Academics and Students Show Solidarity With Refugees18 October 2018
Hundreds of academics and students joined the national protest at the University of Melbourne to call for the end of offshore detention and the inhumane treatment of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru.
The rally was held from 12pm to 2pm on Wednesday outside Raymond Priestley, the University Chancellery building. It was coordinated by the national refugee-supporting network Academics for Refugees, with endorsement from organisations such as the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) and the National Tertiary Education Union.
The forum-based rally include speeches made by academics and refugee advocates, and a public reading of Manus Island refugee Behrouz Boochani’s book No Friend But the Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison. Organisers also encouraged attendees to sign the #NoMoreHarm postcards which they would send to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“I came to Australia as a child refugee, and I always hold that refugee experience close my heart, because it affects my family so much,” said Niro Kandasamy, a UniMelb PhD student who spoke at the forum.
“I want the Australian government to bring to Australia all of those held in offshore detention centres, I want the Australian government to give out permanent resettlement visas to all of those on temporary visas, and I want the Australian government to condemn the violence perpetrated by the state from which these individuals are fleeing,” she said.
Dr. Jordy Silverstein, University of Melbourne academic and member of the Academics for Refugee Steering Group, concluded the rally by making a call for academics to get involved with the movement.
“I think it’s important for academics to be involved because we have such a key role of playing in creating new knowledge,” Dr. Silverstein told Farrago.
“I think throughout our research and teaching, we are educating generations of students who would play an important role in passing on ideas, the challenge of the current systems.”
“I think throughout our research, we can develop those ideas being provided evidences that needed to really challenge what’s going on,” she said. “We have an important leadership role to play.”
The forum was followed by the student-led “Kids off all off” protest organised by the campus-based Melbourne Uni Anti-Racism Collective and Melbourne with Refugees. Student activists demanded the federal government on closing down detention centres and acted on the recently exposed medical crisis in Nauru.
“We want to make sure that all the universities come out opposing the government refugee policy, and we basically want to build a public consensus against it,” student Andie Moore told Farrago.
The activist group also handed an open letter against offshore detention to Chancellery, with more than 200 signatures from the University’s students and employees.
UMSU Education (Public) Officer Conor Clements and Environments Officer Callum Simpson also spoke at the rally.
“We are really supportive as a union of the action that was taken today by staff and students at the University, “ said UMSU President Desiree Cai.
“Obviously the crisis on Nauru and all asylum seekers in Australia generally has been for a couple of years and it’s a humanitarian crisis,” said Cai. “We are very supportive of all actions trying to get the government to change instead.”