Refugee activists protest on Monash university rooftop

Five members of the Monash Refugee Action Collective held a rooftop protest at the university's Clayton campus on July 27. Photo

Five members of the Monash Refugee Action Collective gained access to the roof of the campus centre at the university’s Clayton campus on July 27, as part of a protest against the Gillard government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

The students hung several banners over the side of the building, including statements of their support for asylum seekers, their stance against mandatory detention and the “Malaysian solution”.

The activists were joined by supporters on the ground who handed out leaflets and made speeches to other students.

Their protest was made in conjunction with that of a group of about 20 asylum seekers who climbed on the roof of the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin on Sunday.

Collective spokesperson Declan Murphy said the protesting students were not officially requested to come down by campus staff until 3pm.

The students requested they be given a means to come down safely from the rooftop, which the administration readily agreed to. However, their request to not face disciplinary action was refused.

The students later requested to face action as a group. Terry Hogan, the director of client services, spoke on behalf of campus administration, telling the students that they would face disciplinary hearings as individuals, as has been the precedent.

Eventually, the students agreed to come down, and received a round of applause from their peers.

Hogan said his primary concern was getting the students down safely.

Murphy said: “This action was called for a two key reasons, the first is that Monash Refugee Action Collective activists demand the end of mandatory detention, it’s a barbaric and unjust system and we think it is a clear example of the Gillard government’s racist, anti-refugee agenda.

“We also reject the other tenets of the Gillard government’s asylum seeker policy, such as the reintroduction of temporary protection visas, the fact that there are still children in detention, despite Labor’s election promise leading up to the 2007 federal election, the constant deportation of refugees back to their country of origin, back to danger, and the Malaysia Solution which is effectively an attempt [by] the government to outsource its human rights abuses to the Malaysian government.

“The other key reason, and the most important one, was to show solidarity and support to the refugees across the nation, specifically in Darwin where there have been rooftop protests,” Murphy said.

“We have been in contact with the refugees in Darwin and they let us know that they stayed out longer on the roof in Darwin after hearing about [the collective’s] rooftop protest at Monash University; that they were emboldened and really heartened to know of the support [we were] extending to them.”

The “rooftop five”, as the Monash Refugee Action Collective leadership has dubbed them, will face individual disciplinary action by the university for their actions on July 28.