Twenty-four of the 50 Kennon Auto workers who are members of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union have been on strike since July 1 for a pay rise. The rise has been denied to them for the past three years. Police and the company are increasing the pressure to break the picket line, but the community has been mobilising to support the striking workers. Workers at local factories have walked off the job at short notice to supplement the workers' protest at vital moments, preventing trucks from breaking through.
About 800 people joined the NAIDOC week march on July 9. Young Kooris mostly led the chants, as a show of Aboriginal pride. The most popular chant was “Always was, Always will be, Aboriginal land”. Alf Bamblett, executive officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association, told the crowd the federal government was extending income management beyond the Northern Territory and there was every chance it could come into Victoria unless it was resisted.
The New Way Summit, held in Melbourne over July 1-4, brought together around 100 Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from about Australia to discuss the issues confronting the struggle for Indigenous rights. A big focus of the summit was on the issues of genocide, sovereignty and treaty. This was the third in a series of New Way Summits. The first one took place in Canberra in January. The summit was successful in bringing together indigenous activists from Darwin, New South Wales, Queensland, regional Victoria and Melbourne, as well as non-Indigenous supporters.
US-Palestinian professor Saree Makdisi and Canadian-Palestinian lawyer Diana Buttu spoke on June 30 as part of a national tour to promote the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. At the public meeting, Makdisi compared laws in apartheid South Africa with those in Israel and said “There are exact equivalent laws in Israel of all the African apartheid laws.” He said the discrimination “begins with kids entering day care and continues for the rest of their lives”.
Following the New Way Summit on Aboriginal rights in Canberra in January, a second summit will be held in Melbourne over July 1-4. Convenor of the Victorian New Way Aboriginal Summit, Socialist Alliance member Sharon Firebrace, told Green Left Weekly: “We expect a lot of people will attend to learn that the New Way grassroots movement is a true opposition to what the federal government is dishing up to us in their shameful charade of establishing the First Nation Congress of Australia.”
Despite a promise before the last election, the Brumby state Labor government has introduced legislation to extend the urban growth boundary for Melbourne. Planning Amendment VC 67 expands Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary to accommodate the 284,000 houses the government expects will be needed if Melbourne’s population reaches 5 million before 2030. About 70 people from the Green Wedge Coalition, Protectors of Public Lands and Planning Backlash protested against these plans on June 22.
A single mother from Melbourne’s northern suburbs has begun a campaign against the sale of racist dolls. Helen Said was shocked to see golliwog dolls on display when she walked past a gift shop in Epping Plaza in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. Said told Green Left Weekly golliwog dolls had disappeared from sale for many years because they were widely regarded as racist. “It’s a shock to see them brought back”, she said. “I think they're racist'.” Golliwog dolls first appeared in the 1800s. They were made to send up black people, particularly African American slaves.
Melbourne rallies against Israeli attack on Gaza aid flotilla
One hundred pensioners rallied outside Victorian Parliament House on May 27 to demand a raise in the aged pension. The rally was organised by the Fair Go for Pensioners Coalition (FGPC), which had previously organised nationwide protests in November 2008. Frank Cherry, national coordinator of the coalition, told the crowd: “We’re rallying today to highlight the plight of pensioners, both to the state and federal government, and to begin the second stage of our campaign to increase the pension.”
Hundreds of Tamils turned out in Sydney’s Martin Place on May 18 to mark the first anniversary of the Sri Lankan army’s capture of the last bit of land held by the pro-independence Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north-east of the country. In driving rain, families lined up to place petals in front of a statue of a grieving mother. They heard from community speakers, the Greens, the Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) and the Socialist Alliance.
MELBOURNE — Protesters added their voices to the international day of solidarity with the democracy movement in Thailand on May 20, gathering outside the offices of Thai Airways. May 20 is the anniversary of the end of Black May in 1992, when the Thai government used the military against thousands of pro-democracy protesters. The rally demanded the military end its repression, not just for the sake of Thai workers, but because it gave confidence to other governments to use force against workers everywhere.
The Fair Work ombudsman began legal action on May 19 against a 7-Eleven store operator in Geelong who owed hundreds of hours in unpaid wages to four workers. The decision came after a two-year campaign by the Unite union, which organises workers in part-time and casual work. The ombudsman alleges that four workers were owed a total of $85,408 for work over 2005-09. One worker alone was underpaid $40,583.