Deakin University orders pro-Palestine encampment to move on after ‘unacceptable behaviour’ prompts blockade

Georgina Noack
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Pro-Palestine protesters camping at Deakin University have dug in their heels, vowing they “will not move” after the institution ordered they disband the camp.
Pro-Palestine protesters camping at Deakin University have dug in their heels, vowing they “will not move” after the institution ordered they disband the camp. Credit: James Ross/AAP

Deakin University has broken ranks with universities across Australia, ordering a pro-Palestine encampment be dismantled days after it was set up on its Melbourne campus.

But organisers have dug in their heals, vowing they “will not be moved”.

In a letter sent to organisers on Monday evening, Deakin University deputy vice-chancellor Kerry Parker called for the “immediate dismantling and removal of the current encampment” at the Burwood campus.

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“This request is being made to ensure the safety, security and amenity of all campus users,” the letter reads.

Ms Parker noted the organisers had initially stated the camp on Morgans Walk would run from May 7 to May 10, when it would be disbanded.

She said the university took its obligation to ensure student, staff and visitor safety “very seriously”.

“Our Deakin community and the individuals it comprises each have the right to access and enjoy a safe and secure learning and working environment free to impediment, intimidation and harassment,” the letter continued.

“This is compromised by the continued presence of the encampment.”

Deakin University is the first educational institution in Australia to order students to disband a pro-Palestine encampment on campus.
Deakin University is the first educational institution in Australia to order students to disband a pro-Palestine encampment on campus. Credit: Instagram / Deakin Students for

Last week, Deakin closed off Morgan’s Walk — where the camp had been established — due to protesters’ “unacceptable behaviour”.

Ms Parker said the continued closure impeded the normal use and function of the campus.

She added that while the university was committed to upholding freedom of speech, it did not extend to the “unauthorised” camp.

“Your ability to undertake protest, political discourse and debate on Deakin campuses is not being infringed or curtailed,” she wrote.

“However, the right to freedom of speech does not extend to the establishment of unauthorised camps which pose hygiene and safety risks and restrict the access, availability and use of Deakin premises and facilities for the benefit of the Deakin community of users.”

But camp organisers vowed to resist the move-on order, which they described as “Orwellian”.

In a post to the Deakin Students for Palestine Instagram account on Tuesday morning, organisers reiterated their demand for the university to divest its ties with Israel and weapons manufacturers.

They also called for a meeting with Deakin’s Vice Chancellor Iain Martin, writing his “silence is deafening”.

“You sit in your ivory tower with your one-million-dollar salary, paid partly with the money the university makes from its deals with weapons companies,” organisers wrote.

“While the university insists that our camp has carried on long enough, our demands have been met with not a single response.

“This shows us that we have not been here for long enough.”

They announced a counter rally to “defend and support” the Deakin encampment will be held 6.30pm on Wednesday.

Camp representative Jasmine Duff told The Age the protest — of about 20 overnight campers, with more joining in the daylight — would stand up to police if they were called to dismantle their protest.

“If Deakin University has learned anything from America, it should be obvious that calling in police only increases the number of people protesting – it grows the protest,” she said.

Pro-Palestine camps have been built at universities across every state in Australia after the first at the University of Sydney almost three weeks ago.

Deakin University is the first educational institution to order students to dismantle their camp, and no other university has signalled plans to follow suit.

It comes after mass protests at campuses in the United States, several which were met by police in dramatic scenes.

The Nightly has approached Deakin University for comment.

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