University Concedes to Fossil Free MU

22 April 2016

After four days of rallies, stunts and lock-ins, Fossil Free Melbourne University (FFMU) activists have secured a number of concessions from the University of Melbourne regarding university divestment from fossil fuels.

On Wednesday of Week 7, staff and FFMU students came together to negotiate for members of FFMU to end their lock-in at the Raymond Priestley building and pack up their camp on Raymond Priestley lawn.

In exchange for that, a meeting between FFMU, Robert Johanson and Chief Financial Officer Allan Tait, key financial decision makers on University Council, was arranged for the end of next week. Before this meeting, the University Council must let FFMU know of the barriers they perceive in committing to divestment. This allows FFMU to address these obstacles at the meeting.

Another meeting has been secured, in which FFMU will be able to raise concerns they have regarding issues of transparency in the University’s Sustainability Plan, whether that be the decision making process of the sustainability executive, or a consultation process around the sustainability plan.  No date has yet been set for this meeting.

Furthermore, FFMU will be allowed to maintain their stall near Raymond Priestley to keep connecting with students and staff. The University also agreed that activists involved in the campaign will face no disciplinary action.

These agreements were made after members of FFMU blocked all entrances to the Raymond Priestley building (except the fire exit) for more than 12 hours as part of the Flood the Campus campaign. They did this by chaining themselves to barrels filled with concrete placed in front of entrances to the building.

During this time, they were threatened with arrest by police for besetting and trespassing and were asked to move by security guards.

As far as they are aware, no members of university staff entered the building that day.

The Flood the Campus campaign launched on 15 March, after FFMU had campaigned for the University to divest for three years to little success. FFMU gave the University exactly one month to divest from fossil fuels. The campaign demanded that the University freeze new investment in fossil fuel companies, and divest from direct or partial ownership of public equities that include fossil fuels within five years.

The deadline was reached last Friday on 15 April. Since then, FFMU have launched a continuous series of public actions to pressure the University to divest.

On Monday of Week 7, FFMU set up tents on the lawn in front of Raymond Priestley, where members camped out for three days. This has been their main avenue to engage with the wider student population.

On Tuesday, nine students got naked and stood on the roof of the Old Quad building, spelling out ‘Drop Your Assets’ on their backs. FFMU activist Anastasia Gramatakos stated “this was to show the University what courage is like and that we want them to be as courage as we have been.”

Their blockade on Wednesday aimed to shut down business at Raymond Priestley for one day, to show that business cannot continue as usual until something changes.

Anastasia said FFMU is happy with the agreement they’ve reached with the University.  

“It was good to have decision makers come down and actually have a conversation with us, give us contact details where we could contact them that same night,” she said.

“I don’t think that it’s changed how the University decision makers view divestment, but it’s shown to them how many university students and staff support this issue, and our determination to insist on change. If after all of this they turn around and don’t divest and don’t give us a good reason to, it’d justify our ability to keep this up and build on what we’ve done just done.”

Image Credit: Fossil Free MU

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