Close Manus Island – Rally for Refugees 1 March 2014

Overview of rally at State Library
[Note – this a stitched image and may show slight discrepancies at the seams]

As mentioned in the previous post, the Refugee Action Collective called a rally at the State Library today to protest at the treatment of asylum seekers, calling specifically for the closure of the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, but also an end to mandatory detention and an enquiry into the death of Reza Barati, as well as the resignation of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Attendance was probably not far short of 3000, enough to fill the lawns. Speakers included Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young as well as former detainee Ali Bakhtiavandi and representatives of the Kurdish and Tamil communities. We shall leave others to report on the speeches and content ourselves with the following gallery of photos from the rally, plus a few from the ensuing march to Federation Square, which we were not able to follow to the end.
See the previous post for various links, including this one to the relevant Facebook page for updates:


Ongoing Vigil for Asylum Seekers in Detention – Casselden Place 24 February – 25 March 2014

Protesters outside Department of Immigration Melbourne

In response to the murder of Kurdish Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati in the detention centre on Manus Island last week a small group of protesters has established an ongoing vigil outside the Department of Immigration office at Casselden Place. While determined to maintain the action regardless, they would welcome support and ideally for others to join them. There is a Facebook page here.

Tomorrow, Saturday 1 March, a rally is planned at the State Library at 1pm – see notice here.

The Facebook page of the Refugee Action Collective-Victoria carries links to background material and continuing coverage.

Another view of the vigil

Speakout against gag on Lex Wotton – 20 July 2011

One year after Palm Island Indigenous leader Lex Wotton was released on parole two years into a six-year sentence for riot, the Indigenous Social Justice Association in Melbourne (ISJA)called a speakout to protest at the gag imposed on him as part of his parole conditions. Lead speaker was prominent criminal lawyer Rob Stary; others included musician Ezekiel Ox, Cheryl Kaulfuss from ISJA, and representatives of Radical Women, Anarchist Black Cross, Socialist Alliance and individuals declaring their support for for the campaign.

A slightly cut version of Rob Stary’s address has been posted on YouTube, along with extracts from the rest of the action, which culminated with a symbolic removal of gags from participants to chants of “You can’t gag the movement”.

The video also shows a police patrol which came past just as one speaker was finishing, and a young officer stopping to take a few copies of a “No Room for Racism” sticker from the table:

From ISJA:

Speak out for Lex Wotton’s Political Freedom!
Lift the unfair gag — let Lex speak!
Build the movement to stop Aboriginal deaths in custody

One year ago Lex Wotton was released from jail after serving two-years behind bars as a political prisoner. Lex got a 6-year sentence after being found guilty of riot with destruction by an all-white jury. He took part in a justified community protest against the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee. In contrast, Chris Hurley, the police officer responsible for the death in custody, has been promoted and compensated. The whole response to the 2004 death in custody has been scandalously flawed.

While Lex is free, he remains politically muzzled by harsh parole conditions, which deny him the right to speak to the media or to attend pubic meetings.

Lex Wotton is an inspirational advocate for the people of Palm Island whose voice is needed to expose the shameful truth behind the death of Mulrunji and everything that followed.

Attend the lunch time speak out outside the Bank of Queensland. Demand the Queensland Government lift the political gag on Lex Wotton now! Stop Aboriginal deaths in custody now!

Wednesday 20 July, 2011
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Outside the Bank of Queensland
163 Bourke Street Melbourne.
(Near the corner of Russell Street)

Organised by Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne
PO Box 308, Brunswick, Vic 3056


4 Years too Long – Stop the Intervention – Melbourne, 21 June 2011

The Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective (MAIC) organised a protest outside the office of FaHCSIA – the Department of Families, Health, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to mark the fourth anniversary of the NT Intervention. The rally was one of a series being held across the country – see – and was addressed by a number of speakers from MAIC (including Jasmine Ali, who wound up proceedings but is unfortunately not captioned in the video) and others taking advantage of the open mic.

See also:

MAIC Protest at book launch by Andrew Bolt – 2 May 2011

The Melbourne Anti-intervention Collective (MAIC) called a snap protest on Monday 2 May outside the Celtic Club on Queens Street, where Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt was due to launch a book by academic Gary Johns entitled ‘Aboriginal Self-Determination: The Whiteman’s Dream’. As the callout puts it, they will be :

…openly calling for the destruction of Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal collective identity… Johns argues that Aboriginal culture should be ‘relegated to museums and occasional ceremonies’. He argues that Aboriginal communities should be dispersed and individuals should be forced to chase ‘market opportunities’.

On the contrary, protesters argued that the policies of assimilation and destruction of Aboriginal culture have been tried in the past and have failed, as also ‘[the] evidence mounts of the total failure of the NT Intervention.’

‘… we have seen efforts to destroy Aboriginal communities and culture before. From massacres to missions, from stolen generation right through to the NT Intervention – these area the policies that have created disadvantage and social disfunction – not the as-yet untested policy of self-determination, or Aboriginal culture.’

In spite of the short notice about thirty protesters picketed the main entrance, which management elected to close, while others handed out leaflets at the bar door, which remained open. There did not seem to be a very large attendance at the function, if the numbers arriving at either of these points were any guide. Various members of the Collective took turns at the megaphone, including MC Lucy Honan and Indigenous activist Robbie Thorpe. Extracts of the speeches and interactions with guests arriving for the function can be seen in the YouTube video embedded above.

Protest at Broadmeadows Detention Centre – 2 April 2011

View of protest at gate of centre

Melbourne’s Refugee Action Collective (RAC-Vic) organised a rally and march to the so-called Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre in Broadmeadows, a prison-like facility which currently houses more than 140 young asylum seekers aged 13-18, ‘[most] of them teenage boys whose fathers, brothers or other family members have been killed and their families have sent them out of the country to save their lives’ (RAC-Vic release; see also After gathering in a carpark on Sydney Road, where Greens MLC Colleen Hartland gave a brief address, the rally marched down Camp Road to the centre to protest at the main gate, where there were further speakers, including Hyder Gulam, President of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Nicole Mousely of RAC-Vic, Gilios Kogoya, a West Papuan activist and refugee, Kumar Pathmanathan of the Tamil Refugee Council, Wayne Klempel, AMWU Northern District Secretary, Alex Bhathal of the Greens, North-East Region, and Jacob Lay, a high-school student who read a statement from the point of view of someone the same age as the young people locked up inside…

Rally gathering in carpark

In the carpark

'No-one is illegal' and other placards - in the carpark

In the carpark ...

Colleen Hartland speaking

Colleen Hartland

The march setting off from the carpark - banner reads 'Children out of Detention'

The march sets off ...

Placard 'Five Suicides - Chris Bowen How do you sleep at night?

During a brief stop at the corner of the Hume Highway and Camp Road

Another view of banners during stop at corner

Also during the stop at the corner

Various shots during the march:

The head of the march

Banner at rear of march - 'free the refugees'

Bringing up the rear

Socialist placard on the march
Dog, balloons, Eureka flag etc on march

View of march stretching back into distance along Camp Road

Boy with placard - 'No-one is illegal'

More children with placards on march


Banner on march and Greens triangle - 'Seeking asylum is not illegal'

LaTrobe University RAC banner - 'I ain't afraid of no boats'

At the centre:

Hyder Gulam speaking

Hyder Gulam

Nicole Mousely speaking

Nicole Mousely

Rally from rear - Hyder Gulam speaking

Gilios Kogoya speaking

Gilios Kogoya

Kumar Pathmanathan speaking

Kumar Pathmanathan

Rally listening to Gilios Kogoya

Wayne Klempel speaking

Wayne Klempel

Alex Bhathal speaking

Alex Bhathal

Jacob Lay speaking

Jacob Lay

Sue Bolton of RAC-Vic speaking

Sue Bolton of RAC-Vic

While the speeches were going on, people had the opportunity to add messages to a banner, which would then be strung on the wire:

Adding a message to the cloth banner

Another banner pinned to the wire:

'Free all Political Prisoners' - Anarchist Black Cross banner on wire

Anarchist Black Cross

In conclusion, balloons were released to fly over the centre:

Balloons flying over the centre

But there were interruptions to the planned course of the event: a group of detainees could be seen in the distance at one point waving and shouting, their path to the gate blocked by guards and uniformed police:

Detainees can be seen protesting

One person from the rally managed to scale a side fence and was promptly arrested (she was eventually driven off in police van when most of the rally had dispersed, to loud cheers from those remaining):

Protester being arrested

Protester being marched away

Hand visible in rear window of police van as protester is driven away

A police officer saw fit to spray two protesters, one wheelchair bound, in the face for being too close to the gate (he was soon after removed from the area by his superiors):

Police officer holding capsicum spray can after using it...

Spray victim,s on ground, bathing eyes

Most dramatic, three boys managed to escape as far as the forecourt, where they were quickly surrounded by a protective circle of sympathisers. Unfortunately, one cut himself on the barbed wire in the process and relapsed into shock. An ambulance had to be called, and after some while he seemed quite recovered. After much discussion an agreement was reached by which the three agreed to return voluntarily to the centre, on the basis that there would then be no adverse repercussions …. In the meantime, the ambulance had been summoned to the centre itself, where the word was that there had been another instance of self-harm. This could not be confirmed.

Boy leaping over fence
The above photo was originally posted with the boy’s face blurred, in response to a message requesting that no photos identifying the escapees should be published. This request was widely ignored at the time, and was apparently rescinded later in the afternoon, on which basis this and the next three photos are now added*:

Boy being attended to after jumping fence

Another shot of boy

Support for escapee

*There is some discussion of this in the comments to the Indymedia report linked to below.

The ambulance crew tend to the boys

Ambulance enters centre followed by car of worker at centre

The ambulance crew were then called to attend to 'a potentially life-threatening emergency' in the centre.

(The car following the ambulance was driven by a worker at the centre who had arrived earlier for his shift but had been unable to get in…)

Boys walk back to centre escorted by guards

Placard left at gate - image of child with crust of bread

At time of writing there does not seem to have been any mainstream media reporting of the event; at least one camera crew were present at the start, but stayed only a very short time. Perhaps this attitude of the media goes some way towards explaining why so few people in Melbourne even know of the existence of the centre?

(Added 6.40pm – the ABC 7pm news yesterday evening apparently did carry a report of the event, though as stated above, the reporters had left before the breakout etc. There has been more coverage of the day’s events on Melbourne Indymedia here and here, including links to video on YouTube, showing amongst other things, the use of capsicum spray.)

(Added 6.52pm – this has just appeared on the ABC website –

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.