vanished websites and on the present and previous incarnations of Melbourne Indymedia, and most recently on this blog, it is time to take a break. Melbourne Indymedia will hopefully continue to find contributors willing and able to file citizen journalism, and sites such as slackbastard and Eco-shout are still there and going strong…
Failing an outbreak of revolutionary fervour before then, regular posts should start again next March.

11 December – if you have come to this page looking for a report of protests in Melbourne in support of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, please visit Melbourne Indymedia as suggested above, and the special Wikileaks rally site here.

Pre-Election Rally – Justice for Mr Ward… 24 November 2010

Following a call from the family of West Australian Aboriginal elder Mr Ward, who died in the back of a prison van in horrific circumstances in January 2008 (see and, the Indigenous Social Justice Association — Melbourne (ISJA-Melb) organised a pre-election rally to demand an end to the privatisation of prisons, the termination of all contracts with G4S (formerly GSL, the company operating the prison transport van in which Mr Ward died), an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody, and justice for Mr Ward:

G4S, the British global security giant, is a company that has blood on its hands. Meanwhile, state governments try to wash their hands of any responsibility. While families of those who’ve lost a loved one in custody are left wringing their hands with grief.

Mr Ward, an Aboriginal elder, died in the back of a prison transport van in January 2008. For nearly 4 hours he was locked in the back with no air-conditioning and no other source of ventilation. The guards driving him, from private contractor Global Solutions Ltd, now G4S, did not check on him during the journey. The total trip was nearly 1,000 kilometres, much of it in extreme heat of 42 degrees. A police reconstruction of the journey showed surface temperatures inside the van reached at least 50C. The West Australian Coroner found the death of this well respected Warburton Elder, was caused by heatstroke sustained while being transported in the van. He said that it was “wholly unnecessary and avoidable.”

The company has a shocking record. The Victorian coroner found it contributed to a 2005 death in Port Phillip prison and that the company failed to provide a safe environment at the prison when four men hanged themselves in 1997. G4S made international headlines again on October 14 this year when a man in their care, being deported from the UK to Angola, died while being heavily restrained with what witnesses say was excessive force.

G4S, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, profits from human misery. Its nett income in 2009 was 219.2 million pounds. It’s the world’s largest security company, with operations in more than 110 countries.

We’ll serve a log of claims on the Minister demanding:
• G4S be stripped of all contracts it has been awarded by the Victorian State Government
• An end to deaths in custody — full implementation of the
339 recommendations of the 1987 – 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
• An end to privatisation of custodial services
• Immediate cessation of the Victorian Taser trial — make Victoria a Taser free zone!

The rally, at Parliament House, was addressed by Mary Micallef of ISJA, who detailed the history of Mr Ward’s death and other cases of abuse of Aboriginal people, and by Socialist Party candidate for the seat of Richmond Stephen Jolly. MC was Alison Thorne of ISJA and the Freedom Socialist Party, and an acknowledgement of Aboriginal ownership was made by Sean Prickard, also of ISJA. Also present were two nieces of Mr Ward, Lisa and Tanya, and the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (WA) Inc had sent a banner to be displayed on the occasion. Alison Thorne also read a message of solidarity from Marianne Mackay of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (see also The Ecological, Social Justice, Aboriginal Party and article in Treaty Republic).

The protest then moved to the Spring Street office of the new Prison and Corrections Minister James Merlino, where it was intended to deliver a list of demands, as set out above. Initially it seemed there was agreement that a delegation of three would be allowed in to deliver the letter, but when they attempted to do so they were turned back. So the letter will have to be sent through the post. Trent Hawkins, Socialist Alliance candidate and one of the peace protesters arrested at Swan Island last June (see report on Melbourne Indymedia) contrasted the way he as a whitefella was handled by police with the treatment routinely handed out to Aboriginal people, and Marisa of 3CR’s Doin Time program read a media release from an Aboriginal activist arrested at a Mr Ward protest. Aboriginal elder Richard Kennedy also spoke, describing some of his experiences at the hands of police.

The rally was supported by a range of groups and organisations, with representatives of women prisoner support group Flat Out especially visible.

Rally for Equal Marriage Rights – 20 November 2010

Equal Love banner at head of march

There was a huge turnout in Melbourne for the final rally before Victoria’s state election, and a list of speakers to match – see report on Equal Love website . Saturday was also International Trans Remembrance Day, and Transgender Victoria spokesperson Sally Goldner called for a minute’s silence to mark victims of bigotry. After the speeches at the State Library – and the now-traditional competition for the best placard – there was a loud and colourful march through the CBD to the old Treasury Building, where Equal Love convenor Ali Hogg gave a final address, looking ahead to more actions in 2011.

Photos from the rally and march – these and more are included in a slideshow on YouTube, along with some brief video clips from the latter part of the march (there is more video on the Equal Love website referred to above). Most need no caption…

Crowd on State Library lawns

LOVE formed from wire with messages on ribbons attached

In the crowd - 'I luff my girlfriend' t-shirt

Sally Goldner speaking

Sally Goldner

Puppets kissing - 'Brumby' and 'Bailieu'

Group at head of march before setting of

Peaking through the lead banner

On the march - placards calling for 'Equality', 'Don't like Gay Marriage?/Don't have one'

Hanna Williams and her partner lead the march and chanting

Hanna Williams and her partner lead the march and chanting

Australian flag modified - pink background

Socialist Party banner on march

Two of the many dogs on the march

Another dog - in pink and rainbow  'dress'

Yet another dog - with rainbow 'cravat'

Newly-wed couple overtaken by the march up Collins Street

This couple had been posing for wedding photos outside a church in Collins Street

Placard at end of march - 'Julia can marry a hairdresser/Why can't I?'

March up Collins Street, seen from steps of Treasury Building


Video of final stages of march:

Delivering ‘No Dump’ petition to Martin Ferguson’s office – 18 November 2010

Dave Sweeney holds petition with other campaigners alongside trailer

Since the Australian Conservation Foundation launched its campaign against the proposed nuclear waste dump at Muckaty in the Northern Territory some 2700 signatures have been collected on the ‘Dump the Dump’ petition. (See also report on this site for 26 July 2010.) Today, Dave Sweeney, ACF nuclear free campaigner, went to Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson’s office to deliver the petition, accompanied by anti-nuclear activists including members of Friends of the Earth ACE collective, who brought a trailer loaded with drums of ‘radioactive waste’ to highlight the message. (See also Nuclear Freeways.)

The office was locked down, as seems to be the way when concerned citizens want to make contact with their Member of Parliament, and it took the good offices of a police officer to get the door opened. Even then only two people were admitted, and the door hastily closed to prevent others from following. There was also an elderly gentleman who arrived on some business to find the door locked, but he was informed his was a matter for the State member and redirected accordingly. It was not clear what would have happened otherwise. After a short while the two re-emerged, along with the accompanying police office, in proud possession of a hand-written receipt for the petition ‘addressed to Martin Ferguson’. Various plain-clothes AFP and others arrived in the meantime, but this also seems to be the way where Minister Ferguson is concerned…

Dave Sweeney poses with petition

Dave Sweeney poses with petition

Elderly gentleman tries to get in

Elderly gentleman tries to get in

Policeman tries to get him allowed in

Police come to his aid

Elderly gentleman, Dave Sweeney and police officer waiting outside


Going in, folowed by police officer

Two are allowed in...

Staffer blocks entry

But only two ...

Staffer reaches across to close door. Dave Sweeney holds up petition inside office.

And no more.

They re-emerge, Dave Sweeney holding receipt

Out again...

Closeup of receipt

The receipt

Dave Sweeney and children pose on trailor

Posing for a few closing pics...

Picket at BHP Billiton Melbourne office – 16 November

LASNET and other banners outside BHP Billiton office

Protests were held today in several centres across the country to mark BHP Billiton’s AGM in Perth. In Melbourne, members of Friends of the Earth ACE collective and activists representing the Indigenous peoples of Latin America held banners outside the company headquarters in Lonsdale Street and distributed pamphlets setting out the case against it. Probably not many of those who took the pamphlets in Melbourne would have been shareholders, but any that were were encouraged to contact BHP Shareholders for Social Responsibility to support a resolution calling for the company ‘to improve its environmental and social performance’ (email: bhpethical/at/ Otherwise, the pamphlet contained information on issues relating to human rights abuses and labour rights, mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples, water, radioactive waste, nuclear weapons proliferation, racism and injustice regarding the company’s operations at Roxby Downs, and more, ending with an extract from a speech by Arabunna Elder Uncle Kevin Buzacott “Here you are, BHP, the biggest mining company in the world, and here we are, the oldest peoples in the world. You should be listening to us …”

A passer-by takes pamphlet

No more band-aid solutions – End the Housing Crisis! – 12 November 2010

(See report also on Melbourne Indymedia.

“Take to the streets!” was a recurring theme in speeches at a rally organised by housing action group City is Ours last Friday at the office of Victorian State Housing Minister Richard Wynne. The list of speakers included Socialist Party candidate for the seat of Richmond – Richard Wynne’s seat – Stephen Jolly, Indigenous activist Sharon Firebrace, Annie Nash of Flat Out, a service for women leaving prison, Andy*, who has been working for the past ten years with the homeless and injecting/illicit drugs users, and Richard Tate, convenor of Homeless Front, a group who have already picketed Richard Wynne’s office over the homelessness issue – see report on this site for August 4th A ghost from the past,Henry Lawson, a poet with first-hand experience of homelessness, shared parts of his work “Faces in the Street”, and music was supplied by Little Hotel de Ville, currently playing on Thusdays at Lentil as Anything – details here.

MC was Iain McIntyre of City is Ours.

Local reception of the protest was mostly positive, with the exception of one ill-tempered person who saw fit to drive a pusher through the middle, scattering small children and running over someone’s foot. The office itself, in spite of the advertised opening hours, was closed…

By the end of the rally the message had been delivered loud and clear, and also spelled out in bandaids on the window.

*Had clearance from his employer to speak at the rally on condition he did not identify his workplace. See Annie Nash’s remarks on the video.

End Mandatory Detention – Rally and March 7 November 2010

Banner at head of march - End Mandatory Detention

Several hundred people took part in a rally and march organised by the Refugee Advocacy Network to demand an end to the policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers arriving by boat. MC Pamela Curr introduced a series of strong speakers, including a late addition to the list in the person of Malalai Joya, former member of the Parliament of Afghanistan now in exile:

Malalai Joya speaking

Her speech can be heard in full in this YouTube video:

Other speakers included Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young:

Sarah Hanson-Young

Amongst other things Senator Hanson-Young said we are not yet anywhere near bringing in a more humane approach to dealing with the needs of asylum seekers. Although the government has now admitted that it does detain children and has undertaken to start to release them ‘over time’, this was a good start, ‘but nowhere near where we need to be.’ She recalled how she came to politics in 2001 over this issue, and with the election of the labor government in 2007 had thought she needed to look for another focus: ‘But since 2007 we have learned pretty quickly that promises are broken.’
She referred to the recent visit of Opposition leader Tony Abbot to Adelaide ‘to whip up fear around having a detention facility that would house families in the Adelaide hills.’ She did not believe there should be mandatory detention at all, ‘but I also do not believe that whipping up fear around the idea of having asylum
seekers in the Adelaide hills … is a responsible thing for a leader to do.’ It was time to take the politics out of it [this issue], there needed to be a consensus of all parties ‘that making politics out of the lives of vulnerable people is not right, it shouldn’t bring you votes, and we all should be a bit bigger than that…’

Next was Michele O’Neil, State Secretary, TCFUA – a union much involved with migrant women in particular:

Michele O'Neil

‘The union that I represent has a proud history of having within its ranks , within its membership, many many people that arrived in Australia as refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.’ But it was not just the TCFUA which benefitted from this diversity, rather the whole country, ‘because the workers of Australia are a migrant people who have joined with our Indigenous population to create the land we have today.’ It was therefore an extraordinary thing that we should be having this debate about how to treat current arrivals when so many of our ancestors, families and neighbours arrived in similar ways. She emphasised the need for a total ban on mandatory detention, notr piecemeal changes to policy. She acknowledged the positive step of the recent announcement about releasing children, but stressed that it was not due to take effect immediately, but by the middle of 2011, and applied only to ‘the majority’. What was there to be fearful of that it should take so long? And what did it mean to say ‘the majority’ rather than all? And the terms under which these people were to be released did not allow them to work, move freely, or choose where to live. ‘This is not living in the community in an normal sense,’ not even a return to the position pre-1993. ‘It is still a very small change to what is a fundamentally unjust and unfair system.’ And why was it needed? What was
driving the fear, paranoia and xenophobia? She read some of the facts regarding the numbers seeking asylum in Australia compared to the rest of the world, eg that in 2009 Australia received 0.6% of asylum seekers worldwide; that of 377,160 applications in 44 industrialised countries Australia received only 6170, which was 1.6%. So ‘this fear is based on inaccurate information and myth …. people that want to divide the people of this country instead of bringing us together.’ And this is also, this is an issue which she and her union care about and speak about: ‘We care about it because it is about the same fundamental issues – if you care about fighting for justice, if you care about people’s rights, if you care about the right for people in the workplace to be treated with dignity and respect and to be safe, you have to care about how it is that we treat people who are fleeing some of the worst and most terrible situations that you can imagine, looking for refuge, looking for asylum, who arrive in our land and who we then lock up…’

Pamela Curr read a message from Tamil refugees still detained in Indonesia (see media release from the support group RISE) in a centre paid for by Australian taxpayers (this message is posted as MP3 on Melbourne Indymedia), before introducing Malalai Joya – see above – who was followed by Hong Lim, State Labor MP and representative at the rally of the Indo-Chinese community:

Hong Lim speaking

He had come to Australia as a refugee from Cambodia 40 years ago ‘at a time when everybody was so caring and sharing, but 40 years later I must say that some people will try to break that tradition.’ He referred to the post-WWII arrival of more than one million refugees – ‘ask the Jewish community here’ – and the generosity of Austrlians in raising proportionately more than seven times as much in donations to help Cambodian refugees than the British at the time. But now in BRitain there are more than 80,000 asylum seekers and refugees, ‘and here we 4000 and some people jumping up and down complaining’ with talk of an ‘invasion’. He suggested people should look at Springvale, Richmond and Footscray ‘to see what the
Indo-Chinese [refugees] have proven themselves’. They contribute significantly to the economy and are the link to China, Vietnam and so on. We could not allow politicians to poison our minds, our traditions, our customs, our honour any more ‘We must fight them every inch of the way, because they are wrong. They are wrong.’

Brian Walters SC, Greens candidate for the seat of Melbourne, was the last of the speakers before the march:

Brian Walters speaking

He began his address with the words ‘My fellow boat people’ and the opening words of the national
anthem: ‘Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and [pause] free…’ This was one of the values we proclaim, a love for freedom ‘and when people take is at our word, fleeing unimaginable persecution, and come here asking for our help … we lock them up in mental illness factories in remote places behind razor
wire.’ We also value the rule of law, but have decided that it does not apply to whole areas of the country – the excised regions. He was scornful of those who talk about ‘border protection’ – ‘as if people coming wanting the protection of our borders threaten [them].’ ‘When people come across the sea they bring with
them boundless riches that we can share. They enrich our community and what a great day it will be when we end this evil misery of mandatory detention, which is such a stain on our nation [applause]. And then we can really sing that we can “advance Australia fair”‘.

There followed a march down Swanston Street to Federation Square:

Gilios speaking at Federation Square

Gilios, himself a West Papuan refugee, spoke of the work of RISE, an organisation supporting Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees, but first asking for a minute’s silence in memory of a young member of his community who had been killed in a car accident a few days before….

Sister Brigid speaking

Last speaker was Sister Brigid Arthur of the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project, who described her visits to young Hazaras in the little-known Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre and families in the Maribyrnong Detention Centre. Her address, which was very compelling, is available as an MP3 on Melbourne Indymedia.

The rally ended with an emphatic statement of the core demand, followed by a lineup of banners:

Lineup on steps at Federation Square