Emails accessed by Woroni reveal encampment’s multiple attempts to negotiate with the ANU

Photography by Benjamin Van Der Niet.

Emails accessed by Woroni reveal that over the past month, the ANU Gaza solidarity encampment made multiple attempts to negotiate their demands with the University, initially through “open dialogue at the camp” and later through the encampment’s delegated mediation team. 

The earliest email sent on the 6th of May details the encampment’s demands to the University and offers an invitation to University management to “Visit our camp, and engage in direct discussions with the Gaza Solidarity Encampment.” 

Emails sent from the Gaza Solidarity Encampment to ANU management on the 6th of May.

Following this email, the Vice-Chancellor’s office wrote back to the encampment asking for “the name of up to three student members to participate in the meeting.” The email maintains that, “Only up to three student representatives will be included in this meeting,” and students will be required to, “provide the[ir] full ID number prior to the meeting,” however, the names of the students will not be published. 

Emails sent from the Vice-Chancellor’s Office to the encampment on the 10th of May.

On the 13th of May, the Office of the Vice-Chancellor sent a follow-up email to the encampment after receiving no response.

Email sent from the Office of the Vice Chancellor to the encampment on the 13th of May.

On the 14th of May, the encampment wrote back saying, “We wish to clarify that we do not have camp representatives – our demands are collectively decided upon and our decisions made democratically.” 

The email restates, “We are willing to engage in a dialogue with the university and cordially invite you to attend one of our camp meetings…to present your response.” 


Email sent from the ANU Gaza solidarity encampment to the ANU on the 14th of May.

On the 22nd of May, the Office of the Vice Chancellor wrote back to the encampment, maintaining, “In order to facilitate a meeting, we will require appropriate representation and the ability to verify the identities of the people attending the meeting. Again, I confirm that we will not publish the names of the student attendees.” 


Email sent from the Office of Vice Chancellor to the encampment on the 22nd of May.

The encampment replied the same day saying, “The Gaza Solidarity Encampment at the ANU is a democratic non-hierarchical structure, made up of students and staff from diverse backgrounds with diverse views.” The email also asks the Vice-Chancellor’s Office to, “respond to the letter sent by our mediation team. Our mediation team is a group of distinguished  academics who have already requested a meeting with you this week.” 

Email sent from the ANU Gaza Solidarity Encampment to the Office of the Vice-Chancellor on the 22nd of May.

The mediation team is made up of four academics. Woroni understands that the team has made eight attempts to contact the ANU management, these include emails sent to ANU management from the team on the 17th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th of May and twice on 27th of May and on the 28th of May. 

The emails sent on the 27th raised direct concerns of the mediation team in regards to police presence on campus, and orders by the University to vacate the encampment grounds. On the same day, the University announced that if the encampment did not vacate the Kambri lawns by 12pm on the 28th of May, the students “may…[face] further action by ACT police.”   

Since the 28th of May, the encampment has relocated from the Kambri precinct to the north end of University Avenue, facing the Copland building. 

A member of the mediation team told Woroni that the team was created to, “plan a safe way for the ANU to have discussions regarding the demands of the encampment,” following, “students’ feeling unsafe about going to [management] because they had to disclose their identities.” 

They also explained, “[Staff] have specific safeties, which students don’t have.” 

Earlier this month, seven ANU students were individually emailed by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Grady Venville asking the students to individually attend a meeting to discuss “some concerns” regarding “the safety and wellbeing of the [encampment] participants, as well as the University community as a whole.” 

The seven students met with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor together on the 16th of May, where the students were asked “for the purposes of good order and safety to vacate the encampment.” The students also alleged that they were given a “pen and paper” to enlist more names of students at the encampment. 

Woroni understands that a number of other students have been emailed by the University regarding their involvement in the encampment. 

Students at the encampment told Woroni the University has refused to meet with the encampment mediation team, and has continued to only invite individual students. 

An ANU spokesperson explained, “The University is unable to set up meetings with anonymous individuals and we require appropriate representation and the ability to verify the identities of the people attending a meeting in order to facilitate productive outcomes.

However, for many at the encampment, the University’s fixed intention to meet with students only, treats the encampment as one made up of only students, whereas they maintain that the encampment consists of both staff and students, many of whom are also employed by the University. 

The ANU spokesperson told Woroni, “ANU has invited protestors to genuine and open dialogue with the Vice-Chancellor about their demands, in particular ones that the University can reasonably consider. This includes looking at the University’s investments and socially responsible investment policy.” 

On Wednesday the 29th of May, in a University-wide email,  Deputy Vice-Chancellor Grady Venville announced that the ANU, in collaboration with ANUSA, will be re-examining the University’s Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) policy through the ANU council. She wrote in the email, “Protestors have been invited to meet with the University leadership to meet with the University leadership to discuss the matter. So far, they have not taken up the offer. The offer still stands.” 

The ANU spokesperson maintained, “As with past invitations, this invitation will make it clear that students who attend the meeting with the Vice-Chancellor will not face disciplinary actions for having attended that meeting. We will also reiterate that they can have a support person with them at these meetings.” 

However, students at the encampment allege that no such promise has been made to them by the University in written form. It should also be noted that in the above correspondence, it is not made clear in the emails from the Office of the Vice Chancellor that the students attending the meetings would be protected from disciplinary action.

The University has also invited students to, “provide their feedback…via ANUSA, who are representatives of the entire ANU student body. ANUSA can also accompany students as support people at any meeting.” 

The University will re-examine the SRI policy at the June 14th meeting of the ANU Council. The ANU adopted the SRI in 2013, after the Council faced pressure from a student divestment campaign to stop investing in fossil fuel companies. 

It is yet to be seen how the re-examination will impact the University’s investments, however it could prompt the University to add weapons and arms manufacturers as a consideration for investment. 

In a statement released this week, ANUSA said, “ Updating this policy is an opportunity to safeguard any changes to the University’s investment policy not only now, but in the future and to better reflect the views and aspirations of current and future students.” 

The Union explains, “This does not immediately achieve the goal of divestment from weapons manufacturers, but it is an important first step. ANUSA continues to advocate for the University to divest. This review does not negate a need for the University to have open dialogue with the encampment and we hope the University takes a proactive step towards having a safe open dialogue with members of the encampment.” 

Further, “ANUSA encourages students to continue voicing perspectives on the University’s investments. We are advocating for community consultation on this policy, particularly of students, to give input on what you think your University should be doing.”

However, the encampment told Woroni, “The ANU’s commitment to review their socially responsible investment policy is insulting.” They explain, “Not only has the university failed to take concrete steps to cut ties with genocide, they have failed to enter into an open dialogue with students and staff of the ANU Gaza Solidarity Encampment.” 

They maintain, “We reject all empty gestures by the university, especially those which will occur behind closed doors, with no possibility of accountability and transparency.” 

The ANU council is a 15 member committee that governs the University under the  Australian National University Act 1991. Of the 15 members, only two members of the council are student representatives, who include, ANUSA President and undergraduate student member Phi O’Neill and postgraduate student member Mr Edan Habel. 

Discussions at ANU council meetings are confidential and the Council does not release the minutes of the meetings. 

An ANU spokesperson told Woroni, “Over the last decade, the list of things that we as a community care about has changed and evolved. We thank our student body for drawing our attention to areas that we may need to consider in 2024.” 

However, whether the University’s enthusiasm to re-examine the SRI will effectively translate into the University meeting the demands of the encampment, whose crucial demands are for the University to disclose and divest all military ties with Israel, is yet to be seen. 

Woroni’s coverage of the protest and counter-protests will continue in the coming weeks. 


As always, please access support if these events or their coverage are distressing to you. 

ANU Student Safety and Wellbeing Team 

ANUSA Student Assistance 

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