Refugee display stirs controversy

August 14, 2002


CANBERRA — A library display highlighting the plight of asylum seekers was removed on August 9 after it prompted a violent response.

The Refugee Action Collective (RAC) was asked to pack up its display because library staff have been abused and threatened by some members of the public. RAC spokesperson Claire Bruhns said the display included artworks and a child crying inside a mock detention centre.

“Our staff have been subjected to verbal aggression, abusive language, accusations that staff must be supporting an open door refugee policy and in one case a staff member had part of the display thrown at her”, ACT Library business manager Merrilee Pigram told ABC television news.

Meanwhile, the campaign to build Tampa Day on August 26 is gaining support. The ACT Trades and Labour Council has adopted a motion unanimously endorsing the call to express support for refugees' rights by wearing black armbands.

The ACT division of the National Tertiary Education Industry Union (NTEU) has also adopted a Tampa Day call. Pat Brewer, NTEU delegate and mover of the TLC Tampa Day motion, said: “In light of the High Court ruling that refugee applications have not been properly processed, the support of the union movement to raise awareness of this crucial issue is significant and swells the voices speaking out against these attacks on human rights.”

The women's department at the Australian National Universtiy will also be selling black armbands at stalls as part of women's education week. Women's collective activist and Resistance member Josephine Hunt said refugees' rights was an issue that all progressive activists should be taking up.

From Green Left Weekly, August 14, 2002.
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