More than 50 people rallied outside the Perth headquarters of British multinational corporation Serco on March 9 to protest against the company's ongoing push to privatise and take over public services.
Serco runs Australia’s immigration detention centres and is responsible for implementing the oppressive government policy of mandatory detention.
In addition, the company has contracts to run prisons and hospitals and other public services. The protest was calling for all of these privatised enterprises to be returned to public hands.
The protest was organised by Occupy Perth and was supported by Serco Watch, Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN), the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (DICWC) and unions including United Voice.
David Hume, from the Save Fiona Stanley Hospital campaign, said when public hospital cleaning services were privatised in Western Australia in the mid 1990s it led to an outbreak of disease and germs and decline in services which cost $2.7 million to clean up. The cleaning contracts had to be returned to public hands.
Sarah Ross from RRAN denounced the mistreatment of refugees in Serco-run detention centres, noting that Serco staff were under-trained and unequipped for dealing with mental health issues. She also pointed out that since the company took over the detention centres in 2009, seven people had committed suicide, noting the case of a Fijian man Josepha Rauli, who jumped to his death from the roof of the Villawood detention centre in September 2010. Ross said that SERCO had the blood of those seven men on its hands.
Colin Penter from Serco Watch denounced Serco’s lobbying of the Barnett Coalition government, which has awarded three contracts to Serco, including the Acacia youth detention facility. This was despite the fact that it was in a Serco-run Juvenile prison in Britain in 2004, that 14-year-old Adam Brinkwood committed suicide after being assaulted by Serco guards, making him Britain's youngest death in custody.
The crowd also heard from Paul Kaplan of the DICWC, before marching around the building chanting "Serco: Blood on your hands". At the end of the protest Police and Perth City Council Rangers confiscated some barbed wire being used as a prop for the protest but showed no interest in arresting any of the Serco executives for their crimes.
Sarah Ross's speech to the crowd. More photos by Zeb Parkes can be seen here.