Chris Peterson

Green Left Weekly’s Chris Peterson spoke to Melanie Sluyter, an environmental activist from the United States who took part in Occupy Wall Street and is visiting Melbourne. * * * How did you get involved in the Occupy movement?
Police violence has been increasing against the Occupy Melbourne camp, now located at Flagstaff Gardens. There have been a number of extremely questionable police actions in recent days against Occupy Melbourne. These include: the establishment of a 24/7 police presence and operations van next at Flagstaff Gardens; the arrest of a man for swearing; and -- worse of all -- the forced removal of Occupier’s clothing when wearing tent costumes.
The Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) has begun a series of rolling stoppages for better wages and conditions at mental health services across Victoria. HACSU covers mental health and allied health workers. Stoppages and rallies have been held in Bendigo and Shepparton, and at Eastern Mental Health, St Vincents and Melbourne Health. A two-hour stopwork rally will be held at Latrobe Valley Mental Health on November 29, from noon at the Latrobe Valley Hospital in Traralgon.
Activists from Occupy Melbourne’s Indigenous Working Group served an eviction to Melbourne City Council and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle on November 23. Indigenous activist Robbie Thorpe said: “Australia is a crime scene, whose law is based on the principles of theft, rape and murder. We need a treaty with the Original Nations.” The action was called by in response to the recent violent attacks on the democratic right to protest, including the brutal attack on several Indigenous activists on October 21 when Occupy Melbourne was evicted from City Square.
Activists rallied in Melbourne to call for greater rights for people with mental illness on September 16. The rally was called by the Australian Mental Health Human Rights and Law Reform Coalition to condemn abuses in the Victorian mental health system.
Supporters of Fijian workers rallied in Melbourne on September 2 against a recent crackdown by the military regime. The same day, two Fijian trade unionists, Fiji Trades Union Congress president Daniel Urai and National Union of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism organiser Nitin Gounder, appeared in a Fijian court charged with unlawful assembly because they met with their union members to discuss a collective agreement. The Fijian trade union movement is under very heavy attack by the Fijian military government. New laws aiming to make it virtually impossible for unions to exist.
About 100 people rallied in Melbourne on September 1 in defence of the Kurdish Association of Victoria after a series of violent attacks. The Kurdish community has received numerous death threats. There have been many attempts to set the association's building on fire, ending on April 14 this year when the building was burnt down by arsonists and rendered non-functional. Just a few weeks ago, eight bullets were fired at the remains of the building. Fortunately, no one was inside at the time.
Students rallied on August 29 against RMIT’s decision to terminate the Bachelor of Applied Science (Disability) course in 2012. The course is the only disability specific degree available in Victoria and provides students with a professional education and a platform to offer leadership, innovation and quality service to community and disability-related groups. In a statement on its website, RMIT said the course was cancelled because: “Interest in the degree has diminished over several years, resulting in the lowest ever number of applicants in 2010.”
A new picket line was set up on August 10 to defend Melbourne’s only Indigenous school, Ballerrt Mooroop College (BMC) in Glenroy. The day before, electricity was cut to the school gym and the locks were changed as the education department announced that the school gym/community hall (which is a traditional gathering place), the spirit tree and the ceremonial grounds would be demolished to make way for the Glenroy Specialist School (GSS) to come on the site, leaving the BMC with only a few classrooms.

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