MELBOURNE — About 200 people marched against the NT intervention and for equal pay and jobs with justice for Aboriginal workers on March 4. The rally was organised by the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective. It demanded an end to the exploitation of Aboriginal workers in the Northern Territory. The intervention, which quarantines the welfare payments of targeted people, has meant that Aboriginal people are in effect working for rations cards while living in extreme poverty.
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu announced on March 1 that the government would push ahead with the unpopular plan to build Australia’s largest desalination plant in Wonthaggi. This is despite pre-election promises that he would re-examine the contract with Aquasure, the private consortium commissioned to build and operate the plant, which was approved under Labor premier John Brumby in 2007. According to the Age on March 1, the eventual price tag is "$24 billion that is expected to double household water bills over the next five years".
I met Ali (not his real name) on my third visit to the children’s detention centre at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Authority (MITA) in Broadmeadows. Ali is a 16-year-old artist from Afghanistan. He has been held in Australian detention for five months — three months on Christmas Island and two months in Broadmeadows.
More than 300 people attended an “Experience Palestine” event organised by the Federation of Australian Muslim Students and Youth (FAMSY), at Coburg Town Hall on February 19. They were greeted by mock Israeli “border guards” and questioned about their identity and right to enter the premises. Once they had passed through the wood and wire “checkpoints”, visitors listened to guest speakers on Palestine and life under occupation before having a break to wander about the different exhibits.
More than 400 people attended a February 7 forum that condemned the federal government’s intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. The forum was organised by Concerned Australians. It coincided with the launch of a public statement addressed “to the people of Australia” by seven Indigenous elders. The statement asked for support to “help to put an end to the nightmare that Northern Territory people are experiencing on a daily basis”.
About 120 people marched in Melbourne on January 20 to commemorate the lives of two Aboriginal freedom fighters. On January 20, 1842, Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were led to the scaffold and killed before 5000 people in the first public judicial execution in Melbourne. Their bodies were taken to the Aboriginal cemetery that lies under the Victoria market.
A six week-long battle at Swift Australia Meatworks in Brooklyn, Melbourne, has ended with 140 National Union of Workers (NUW) members keeping conditions that were lost by the plant’s 500 other employees two years ago. Swift Australia locked out the picketers in early December after they took protected industrial action in the course of their enterprise bargaining negotiations. The strikers are mostly of migrant backgrounds, from all corners of the globe. Some are recently arrived refugees.
Climate activists gathered outside the Melbourne head office of mining giant BHP on January 21 to show solidarity with victims of the recent floods in eastern Australia. Evidence has emerged linking severe flooding in Australia with human-induced climate change. Shaun Murray, an activist from the Switch off Hazelwood group, said: "The recent catastrophic floods are the result of human-induced climate change. “As coal is the biggest contributor worldwide to emissions, the coal industry should pay the cost of clean-up and reconstruction for these disasters.”
Despite efforts by teachers, the Australian Education Union (AEU) leadership prevented a motion in support of Melbourne’s only Aboriginal school from being put to the AEU state council. A speaker from the College was also denied the opportunity to address AEU Council. AEU councilor Mary Merkenich said she was disappointed that AEU councilors didn’t get a chance to hear that the Ballerrt Mooroop College in Glenroy is under threat and why its school community has been organising a community sit-in in the school gymnasium.
The Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) refugee centre in Broadmeadows has beds for 50 people. It housed 46 unaccompanied refugee teenagers until the government expanded the facility to detain more refugees. The centre now detains 132 boys, all aged under 17. The youngest is 13 or 14. Most of the boys are unclear about their own ages, and many don’t carry any form of ID, passports or birth certificates. After the arrival of 98 new people, there was a “riot” on November 13. Forty were injured and seven hospitalised.
A community sit-in defending Melbourne’s only Indigenous school, Ballerrt Mooroop College in Glenroy, began on November 24. The state Labor government planned to shift the Glenroy Specialist School (GSS) onto the site, which would push the Koori school into portable classrooms in a tiny area. The government provided $18 million to GSS to relocate, but the Koori school received just $750,000.
Forty people attended a meeting about the Northern Territory government's attack on bilingual education in remote Indigenous communities on November 18. The government has banned teaching in Indigenous languages during the first four hours of the school day. The meeting began with a phone link to two people from the Yirrkala community, where the local school is defying the ban. They said teaching children in Yolngu language was vital to maintaining culture and producing better academic results.
When the Victorian Parliament decriminalised abortion two years ago, the battle was finally over, right? Then why is the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne still targeted by anti-abortion zealots? And why, after five years, has Melbourne City Council started harassing clinic defenders, potentially handing a victory to those same zealots?
Housing action group City is Ours organised a protest outside housing minister Richard Wynne’s office on November 12, to highlight Melboune’s growing housing crisis. City is Ours has also recently organised a public meeting and a protest against rooming house evictions outside Moreland Council’s offices.
Close to 5000 protesters took to the streets on November 6, demanding the next state government replace the Hazelwood power station with genuinely clean energy during the next term of office. Victoria goes to the polls on November 27. Rally organisers said Hazelwood was the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases per unit of electricity of any power station in Australia. It is responsible for 3% of the nation’s entire carbon emissions. It’s also the nation’s largest emitter of dioxin, the most toxic known chemical compound.
When a newly established group, Australians for Tamil Rights, began advertising a protest titled “Sri Lanka: Massacre of Tamils is just not cricket”, anti-Tamil Sinhalese went wild on Facebook with a campaign of vitriolic abuse. Most of the abusers denied that there had ever been a massacre of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Despite the internet campaign against the November 3 protest, it went ahead outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground where Sri Lanka and Australia played a 20-20 cricket match. One of the Sri Lankan cricketers, Ajantha Mendis, is a former artillery gunner in the Sri Lankan army.