Refugee supporters interrupted question time and occupied the public gallery and foyer of Victorian parliament on June 19, demanding the state government cancel its contracts with Wilson Security over its role in Australia’s offshore refugee detention centres.
The activists, members of Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), held banners that read “Refugee abusers are guarding our parliament” and “Vic govt — refuse to be complicit”.
Ten Victorian government departments have contracts with Wilson Security: Treasury and Finance; Business and Innovation; Education and Early Childhood Development; Human Services; Human Services — Office of Housing; Primary Industries; VicRoads; WorkSafe; Court Services; and Victoria Police.
The activists called on these government departments to end their contracts with Wilson Security immediately, saying that “as a company prepared to violate human rights for profit it must be disqualified”.
The #BoycottWilson campaign has been active across Australia, with other state-owned institutions, including the National Gallery of Victoria and Melbourne University, cancelling their contracts with Wilson Security following community pressure.
WACA spokesperson Charlotte Lynch said “Wilson Security stands accused as one of the main perpetrators of human rights abuses in immigration detention centres managed by the Australian Government.
“Wilson Security has a culture of human rights abuses and cover ups; as perpetrated against asylum seekers and refugees, including children, in immigration detention and allegedly committed by its guards in mental health units in Victorian public hospitals. It has no social license to operate in our communities or public institutions.”
Wilson Security was contracted to run security at offshore processing centres on Manus Island and Nauru from 2012 to late last year. Its track record was revealed in the Nauru Files in 2016.
The files revealed Wilson Security routinely downgraded threats of self harm and did not disclose at least 16 serious allegations of child abuse and sexual assault to parliament when asked. Detainees spoke of sexual harassment by Wilson guards and one woman said when she tried to report rape to her cultural advisor (employed by Wilson Security), he told her: “There are no charges being brought against this man. This was something normal and very common.”
The Daniel Andrews Labor government has previously claimed to support the #LetThemStay movement, which tried to stop forced transfers back to Nauru of refugees who needed medical care in Australia.
Lynch said: “In 2016, photos were widely publicised of Daniel Andrews accompanying child refugees on a zoo excursion. This publicity appears to be in stark contrast with the government’s business dealings with Wilson Security.
“The contracts tell a story — one of compromised integrity and the prioritisation of profit over human lives. The Victorian government’s Ethical Procurement Framework and its Human Rights Charter legislation is blatantly compromised through its contracts with Wilson Security”.
The protest came as the fate of two refugees on Nauru again showed the shocking cruelty and neglect of Australia's offshore detention system.
On June 15, Fariborz was found dead on Nauru, believed to have committed suicide. He became the 12th person killed by the government's offshore detention policy, less than four weeks after Salim died on Manus Island.
At the same time Border Force is denying “Ali” a 63-year-old Hazara man on Nauru, the right to die in dignity. He has advanced lung cancer and requires palliative care that cannot be provided on Nauru, yet the government is refusing to bring him to Australia.
WACA spokesperson Tori Ball said: “We demand that the Andrews government makes a public commitment to cancel all of its contracts with Wilsons Security. As a company prepared to violate human rights for profit it must be disqualified. The Victorian government led the way in Australia in legislating a Human Rights Charter. To continue contracts with Wilson Security makes that Charter a hollow document.”