BY BRONWEN BEECHEY
& KATHY NEWNAM
ADELAIDE — Following the brutal attack on detained refugees during a September 22 solidarity protest outside Woomera detention centre, a refugee action collective has been set up in Adelaide.
The police launched the attack inside the detention centre after refugees held up placards to the demonstrators outside, some of whom had come from Melbourne to show their support. As horrified refugee supporters were held back by police hundreds of metres from the centre, the refugees were fired upon with water cannon.
On September 23, the day following the attack, 50 people attended an emergency public meeting to discuss the campaign to free the refugees and defend the Woomera protesters. The meeting was chaired by Stephen Spence, chairperson of the SA Trades and Labor Council's international committee.
The events at Woomera were related by Rob Sparrow from the Melbourne Refugee Action Collective. Sparrow disputed government and media claims that the police use of water cannon and tear gas against the detainees was provoked by the protestors' actions. Describing the campaign for refugee rights as "positive and broad based", he predicted that more people would join the campaign as they became disgusted with the government's racist rhetoric against asylum seekers.
The meeting was also addressed by former Adelaide mayor Jane Lomax-Smith, who is contesting the state seat of Adelaide for the ALP. Lomax-Smith pointed out that all non-Aboriginal Australians are descended from migrants and refugees, and criticised the Liberal government for lack of leadership on the issue.
The ALP was itself condemned at the meeting by Cate Faehrmann speaking for the Greens. Accusing the ALP of "weakness", Faehrmann pointed out that the bipartisan policy on refugees was encouraging racist attacks such as the burning down of a Brisbane mosque on September 22.
The meeting's participants were urged by Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Lisa Lines to keep protesting. Lines had attended the Woomera protest, and told the meeting that such protests were important to show refugees that they did have support within Australia. She then moved a motion to form a Adelaide Refugee Action Collective (RAC), which was supported unanimously by the meeting.
At its founding meeting on September 25, the collective adopted five demands on the federal government: End mandatory detention; provide funding for settlement not detention; no temporary protection visas — full rights for refugees; no exclusion of Australian territory from the migration zone; and let the boats land.
The collective also committed itself to supporting the campaign against war and racism. Lines told Green Left Weekly that "the impact that attacks on Afghanistan or elsewhere will have in creating more refugees and fuelling the racism which is at the core of the government's treatment of refugees".
The next meeting of the Adelaide Refugee Action Collective will be on October 23, 5.30pm on level 5 of the Adelaide University Union Building. Phone Lisa on (08) 8212 6706.