As it happened at the Australian Technology Park, Redfern
Friday, 10 November, 2017
Over 200 people gathered outside a Liberal Party fundraiser at the Australian Technology Park in Redfern on Friday 10 November to protest the continuing offshore detention of over 600 men on Manus Island.
The processing centre in which the men are currently located was closed on Tuesday 31 October and the men have refused to leave because they feel unsafe and unwelcome on Manus Island.
They also have concerns about relocation to the three centres that have been allocated for them including because one of them is still under construction.
These concerns were shared by the people at the protest who represented a cross-section of multi-cultural Australia from students to teachers, activists, concerned individuals and people representing organisations, including the CFMEU (Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union), NTEU (National Tertiary Education Union), and political parties such as the Greens and Young Labor.
Speaking to people at the protest in Redfern, the strongest message that came through was that the men on Manus need to be brought back to Australia.
There was also a strong feeling of shame at what the Australian government is doing in the name of the Australian people.
Rebecca Semaan who attended the protest along with her husband and two young children said: “It’s really important that we send the message as much as possible, that this is just not acceptable. …That even though our government is doing these things, it’s not in our name. It’s not the thing that we support.”
Margaret Hayes who has attended these protests for a number of years said: “We are Australians and we are ashamed to be Australians. We are ashamed of our International reputation where refugees are concerned. We are afraid that we are breaching human rights agreements, international human rights agreements. These people are human beings. They have done nothing wrong and they deserve to be somewhere safe where they can live their lives.”
As long as Australia’s current refugee policy stays in place and while offshore detention is part of Australia’s policy, Australians can expect to see more of these protests take place around the country.
On that same night, in Melbourne, protestors marched down Swanston Street to show their support for refugees and asylum seekers and ask for the men in Manus to be brought to Australia.
The Redfern protest took place outside a Liberal Party fundraiser, but Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said that as long as offshore processing continued, the protests would continue.
At the rally, Mr Rintoul said: “Unless the policy changes there will be demonstrations, there will be protests. We will be calling on the unions and every member of the Labor Party to join us outside their fundraisers…”
When asked about the effectiveness of protests, he said the protests had seen more Labor politicians speak out against what was happening to refugees and asylum seekers.
Certainly, Opposition politician and member for Grayndler, Anthony Albanese has been in the news media pointing out that Manus Island was meant to be a processing centre and not a centre for indefinite detention and the Acting Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek has spoken about her concern for the mental health of the men on Manus Island and on Nauru another processing centre.
However, the Labor Party’s policy platform continues to be boat turnbacks, and offshore processing with resettlement in a third country.
Given these policies, Ian Rintoul said, “The fact is that the unions are a very important part of the Labor movement, have unanimously got a position against the Labor Party policy at the moment. We will change their policy in the same way that we fight to change the Turnbull policy. It will be protests, it will be continuing to send deeper roots into the community. There is almost not one organisation in civil society in Australia which supports offshore detention. You can talk to the churches, you can talk to the unions, you can talk the lawyers, you can talk to the doctors, you can talk to anyone.”
A version of this article appeared in the South Sydney Herald, this article is published here with their knowledge.