Tents at a Pro-Palestine encampment (file image)
Pro-Palestine encampments remain on the grounds of a number of Australian university campuses. Image by Con Chronis/AAP PHOTOS
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Pro-Palestine camp to end when uni gives in to demands

May 23, 2024

Pro-Palestine protesters at a major Melbourne university are waiting for the institution to publicly commit to disclosing its ties to weapons manufacturers before they pack up their camps.

Students have occupied the University of Melbourne’s Arts West building in Parkville since May 15, prompting a backlash from administrators.

The student protesters announced on Wednesday evening the camp and another on the South Lawn would be dismantled, claiming the university had agreed to disclose its partnerships with weapons manufacturers.

However, the university is yet to publicly confirm the agreement.

A Pro-Palestine rally at the University of Melbourne
 Protesters at the University of Melbourne announced on Wednesday the camp would be dismantled. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

Organiser Deena El-Shabasei said the institution had given in to their demand privately and they were awaiting written and public confirmation.

“The university gave us the promise of disclosure,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne on Thursday. 

“So once we get disclosure … the encampment will wrap up, but the movement will not wrap up.”

The University of Melbourne is expected to release a statement later on Thursday.

“We welcome the willingness of the occupiers to leave the Arts West building and remove the encampment from our Parkville campus,” it said on Wednesday night.

Premier Jacinta Allan said the impending resolution was pleasing when asked if universities should be bowing to protesters’ demands.

“How that’s been resolved, we’ve always been clear that has been a matter for the university leadership,” she told reporters.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan
 Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan says the impending resolution is pleasing. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Victorian Greens leader Ellen Sandell said commended the protesters for securing a “key win” and helping to “change the course of history”.

“This would not have happened without brave students peacefully standing up and demanding their institutions sever ties with these weapons manufacturers,” she said in a statement.

Vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell previously said the occupation had led to the cancellation or rescheduling of more than 600 classes, disrupting more than 16,800 students.

Students and staff contravening an order to vacate the building were threatened with academic sanctions including expulsion, and may be referred to police for trespassing.

Pro-Palestine encampments have sprung up at university campuses across the nation after similar actions in the United States.

Encampments at Monash and La Trobe universities in Melbourne have been dismantled in recent days, with Deakin to end theirs on Thursday evening.

RMIT protesters are continuing their encampment as they prepare to rally, calling on the university to meet with them and disclose and divest from weapons manufacturers.

That university said it supported students’ right to exercise their freedom of speech and RMIT did not design, develop or manufacture weapons in the university or as part of any partnership.

The premier said the university encampments hadn’t changed her stance on rejecting a proposal for protest permits to be issued by police.