Mel Barnes

Mel Barnes lives in Wollongong and is a co-editor of Green Left Weekly. She has been an activist for environmental and social justice issues since 2003, and is a member of Socialist Alliance.

New policy denies refugees TAFE loans

Under NSW government changes to TAFE called Smart and Skilled, many refugees are finding it difficult to study. While people with a permanent resident visa are allowed to study at TAFE, they are not eligible for VET-FEE HELP — the federal government loan that offers access to cover the cost of rising fees.

Emmanuel Bakenga, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, lives in Wollongong and works part time for Green Connect, a social enterprise that employs resettled refugees to grow vegetables, keep waste out of landfill and turn food waste into compost.

Grassroots groups call climate protests

Grassroots climate groups are calling for large protests in cities around the world to coincide with the United Nations climate talks held in Paris in November and December, known as COP21.

In France, a broad coalition of almost 100 groups, including trade unions, have created Coalition Climat 21 to organise mass mobilisations before and during the Paris talks.

Sydney police gave no warning before pepper spraying students

Police attacked students with pepper spray during a protest against university fee deregulation in Sydney on February 13.

About 30 students gathered to protest against education minister Christopher Pyne, who was giving the Inaugural Hedley Beare Memorial Lecture at the Sydney Masonic Centre. He planned to “outline the Australian government’s achievements in schools since coming to office”.

Police sprayed students to stop them entering the lecture to take part in an advertised Q&A with Pyne.

Joe Hockey’s Mother’s Day gift — budget cuts for families

New mothers will be pushed to return to work sooner and non-working families will be punished by having childcare subsidies reduced in the government’s latest budget.

Treasurer Joe Hockey chose Mother's Day on May 10 to announce that almost 80,000 women will have their existing paid parental leave slashed, saving $1 billion.

At the moment the government provides 18 weeks of paid parental leave at the minimum wage of $600 a week.

Super trawler kills seals and dolphins in Australian waters

About 100 people rallied against the Geelong Star super trawler in Adelaide on April 26.

The crowd gathered at Port Adelaide to oppose the 95-metre long factory ship which protesters say will hurt recreational fishing and damage the marine environment.

The rally then marched to Birkenhead Bridge and dropped a large banner that read “Stop the Super Trawler”.

Jobs for Women to be a feature film


Four Jobs for Women leaders in front of the steelworks in the early 1980s. Photo: Jobs for Women Facebook

In Wollongong in the early 1980s, jobs for women were scarce. They either had to wake at dawn to travel to Sydney on the diesel train or they sewed in backyard sweatshops for minimal wages.

Education union calls for Pyne's resignation over climate sceptic funding

Federal education minister Christopher Pyne has given $4 million to Danish climate sceptic Bjørn Lomborg to set up the Australian Consensus Centre at the University of Western Australia.

Lomborg is a well-known climate policy sceptic and the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, whose funding was cut by the Danish government in 2012.

Indonesia: New group fights for women’s rights

A new group has been established to campaign for women’s rights in Indonesia. In December, more than 100 women met in Jakarta to launch Indonesian Women’s Action – Kartini (API-K), which has begun campaigning for women’s rights in the workplace, home and society.

Participants came from 32 cities across Indonesia. They included women who are involved in existing women’s networks, students, workers and urban poor. They spent three days discussing issues facing women in economics, politics and culture.

UNSW staff strike for better pay and conditions

Staff at the University of NSW took industrial action on March 11 in response to stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is seeking a pay rise of 3.5%, employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and greater job security, including opportunities for permanence for casual staff, some of whom have been employed on a casual basis for many years.

Classes were cancelled for the day and about 100 NTEU members and students picketed six gates around the campus.

Thousands of unionists rally against government

Thousands of people rallied around the country on March 4 to protest against the federal government’s anti-worker laws.

Organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the rallies protested against a range of government policies including cuts to wages and conditions, the deregulation of university fees, cuts to the ABC, and slashing unemployment benefits.

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