University of Sydney Encampment Ends; Activists Continue Fight

Student activist Ishbel Dunsmore, a key contributor to the Gaza solidarity encampment at the University of Sydney, reflected on the longest-running encampment in the university’s history this week on 2SER Breakfast.

“It’s been a long 7 weeks and it’ll be even longer until we win divestment,” said Dunsmore after the interview in response to the encampments’ closure.

“But it was the longest-running encampment in Australia [for the cause] and the longest-running encampment protest in the university’s history.”

Dunsmore emphasised their long-term commitment before the recent closure: “We’ll be here (…) to make their lives a living hell going into exams and next semester until they recognise and act to rectify their complicity.”

University management issued a move-on order last Friday, citing significant disruption to core university operations, particularly planned welcome events for the second semester.

The encampment at the University of Sydney is part of a 2024 wave of pro-Palestinian protests on university campuses worldwide.

“We’ve been in contact with a lot of the Australian universities but also internationally (…) drawing inspiration from the bravery of the Palestinians,” said Dunsmore.

The encampment aimed for full disclosure of the university’s investments and finances and divestment from institutions complicit in funding the State of Israel, such as weapons manufacturers.

On daily life at the encampment, Dunsmore said, “There’s not a huge amount of time that’s spent just living at the encampment – the majority of waking time feels entirely dedicated to building the next action.”

Community support has been vital, as some Sydneysiders defended the camp against counter-protests throughout the weeks. “We’ve also received other material support from the community… food and supplies have been the main ones.”

Involvement at the encampment can be continued through weekly rallies and donations. “You don’t have to stay [at the encampment]… come by, have a chat, come along to the weekly Sunday rallies.”

The team is preparing another encampment at the University of Sydney for semester two of 2024.

Supporters can also donate to organisations like the Para Foundation and get involved through groups such as SRC, BDS Youth, and Students for Palestine.

For more information, visit Students for Palestine Sydney Uni.

In a recent letter to students and staff, Sydney Uni Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark Scott said that their top priority is the safety of students, staff, and visitors. He mentioned that while they support the right to protest, all shared spaces should be welcoming and inclusive for all community members.

He also acknowledged that many in the community would welcome greater transparency. The university has agreed to disclose its defence and security-related research activities and investments in these industries.

He emphasised the importance of listening to each other during these challenging times, stating, “Now more than ever, it is vital that we strive to listen to each other as we work through our differences together.”

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