Palestinian workers queue to cross the Apartheid Wall in Bethlehem. With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set to become the first Israeli prime minister to visit Australia next year, the Australian government will likely seek to deepen economic ties with the self-proclaimed “only democracy in the Middle East”. It is also likely, if not certain, that Israel’s ongoing strangling of Palestine — economic as well as political and military — will not be mentioned.
BDS action in Adelaide's Rundle Mall. Adelaide may be as far from Palestine as it gets, but a dedicated group of activists have just celebrated 10 years of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns. Their weekly actions in the Rundle Mall highlight what BDS has become — a growing, grassroots, global phenomenon that presents a real threat to Israeli apartheid.
More than 80 people braved Ballarat’s winter weather to demand an end to institutionalised discrimination against LGBTIQ couples. Ballarat’s Equal Love rally featured several speakers, including Equal Love (Ballarat) convener Koby Bunney. “Love is love and it always wins,” he said at the end of a march from Bakery Hill to Ballarat Town Hall. People were moved to hear from several couples whose relationships are not recognised by Australian law. Many voiced their frustration that while couples in Ireland and the US could now choose to get married, this was not yet the case in Australia.
More than 10,000 followers of the beautiful game sang, danced, shouted and chanted their way into AAMI Park for the Palestine vs Jordan match in this year’s Asian Cup. Although the 5-1 result in Jordan’s favour was no real surprise, supporters were as jubilant at the mere presence of the Palestinian team as they were at its first tournament goal.
About 100 people joined the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and other unions in Geelong at a rally to support the striking Tandara Spirit workers on December 1. Viva Energy, which owns the Geelong oil refinery, ordered the ship to sail to Singapore where the Australian crew would be made redundant and the ship returned to its owners. The crew defied those orders with a three-week sit-in. The Tandara Spirit is one of just five Australian-operated tankers left. Workers are concerned that Viva Energy could replace them with workers earning as little as $20 a day.
About 200 people attended a forum at the Wesley Centre in Geelong on July 30 to hear speakers from the community and the Labor Party discuss the federal government’s asylum seeker policy. Speakers included federal member for Corio and opposition spokesperson on immigration Richard Marles, alongside representatives from the Combined Refugee Action Group (CRAG) and Labor For Refugees.
Hundreds of mourners packed St Mary’s Cathedral on June 18 for the funeral of Leo Seemanpillai, who died on June 1 from full thickness burns to 90% of his body after setting himself on fire. Seemanpillai was a Tamil asylum seeker who was living on a bridging visa in the Victorian town of Geelong. Father Pancras Jordan led the service and welcomed those attending, saying: "We are gathered to say thank you and goodbye to our brother and friend, Leo Seemanpillai, who was killed by the harsh, unjust and cruel policies of our government.”
About 500 workers took to the streets of Geelong on April 7 demanding support for manufacturing jobs. Many workers were from Ford and Alcoa, which have recently announced closures. Workers from other related industries also attended along with firefighters, nurses and teachers showing solidarity on the march. Not all workers and unions were from blue-collar backgrounds. Clerical workers, technical staff and support services are also affected by the closures.
About 700 people attended a public forum called “We are one, but we are many: Working towards a humane refugee policy” hosted by the Combined Refugee Action Group (CRAG) in Geelong on February 18. Taking place on the same day that news broke of the appalling treatment of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and the death of one person after the compound had been attacked, the mood among the crowd was of anger and disbelief.
A picket line that lasted for two weeks at the site of a water treatment plant in Werribee has been disbanded. The Age reported that the protesters left the site on February 14 after “police and the water authority warned them they were trespassing”. The picketers — established by unemployed tradespeople — were protesting the employment practices of Tedra Australia and its associated subcontractors.