Let Them Stay! – Rally against returning refugees to Nauru – 4 February 2016.

Following the High Court’s ruling that off-shore detention on Nauru was legal, protests erupted around Australia, including one called at 24 hours’ notice at the State Library in Melbourne:



For once this and other rallies received considerable traditional media attention, in addition to the extensive coverage on social platforms. First stop would be the event’s Facebook page, but there were reports also in The Age and on the ABC (focused on Sydney), for example. As always, accounts of the numbers present varied, but at its peak, a figure of around five thousand seemed reasonable. For such short notice it was a remarkable achievement.

At the of this post will be found a Media Release from the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, along with some recent statements from the UN regarding Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. One of the speakers at the rally was Alex Bhathal of The Greens, and the following links are from her Facebook page:


Part 2 of this article can be found here: http://junkee.com/72869/72869

The other main speakers were Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre; Mohammad Ali Baqiri, former detainee on Nauru; Michele O’Neil of the TCFUA; and Colin Long of the NTEU.

The rally began with speakers at the State Library, followed by a march down Swanston Street to Bourke Street, then along Bourke Street as far as the intersection with Exhibition Street, which was occupied for a time (Liberal Party Headquarters are just north of this point), then continuing up to Spring Street and so on to the Department of Immigration at Casselden Place, where there was a further sit-down. The arrangement of the photos following reflects these stages:

At the State Library –










On the march:



The first sit-down:




More on the march:




At Casselden Place:







MEDIA RELEASE – 4TH February, 2016


Brisbane’s St John’s Anglican Cathedral, amongst others, has been declared a place of sanctuary for asylum seekers facing deportation after yesterday’s High Court decision which allowed for their imminent removal to Nauru.
Anglican Dean of Brisbane, the Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt says he is declaring the church as a sanctuary, given the trauma and abuse these asylum seekers face if deported.

“The High Court’s decision means 267 people including 37 babies face imminent removal to Nauru.  They could be issued notices at any time and ordered to leave Australia within 72 hours,” said Dr Catt.

“This is a hugely significant action for any Australian church to take.  Historically churches have afforded sanctuary to those seeking refuge from brutal and oppressive forces.

“We offer this refuge because there is irrefutable evidence from health and legal experts that the circumstances asylum seekers, especially children, would face if sent back to Nauru are tantamount to state-sanctioned abuse,” said the Very Rev’d Dr Catt.

“This fundamentally goes against our faith, so our church community is compelled to act, despite the possibility of individual penalty against us”.

“It is an extraordinary step.  It is a step that will attract the attention of church communities around the world.

“The ancient principle of sanctuary goes back to The Old Testament, and was enshrined in English Common Law.  Where a state is causing grievous harm, churches can provide sanctuary and immunity from arrest by authorities.  The legality of Sanctuary has never been tested under Australian law, nevertheless we are determined to apply its moral precepts and protect the most vulnerable from certain harm.”

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer for the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, said that “Cathedrals that have offered to protect asylum seekers from deportation to a place where people face, rape, sexual assault, and unimaginable conditions, include: St John’s Cathedral Brisbane, St George’s Cathedral Perth, St David’s Cathedral Hobart and Christchurch Cathedral Darwin.

She also said that “many priests and vicars of local churches who feel compelled to provide the moral leadership that their position requires, have also offered Sanctuary. These include: St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church; Darlington, WA; Perth Wesley Uniting Church; Gosford Anglican Church; Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide; St. John’s Uniting Church Essendon; Paddington Anglican Church, Pitt Street Uniting Church and the Wayside Chapel in Sydney. Many other churches have offered to support the Sanctuaries in various ways”.

A press conference will be held on Thursday 4th February at 10.30am with The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt at St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane.

Media spokespeople:

The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt, Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce: 0404 052 494
Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce: 0428 399 739

Misha Coleman | Executive Officer (Wed, Thurs, Fri)
Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce
Telephone 0428 399 739 | Email info@acrt.com.au
Follow us on Facebook | Join us on Twitter | Visit our website

John Ball
International Programs Co-ordinator, Act for Peace
jball@actforpeace.org.au | T +613 96506811 | M +61412528514  F +613 96508383  Skype: john.ball4
Level 4, 306 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC  3000, Australia


Best interests of the child must come first, UN child rights committee reminds Australia

GENEVA (3 February  2016) – The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has reminded the Australian authorities that, under the terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a party,  the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration when taking any decision concerning children.

The Committee was reacting to the decision by the Australian High Court that the government’s policy of detaining asylum seekers offshore is legal, thereby clearing the way for more than 260 people currently in Australia, including dozens of children and infants, to be deported to an immigration processing centre in Nauru.

“The Committee had already expressed its concern in 2012 when it reviewed Australia at ‘the inadequate understanding and application of the principle of the best interests of the child in asylum-seeking, refugee and/or immigration detention situations’,”* said Committee Chair Benyam Mezmur. “This decision by the High Court greatly concerns us as these children and their families face a great risk in being sent to a place that cannot be considered safe nor adequate.”

Among those who could face deportation are reportedly 54 children, as well as 37 babies who were born in Australia.

Article 3 (1) of the Convention states:  “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”


*Committee on the Rights of the Child review findings on Australia 2012 – see paragraph 31


For more information and media requests, please contact Liz Throssell  +41 (0) 22 917 9466 / +41 79 752 0488


The Committee on the Rights of the Child:

Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified to date by 196 States):

For your news websites and social media: Multimedia content & key messages relating to our news releases are available on UN

Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handles:

Twitter: @UNHumanRights
Facebook: unitednationshumanrights
Instagram: unitednationshumanrights
Google+: unitednationshumanrights
Youtube: unohchr




Comment by the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, on the possible transfer of 267 people from Australia to Nauru

GENEVA (3 February 2016) – We are very concerned about the situation of the 267 people, including up to 80 children, at risk of being transferred from Australia to Nauru following the High Court’s decision delivered this morning in Canberra.

Central to the decision was a retrospective amendment to the Migration Act which was passed by the Australian Parliament shortly after the case was initiated and which validated the offshore processing of asylum seekers. We are concerned that
this amendment, as well as broader aspects of Australia’s policy on the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers arriving without prior authorisation, significantly contravenes the letter and spirit of international human rights law.

Most of these people were reportedly brought to Australia from Nauru to receive medical treatment and are in a fragile physical and mental state. The group includes more than 12 women and at least one child who have allegedly suffered sexual assault or harassment while in Nauru. The group also includes 37 children born in Australia.

We believe that transferring these 267 individuals to Nauru could further damage their physical and mental health, and would put Australia at risk of breaching its obligation not to return any person to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under the Convention against Torture. Moreover, sending these children to Nauru could contravene Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We remind Australia that children, regardless of their legal status, have the right to be treated as children first and foremost, and urge Australia to ensure that the principle of the best interests of the child
takes precedence over migration management or administrative considerations.

While we appreciate Australia’s efforts to upgrade medical facilities in Nauru, the country is still not equipped to respond to the needs of severely traumatized individuals, including children. In addition, there are inadequate systems for child protection, education or social welfare in place. Several independent inquiries, including the 2014 Philip Moss inquiry and the 2015 Senate inquiry, have found that Nauru is neither a safe nor an appropriate environment to send  people in situations of vulnerability to, in particular children.

We therefore urge the Australian Government to refrain from transferring all concerned individuals to Nauru.


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 /rcolville@ohchr.org)or Cécile

Pouilly(+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

For your news websites and social media: Multimedia content & key messages relating to our news releases are available on UN

Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handles:

Twitter: @UNHumanRights
Facebook: unitednationshumanrights
Instagram: unitednationshumanrights
Google+: unitednationshumanrights
Youtube: unohchr







Bust the Budget Rally and March – 6 July 2014

Child with homemade placard - Save Peppa Pig

An extraordinary diversity of protests and protesters marked this, the third Bust the Budget rally in Melbourne. Asylum Seekers, the ABC, Unions, Climate Change, Medicare, Education … the list goes on. Also pronounced was the anger against Tony Abbott and resentment at his departures from pre-election statements and promises, as the selection below may indicate.Total numbers were hard to gauge – as The Age reports, figures from twelve to twenty thousand were being quoted – but they were at least comparable to the earlier protests, and that in spite of the weather and the timing (in the middle of the school holidays). Some idea of the overall size can be got, however, from the fact that the march up St Kilda Road from the rally location opposite the Arts Centre took just over twenty minutes to pass a single point (continuous video of this stage of the march is in preparation and should be available in the next day or so, by way of confirmation).[Video added 7 July.] Apart from the new starting point, the event took the traditional form: rally with speeches followed by a march through the CBD, ending at Parliament House with more speeches. These divisions are loosely followed in the photos below, but first a few overviews:
At the start –

Also at the start

Part of the rally

Another view

On the March –

Head of march coming up Bourke Street

March arriving at Parliament House

Final rally at Parliament House (the rain that had held off until now prompted a quick unfurling of brollies) –

Looking over head and brollies towards Parliament House

From the rally at Queen Victoria Gardens –

A selection of placards targeting Tony Abbott (some captured during the march)-

The March sets off –

Peppa Pig leads march up St Kilda Road

From the March (rather few, but see forthcoming video for full coverage) –

A few more from the end –

Woman sitting on kerb with dog

Resting at the end

Baby Boomers for Climate Change Action - placard spotted at Parliament House

Spotted at the end

Woman cradling small dog

Another dog getting a deserved rest

Bust the Budget II – 12 June 2014.

Bust the Budget banner leads march

The surge of protest that followed the May budget is far from subsiding, and it seems our plan to retire may be on hold for a while longer – which would no doubt gladden Tony Abbott in the unlikely event of his ever getting to know of it. This time it was the unions that took to the streets in Melbourne – construction workers, teachers, nurses, plumbers, firefighters, ambos, postal workers, public servants, students and individuals – and in numbers hardly less than the general rally in May. (Various media reports – see links below – quote a figure from Trades Hall of twenty thousand.) At both the assembly point outside Trades Hall, and again at the end of the march, outside Parliament House, it was next to impossible to get close enough to hear the speakers, and there will be no attempt here to report what was said (again, see reports linked to below). The photos here should be pretty much self-explanatory and only a few are captioned. Some video is in preparation and will be posted shortly.*

Some media reports that have appeared so far:

The Age

The Herald Sun

Channel Seven news



‘March in March’ – the Melbourne Rally and March, 16 March 2014

Melbourne responded to the callout (see http://marchinmarchaustralia.org/ and the Melbourne march Facebook page) with one of the largest rallies since the 2003 protests against the war in Iraq. Figures varied widely, as usual, but we are rather inclined to the upper end of the claims, or towards 50,000. It was also one of the most varied, and in recognition of this we are posting the largest selection of images so far on this site for one event. There is also a choice of thumbnail/gallery or slideshow, the latter comprising lower resolution copies. It may be in order to post a few separately:

Part of crowd at start of rally

A very small part of the rally at the State Library

Black and red flag

The holder of this flag told us it was 45 years old – dating back to moratorium days

Placard in German - 'These crimes, your blame'

International contribution

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Rally and march against the Napthine Government’s ‘Silencing Act’ – 18 February 2014

The Napthine Government’s Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 provoked a vigorous reponse from unionists and others who see it as an attack on their rights to assembly, to express their views in a democratic society – in other words, to protest. The following statement issued by the Human Rights Law Centre sums up the position:

New Victorian move-on powers unreasonably limit free speech and protest rights

30 January 2014

Proposed new ‘move-on’ powers for police in Victoria will unreasonably limit human rights and are susceptible to misuse.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, said protest rights and free speech are particularly threatened, but the proposed laws may also have an impact on young people and the homeless.

“These laws go too far. Police already have considerable powers when it comes to handling protests and public order issues. They don’t these additional wide reaching and vague powers to move people on. The potential for misuse is very high,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Victorian Parliament’s Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee is currently reviewing the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 which will significantly expand the grounds on which police can order a person to move-on from a public place and will wind back safeguards that limit the use of move on powers in protest situations.

“Police will be able to move someone on if they suspect that the person has committed any offence in a public place in the last 12 hours. There is no requirement for any connection between the offence and a threat to public order or safety. So for example, a protester could be barred from an area if a police officer simply thought that in the last 12 hours they had done something as basic as jaywalked or failed to validate their tram ticket,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Bill also allows police to ask a court to make an order excluding someone who has been subject to multiple ‘move-on’ directions from a particular public place for up to 12 months.

The HRLC is particularly concerned about the potential for the move on powers to be used in protest situations as the Bill winds back existing exceptions for picketing and protesting.

“Police already have a range of powers to arrest, detain and charge people for things like trespass, obstruction, breach of the peace and property damage to name a few. The Government simply hasn’t made the case that these new, broad, sweeping powers are necessary,” said Mr de Kretser.

Under the Bill, a person who breaches a move on order can be arrested and fined over $700. A person who breaches an exclusion order can be imprisoned for up to 2 years.

“Following on from the excessive Queensland G20 legislation, this Bill is another example of governments across the country eroding Australians’ right to free speech. The Bill should not be passed,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Government has acknowledged that the Bill has the potential to restrict the rights to freedom of movement, assembly, expression and association but argues that any restriction is justified under Victoria’s Human Rights Charter. The Committee’s role is to report to the Victorian Parliament on whether the Bill is compatible with human rights.

A copy of the HRLC’s submission can be found here.

A copy of the Bill can be found here.

Reports on the protest give the numbers attending at variously ‘up to 2000’ (The Herald Sun – an account not entirely free of loaded language) and ‘Several thousand’ (Nine Network). The Victorian Trades Hall Council, which organised the event through its We Are Union network, claimed ‘nearly 4000 unionists and community activists’. The footage immediately below shows the march in its entirety passing a single vantage point, which should give a fairly good idea of its size.[Note – the opening caption reads ‘Marching up Bourke Street’. Obviously this should be ‘…down Russell Street’…]

The march was preceded by a rally at Trades Hall, where it was addressed by Brian Boyd, VTHC Secretary, and MUA Secretary Kevin Bracken, and ended at Parliament, where there were further speakers:Father Bob Maguire, Anna Brown (Director of Advocacy and Strategic Litigation, Human Rights Law Centre), Greens MLC Sue Pennicuik, and Paramedic and Union Delegate Morgyn McCarthy. MC was Luke Hilakari, VTHC Campaigns Industrial Officer.

All these speakers were inspiring, but there was as always something special about Father Bob, and for that reason his speech is recorded here in full (camera work a little shaky at the start, but there was a lot of competition for spaces up the front…):

CFMEU Grocon Rally and March, 30 April 2013

Banner at head of march - Safety for Grocon Workers NOW

The march starting off from Trades Hall

In defiance of threats of thousand-dollar fines for taking part, as many as ten thousand construction workers rallied at Trades Hall this morning before marching to the sites of recent fatal accidents involving construction giant Grocon – the collapse of a wall in Swanston Street where three passers-by were crushed to death, and the Myer site in Lonsdale Street where long-time CFMEU member Bill Ramsay fell to his death on February 18th last. The march was self-disciplined and silent, in addition to the observing of a minute’s silence at each of the locations, with only a short burst of chanting at the end, outside the offices of WorkSafe in Exhibition Street. Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary Brian Boyd addressed the rally briefly at the start, and at the end introduced the Victorian Secretaries of the CFMEU (John Setka), the ETU (Troy Gray), the PTEU (Earl Setches) and the AMWU (Steve Dargavel).

As well as the construction workers the rally was joined by members of a range of other unions, and banners of, amongst others, the MUA, ANF, TCFUA, NTEU, AMWU, ASU, CEPU, CPSU and United Voice can be seen in the photos below. There were also representatives of the IWW, The Socialist Party, and Socialist Alliance, as well as members of the public and university students – two of those killed by the wall collapse were students at Melbourne University.

Some reports of the rally:

The Age
The Newcastle Herald

The Australian

The PTEU website

The CFMEU website

See also http://www.cfmeuvic.com.au/your-union/message-from-the-secretary/the-community-deserves-answers

More background:






Union workplace safety placards

(These shots can also be viewed as a slideshow on YouTube)

“Towers of Power” – OM tours Melbourne CBD, 5 November 2011

Protesters fill the street outside BHP offices in Lonsdale Street

BHP Billiton’s head office in Melbourne was one of the stops on a ‘sight-seeing’ tour of Melbourne organised by Occupy Melbourne under the title “Towers of Power of the Corporate 1%”. Starting at the City Square, site of a violent eviction by police on Friday 21 October, the tour took in buildings that had been the subject of union ‘Green bans’ – not forgetting the Regent Theatre itself, which borders the Square – starting with 333 Collins Street and the ANZ bank building on the corner of Collins and Queen Streets – as well as BHP and the offices of Australia Post (currently imposing new work practices – see http://waverley-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/australia-post-dispute-set-to-escalate-in-mt-waverley/. The tour ended back at the City Square in time for the 14th General Assembly
Tour guide throughout was long-time unionist Dave Kerin, and Victoria Police provided a generous escort.

Poster advertising the tour

See also:
How Public is Melbourne’s City Square?
Rescuing the Regent Theatre – Louise Blake
bhpbilliton – undermining the future
Photos from the tour and start of 14th General Assembly: