12 Feb – Early Friday morning in Brisbane, university and TAFE students occupied federal immigration minister Peter Dutton’s office.
Sitting in the cramped public space, we chanted: “Say it loud, say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!”.
Behind the locked doors, Dutton was nowhere to be seen.
Framed in the foyer are numerous awards and messages, including a mental health awareness poster. Lauren Saunders, NUS Women’s Officer for Queensland pointed out the irony:
“Many of the asylum seekers are here in Australia to be treated for the psychological trauma they have suffered on Nauru – and now they are being sent back to an island camp which is not fit for human beings.”
She indicated to a number of framed children’s drawings on the walls of Dutton’s office. “We can see a giraffe and bicycles here. Meanwhile children locked in detention are drawing pictures of themselves committing suicide.”
After two hours, media arrived. When one of our representatives stepped outside to speak with them, 14 police clamped down on the occupation.
A follow up action took place in King George Square at 5pm to demand the government #letthemstay.
The protest coincides with another action in Sydney this morning where activists have placed 37 cribs along Bondi Beach to symbolise the 37 babies facing removal.
7 Oct – Eleven people were arrested today occupying the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s Lee Street office in Sydney.
Around 20 students and refugee advocates entered the building foyer shortly before midday demanding a 23-year old Somali woman’s desperate plea for access to abortion services in Australia be met after she was allegedly raped while being held in immigration detention on Nauru.
“It is simply grotesque that a woman who has been raped and needs an abortion is so far being refused passage to Australia” said Erima Dall, a member of the Sydney University Campus Refugee Action Collective.
Pressure has been mounting on Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to allow the woman to receive medical care in Australia.
Erima Dall said it would be “a shocking act of violence” for Turnbull to “force her to give birth, or leave her to some other fate” on Nauru.
Another woman who was also allegedly raped on Nauru is reported to have waited four hours for police assistance. These are the latest in a rising tide of allegations of sexual assault in Australia’s offshore immigration detention network.
The protestors reportedly occupied the Department of Immigration and Border Protection building for around 90 minutes, before police moved in and made arrests.
“We’ve come down here because we’ve asked the Government countless times to release the text of the TPP and they have not obliged, so we’re conducting a search and seizure to attempt to enter the building and retrieve the text ourselves,” she said.
9 Sept – A 28-hour occupation of Kaitaia Airport by Ngati Kahu has ended in a blaze of tyres and five arrests.
The airport occupation, which began just before lunchtime on Tuesday, was brought to an abrupt end as police moved in just before 3pm today.
Action leader Wi Popata, of Ngati Kahu, said the occupation was a protest against a $100 million Treaty of Waitangi settlement this week.
The Te Hiku Claims Settlement Bill was read for its third and final time in Parliament today, ratifying the settlements of four of five Muriwhenua iwi – Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Te Rarawa and Ngati Kuri. Ngati Kahu is the only Te Hiku iwi to not yet settle.
Northland District Commander Superintendent Russell Le Prou said negotiations with the protesters had failed to reach a resolution and police were left with no choice.
About 20 police went to the airport and closed the access roads. The protesters were given the ultimatum of leaving on their own accord or being arrested.
Six members of the occupation remained on a bench seat in the airport carpark and were each individually arrested.
Tensions flared when the departing protesters lit fires on either side of the airport driveway, fuelled by tyres and fenceposts.
The Kaitaia Fire Station sent one appliance to put out the bonfires. Protest leader Mr Popata said the fires were “signals”.
“It was to show the shit we’ve been through. It’s to remind people of the houses, the marae, the taonga that has been destroyed.”
He said he and his brother Hone had left the airport rather than be arrested after being urged to leave by older protest members.
“Our people didn’t want us to be arrested,” he said.
“They wanted us to come out and carry on.”
Wi Popata said the protest would return, despite having now been formally trespassed from the property.
“We’ll be back. We will mobilise our iwi and we will come back and take our land.”
The Far North Mayor John Carter said flights were expected to resume by tomorrow morning.
About 50 people had gathered at the Oturu Marae before walking to the occupation site with fence posts and corrugated iron to construct a marae. They went to the front desk and informed Barrier Air pilot Sam Bowering they were taking over the facility. The airport’s operators locked the terminal building as the protesters gathered outside to hear speeches in the carpark.
One of the organisers, Hone Popata, had said that and all air operations would be closed.
“We are in charge now,” he said. “We’re here to fight and to take back our land.”
Police asked the occupiers to allow the airport company Far North Holdings to retrieve a Barrier Air craft and a fuel truck, which was agreed to. “It’s only a plane,” one woman said. “We want our land.”
Wi Popata said the airport land was important to three hapu of Ngati Kahu – Patukoraha, Ngai Tohianga and Ngai Takoto – and included important boundaries, with two urupa in the area. The Matenga-Erstich whanau said the owners were “repossessing” land taken for an airfield in WWII.
Protesters building a marae in the Kaitaia Airport
Ngati Kahu and Ngai Takoto have each been offered the right to buy 50 per cent of Kaitaia Airport in their respective Treaty of Waitangi settlements.
But if Ngati Kahu does not settle with the Crown within three years, 100 per cent will be offered to Ngai Takoto, Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson told Parliament today.
The offer for the airport is conditional on the land remaining an airport and the right to purchase takes effect in three years.
“If Ngati Kahu have not concluded a treaty settlement within three years of Ngai Takoto settlement date, around December 2018, then Ngai Takoto will have the sole right to purchase the property,” Mr Finlayson said during debate on four northern settlements: Ngati Kuri, Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto and Te Rarawa.
“This approach was taken because the Crown had to balance the interests of both iwi while ensuring certainty about the future of the airport.”
4 May – On Saturday the 2nd of May Brisbane City Hall in Brisbane’s CBD was stormed by Brisbane’s Aboriginal community and their supporters as part of nation-wide protests against the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities by the governments in Western and South Australia.
The protesters raised the Aboriginal flag inside City Hall and announced to the authorities that the building was occupied and that they would not be leaving until the media were allowed into the building to attend an impromptu press conference by Aboriginal community spokespersons.
After approximately three hours of negotiations the authorities relented and organized for journalists from several media outlets to enter City Hall and the press conference was held. During the press conference Aboriginal community leaders expressed their outrage at the forced closures and at the lack of positive media coverage and stated that protest actions would be continuing until the government’s planned closures of Aboriginal communities were completely scrapped.
Satisfied that their demands had been fully met the protesters then peacefully left City Hall. No arrests were made making it a hugely successful and well publicized action.
“We, the indigenous people of Yowied Village reject corporations coming on to our land in Tubang District for the following reasons:
there is not so much land around Yowied Village.
Our lives are dependent on what our environment can provide.
Where will the future generations go?”
The sign is tied with coconut leaves, a signal that it is a ‘sasih’ marker, a traditional means to forbid passage. Similar signs can be seen in almost all villages in the area. They are backed up by an agreement between all villages in the area that no-one should give up their land, under pain of death. It’s a desperate first act of defiance to a modern world they know has no place for them. A plantations mega-project has been imposed on Merauke, West Papua, and 2.5 million hectares of forest, grassland and swamps – the ancestral lands of the Malind people – are being targeted for oil palm, industrial timber and sugar cane. Continue reading “West Papua: a growing movement against plantations”
April 10: About 120 people from Iran and Afghanistan were rescued when their boat sank on the journey from Indonesia to Australia. They are now refusing to leave the boat that rescued them and took them back to Indonesia. The Singapore-registered tanker, Hernia, is moored in the busy port of Merak, on the west coast of Java.
“The people do not want to get off the ship because they want to be in Australia,” said a spokesman for Indonesia’s director-general of immigration.
A similar occupation happened in 2009, when a group of Tamil refugees refused to leave the Oceanic Viking, an Australian Customs Service patrol vessel, which had stopped their boat and taken them back to Indonesia. They stayed on the ship for a month, until they were promised fast-track resettlement in Australia for people judged to be refugees by the UN.