Student protesters have again demonstrated against the University of Newcastle’s $88m facilities management contract with Broadspectrum, this time targeting the University’s Open Day.
“Open Day is an opportunity for the University to attract new students by projecting a positive image,” the protesters said in a media release. “But it remains as complicit as ever in the institutional sexual abuse and assault of [refugees] in offshore detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island.”
The protesters refer to the release of the leaked ‘Nauru Files’ by The Guardian. The leaked incident reports in this cache of papers detail extensive allegations of sexual and physical abuse of asylum seekers on Nauru. The allegations concern security contractors employed by Broadspectrum to manage the immigration detention facility.
“The abuses have happened while the detention centres are managed by Broadspectrum, contracted by the University of Newcastle last year for outsourced cleaning and maintenance services,” the statement goes on to say.
— Paul Scott (@paul_scott_) August 20, 2016
Protesters sat near the Great Hall in makeshift ‘cages’ made from chicken wire. Protesters’ mouths were sealed with duct tape, and each held a sign bearing a slogan from their pro-refugee campaign. Other protesters engaged onlookers and were handing out leaflets.
Large banners were erected, partially obstructing key walkways. Shortly after the protest began, the security manager, Student Central management and the acting Vice Chancellor arrived.
Opus understands that University management and security staff were initially hostile to the protesters, and attempted to have them “move on”. It is alleged that an exchange occurred between protesters and security about the distribution of flyers and the placement of banners.
As the day continued, the security manager and protesters had seemingly reached some agreement, as University staff left the area of protest. No person was removed from the campus, and there have been no reports of academic or non-academic consequences for protesters.
Photo by Opus Magazine.
The University was attempting to showcase its campus, facilities and programs to prospective students. A protest of this kind would likely have been embarrassing for the institution.
“We welcome prospective students to the University, but we oppose the University’s contract with Broadspectrum”, said student protester Tim Buchanan.
“We’re outraged the University is using students’ funds to bolster Broadspectrum’s bottom line.”
— Maggagie (@tattooannie) August 20, 2016
NUSA Education Officer Michael Labone expressed his disappointment in the University’s response to the campaign so far. “It is disappointing that the University continues to disregard the wishes of their consumers, the students,” Labone said.
“The University’s response so far has been unsatisfactory. The acquisition of Broadspectrum by Ferrovial does not change the fact that our money is being used right now to fund the miserable conditions on Nauru.”
As Opus has previously reported, the University issued an official statement following a protest last week. Ferrovial will “no longer be involved in providing services at the regional offshore processing centres in 2017”, according to the statement.
“Ferrovial is a global leader in services and infrastructure and we look forward to working with them to ensure that we continue to provide best in class student services.”
The protest continued throughout Open Day and dispersed without incident.