Mel Barnes

Resistance organised a visit to Villawood detention centre on July 3. Twenty people came to show solidarity with the asylum seekers inside. We visited four different sections that house families and single people from many countries including Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq. I spoke with a family who live in Villawood with their three young children. The youngest two had never known life outside detention. They live in their own small house, and once a week a member of the family is allowed to go shopping, with guards, so the family can cook for themselves.
Resistance held its 40th national conference on the weekend of May 6 -8. One-hundred-and-fifty people came over the three days and took part in diverse workshops and panel sessions. One major session featured Matthew Cassel, former assistant editor of Electronic Intifada and an independent journalist, gave an eyewitness account of the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. He said: “Something common among dictatorships in the Arab world and so-called democracies in the West and elsewhere is the lack of accurate information available to most people through the mainstream media.
New Zealand’s Unite union has made great progress in recent years in organising previously unorganised sectors of workers ― often young workers in fast food, hospitality and retail. Through organising workers, Unite has forced fast food giants, such as McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut, to eradicate “youth wages”, which pay young workers less for the same work.
Global politics has taken a dramatic turn this year with the uprisings in the Arab world successfully overthrowing dictatorial regimes, and inspiring democracy movements in countries throughout the region. People who are fed up with corruption, repression and low living standards have stood up and fought for their rights and won many gains. What the movements in the Arab world have shown the people of the world is that no matter how strong governments are, people united in struggle can defeat them.
The science that informs us about climate change is becoming more and more alarming. The National Snow and Ice Date Center said on March 23: “On March 7, 2011, Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.64 million square kilometers (5.65 million square miles). “The maximum extent was 1.2 million square kilometers (463,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average of 15.86 million square kilometers (6.12 million square miles), and equal (within 0.1%) to 2006 for the lowest maximum extent in the satellite record.”
The March 8 demonstrations commemorating 100 years of International Women’s Day in Cairo, Egypt — flowing on from the inspirational revolution that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak on February 11 — have highlighted the ongoing struggle for women’s rights around the world. One hundred years ago, more than one million people in four European countries attended the first IWD protest. It was organised in support of the right to vote and equal pay for women.
Triple J did a profile on youth unemployment in Wollongong that was posted on the ABC’s website on October 29. Five young people were interviewed about the difficulties in finding work, and the reasons for the high youth unemployment rate. These are the same problems faced by young people all over Australia: a reduction in the number of apprenticeships available, the effects of the financial crisis, the lack of experience young people have and how no-one is willing to give them a chance.
Matthew Wright and Patrick Hearps from Beyond Zero Emissions outlined their plan to switch Australia to 100% renewable stationary energy by 2020 to 150 people in Hobart on November 11. Local speakers Todd Houstein from Sustainable Living Tasmania and Peter Rae from the International Renewable Energy Alliance, spoke about how the plan could apply to Tasmania.
The Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group (TGLRG) organised political candidates to publicly sign a pledge stating their party would not use election material that incited hatred or ridicule against people based on their sexuality or gender. The pledge signing took place at Salamanca markets in Hobart on July 31 and was signed by the Socialist Alliance, Greens, Democrats and Labor candidates and independent candidate Andrew Wilkie.
About 250 people attended the Students of Sustainability (SoS) conference at Flinders University in Adelaide over July 4-8. A highlight of the conference was the attendance of the Indigenous Solidarity Rides bus full of passengers on their way from Newcastle to the convergence at Alice Springs. They presented workshops on the NT intervention, its effects on Aboriginal communities and the struggle to repeal the racist laws.
Organisers are expecting about 400 people to descend on Adelaide for the Students of Sustainability (SoS) conference over July 4 – 8. The conference is held annually for students and activists involved in environment and social justice movements. Over the four days, workshops will be held on topics as diverse as climate change, guerrilla gardening, Indigenous rights, campaigning for renewable energy on campus and many more. SoS gives participants the confidence, practical skills and motivation needed to campaign for a cleaner and healthier Earth.
Gunns Limited and the entire forest industry in Tasmania is in crisis. Gunns chairperson John Gay, and fellow board member and former state premier Robin Gray have resigned from the company’s board. They were pressured to resign by major shareholders after Gunns posted a 98% loss in half yearly profit in February this year, the April 23 Hobart Mercury reported. Their profit was just $400,000 — down from $33.6 million at the same time last year.
Chain store Roger David has been selling offensive T-shirts with pictures of naked women bound or gagged with cloth over their mouths. Other shirts available for sale online have slogans on them such as “It’s not rape, it’s surprise sex”, and “Your princess is my little slut”.
A “pro-rape” Facebook group set up by students at the University of Sydney’s elite St Paul’s College has ignited a debate about the sexist culture and behaviour in university colleges.
2DayFM’s Kyle and Jackie O radio show hooked up a 14-year-old girl to a lie detector, as part of a competition to win tickets to a concert, on July 29. When the girl was asked whether she’d ever had sex, she revealed that she had been raped when she was 12.
The annual student environment conference, Students of Sustainability (SOS), was held at Monash University from July 6 -10, attracting 450 participants to workshops on climate change, activism, Aboriginal rights, uranium mining, and other social justice and environmental issues.

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