<p>Protesters camp outside Carlton Connect to make a bold statement against the University’s partnership with arms manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.</p>
A group of disarmament activists from Peace Protectors have spent three days occupying the construction site behind The University of Melbourne’s Carlton Connect.
Formerly the Women’s Hospital, the area is set to become the STELaR Lab (Science Technology Engineering and Leadership and Research) early this year. It is a joint $13 million project between the University of Melbourne, RMIT, the Defence Institute and Lockheed Martin, a military research and weapons manufacturing company. It is Lockheed Martin’s first research facility outside the U.S.
“We have thousands of people homeless and we’re spending millions on F-35 fighter jets,” Eli Jessup, who was camped on the roof of the building until this afternoon, explains.
Lockheed Martin have previously faced criticism for selling F-35s to the Israeli Defence Force. Furthermore, Apache helicopters and drones equipped with Hellfire Missiles supplied by Lockheed Martin were used in Operation Cast Leads, an armed conflict in Gaza between January 2008-9.
Peace Protectors chose to begin occupying STELaR in the lead up to the Avalon Arms Fair. The Avalon Arms Fair takes place on the 28th of February, three days before the Avalon Air Show. Unlike the Airshow, the Avalon Arms Fair is closed to the public.
“Lockheed Martin and other military companies will advertise to military personnel and reap billions of dollars of government contracts,” Jessup said.
The occupation follows opposition from UMSU (University of Melbourne Student Union) last year towards the University’s relationship to Lockheed Martin. In August 216, Students’ Council passed a motion condemning the University’s complicit role in “death and destruction.”
“As an organisation UMSU is constitutionally bound to oppose militarism, for good reason,” said 2016 UMSU President, Tyson Holloway-Clarke.
Professor James McCluskey, the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) sees the relationship with Lockheed Martin a valuable opportunity.
“The University has made no secret of its desire to both deepen and broaden its engagement with industry to have high impact and work together to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.”
A Lockheed Martin media release expressed similar enthusiasm.
“The strategic investment in Australia’s future R&D program will create premium jobs for science and technology graduates, with STELaR Lab anticipated to grow to over 20 employees within three years.”
Jessup disagreed, outlining the potential project risks.
“There are plenty of other fields we could invest in that would be of more benefit to humanity and wouldn’t make the University a potential military target.”
Photo credit: @Jane Shelly/Facebook