Extinction Rebellion student activists disrupt University Open Day26 August 2019
Student activists from Extinction Rebellion disrupted the University of Melbourne Open Day on 18 August to protest the University’s participation in the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC).
The student activists staged a ‘die-in’ in the foyer of Arts West, where they lay ‘dead’ on the ground as a visual representation of what could happen if the climate crisis isn’t averted. They also dropped a banner from the second floor, which read, “UniMelb! Cut your ties with mining industries. Our fees are not your profits”.
The activists then disrupted the science fair in Wilson Hall by giving a speech in the venue to Open Day attendees about the University’s participation in IMARC.
The protest was organised by the University of Melbourne branch of Extinction Rebellion, a nonviolent political movement that is calling for greater governmental action on climate change. It strategically aims to disrupt people’s lives to draw their attention to climate change.
“We wanted to disrupt Melbourne University’s Open Day to put pressure on them to withdraw their sponsorship of this conference, but also to draw light to the fact that the University has all sorts of links with fossil fuel industries,” said Anneke Demanuele, one of the organisers.
The University’s investments in the fossil fuel industry have attracted a number of student protests over the last few years.
According to the IMARC website, the conference is “Australia’s largest mining event”. The University of Melbourne is listed as a silver sponsor of the conference, although the University would not reveal the value of the sponsorship.
The University’s Melbourne Mining Integrator (MMI) program in the School of Engineering is exhibiting at the conference.
“The University of Melbourne has a long and proud history of working with mining companies and technology suppliers into the mining industry,” reads the IMARC website.
MMI contributes their expertise to the mining industry “in machine learning and artificial intelligence, data analytics, social trends, environmental management, logistics and financial assessment”.
Demanuele was critical of the University’s approach to mining.
“The University is playing a role in the automation of mines, so they’re not even just destroying the planet but also stopping people being employed in these industries,” she said.
When asked about IMARC, a University spokesperson emphasised the University’s focus on making mining more sustainable.
“The University supports the event so it can raise awareness about our partnerships in the mining sector and demonstrate how we can work together to reduce the impact of mining on the environment.
“This includes research into how to take the mining industry into the digital world and improve efficiencies and make mining safer and more sustainable.”
The University also said they support students’ rights to non-violent protests on campus.
Demanuele said UniMelb Extinction Rebellion will be blockading IMARC on 28 October to physically stop people attending the conference.
Regarding disruptive actions such as this, Demanuele said, “I think it’s pretty well summed up by a banner that some high school students brought along to the last climate strike which said, ‘too late you bastards—we’re done asking nicely’”.