BY GILLIAN DAVY
MELBOURNE — On July 10, news broke that RMIT University has joined private prison operator Group 4 Falck to tender for the delivery of "educational and recreational sporting activities" to asylum seekers in Australian detention centres.
Group 4 Falck is the world's second largest provider of security services. Based in Denmark, the company has operations in more than 50 countries, an annual revenue of $2.5 billion and, as the result of a May merger, is the indirect owner of Wackenhut Corporation's 57% interest in Wackenhut Corrections.
RMIT staff members were not informed of the university's intention to join Group 4 Falck in the tender bid until the evening of July 9, when a press statement was released. The tender proposal was not approved by the university council.
RMIT claims that its decision to participate in the tender process is motivated by a desire "to make a difference to the lives of children and adults in detention". However, in a meeting with student representatives on July 12, a representative of the faculty of education, languages and community services suggested that RMIT may contract out service delivery to a third party.
In a letter to Melbourne Age, 22 staff members of the school of social science and planning stated that any attempt to "humanise" refugee detention centres is misguided. In response to the growing opposition, RMIT management has decided to hold a forum open to all staff concerned about the tender bid, although a date has yet to be set.
The next meeting of the RMIT university council is scheduled for August 4. A number of representatives are pushing for an emergency meeting to be called before that date.
Students have also expressed opposition to the tender. At a meeting of student representatives on July 12 decided to hold a public forum on August 4, to coincide with the council meeting. Students plan to march to the council meeting after the forum.
The National Tertiary Education Union has so far remained silent about the RMIT bid.
From Green Left Weekly, July 17, 2002.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.