Chris Slee

Solidarity activists who recently returned from a fact-finding missions to Venezuela reported to a meeting organised by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (Melbourne) and the Latin American Solidarity Network (LASNET) on March 27.

The National Union of Workers (NUW), which represents Chemist Warehouse workers that had been on indefinite strike since March 12, announced on March 28 that workers had voted that morning to accept a new agreement covering those employed in the company's distribution centres across Victoria and Queensland.

Mozhgan Moaref, a co-founder of the Refugees and Asylum Seekers Information Centre in Jakarta, spoke by video link to a Refugee Action Collective forum on refugees in Indonesia.

About 80 people attended a rally called by the Refugee Action Collective on March 2 to protest against the Australian government's plan to reopen the detention centre on Christmas Island and send refugees from Manus Island and Nauru there.

La Trobe University Latin American studies lecturer Ralph Newmark told a meeting of 80 people on February 20 that the English-speaking media misrepresents the causes of the crisis in Venezuela.

The meeting was organised by the newly-formed Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.

Newmark said the crisis is being caused by external pressure from the United States and internally by the Venezuelan middle and upper class who oppose the government’s pro-poor measures.

US president Donald Trump announced by tweet on December 19 his intention to withdraw US troops from Syria. This followed a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had often stated his intention to invade north-eastern Syria. 

Mary Merkenich together with colleagues from Highvale Secondary College at the Teachers for Refugees protest in Melbourne on November 20.

Teachers, education support staff and even some principals walked off government and private schools across Victoria and assembled at the State Library on November 20, in support of refugees currently being detained on Manus Island and Nauru. A similar protest was held in Brisbane that same day.

Thirty refugee supporters protested outside the Melbourne headquarters of Jetstar on November 9, demanding that Qantas (Jetstar's parent company) cease participating in the deportation of asylum seekers.

Turkish troops fired across the border on November 1, killing a six-year-old girl in the northern Syrian village of Til Findir.

The murder was part of a pattern of harassment by the Turkish army against the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS). The DFNS is a liberated area administered by democratic local councils, with equal representation of men and women and the inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities.

There is a medical emergency on Nauru, where many physically and mentally ill refugees are being detained without proper medical treatment, according to Kathy, a refugee on the Pacific island.

"The new [Sri Lankan] government has made no substantial changes", Tamil National People’s Front leader Gajen Ponnambalam said when addressing a mainly Tamil audience in Melbourne on October 14.

Ponnambalam was referring to the government of President Maithripala Sirisena, who was elected in January 2015, replacing Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, the main backer of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, met with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has supported the rebels seeking to overthrow Assad, in the southern Russian town of Sochi on September 17.

After the meeting, it was announced that Putin and Erdogan had reached an agreement on the future of Idlib, a province in northern Syria.

About a third of Victoria's firefighters have experienced bullying in the workplace and more than 95% believe that negative media coverage of their campaigns for new enterprise bargaining agreements had profoundly damaged workplace morale and led to "public aggression" and a "reluctance to disclose their occupation".

Refugee advocates are campaigning to stop the deportation of Huyen Tran, a Vietnamese woman who fled her home country by boat due to religious persecution in 2011.

About 100 people attended an election forum on transport in the Moreland local council area with some candidates on September 27. The Victorian election is on November 24.

Large rallies were held in towns throughout Idlib on September 14 in response to the threat by the Assad regime to invade the province in Syria’s north-west.

Idlib is currently controlled by a mixture of rebel groups. The strongest is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an extremely reactionary Islamist group that controls 60% of the province.

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