Students and staff participate in snap rally against Penny Wong

Photography by Benjamin van der Niet

Content Warning: Discussions of war, genocide, apartheid, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, October 7th attacks and institutional betrayal.

Last week on the 7th of March, approximately 50 students and staff participated in a snap rally against Senator Penny Wong on campus. The Senator was visiting campus for the 2024 Gareth Evans Oration, delivered by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato Seri’ Anwar Ibrahim. 

The rally targeted the Senator’s party, the Australian Labor Party’s decision to suspend funding for the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). The decision came in late January, when Israeli authorities accused UNRWA employees of participating in the October 7th attacks. Israeli authorities have yet to provide evidence behind the accusations. 

The rally started in Kambri before protestors gathered outside the Manning Clark Hall, in the courtyards between Fenner Hall and the Kambri Cultural Center. Many protestors arrived with pots, pans and whistles. Protestors chanted, “Shame, shame, Penny Wong!”, “Shame, shame, ALP!” and “Shame, shame, Albanese!”

One protestor told Woroni, “I think it’s fine for [Penny Wong] to be on campus, and also for people to protest and make their opinion known.”

Another said, “I’m here because the population of Gaza is on the brink of starvation”. They explained they were protesting against the Senator, “For failing to call out Israel for…genocide…she has no right to be here.”

“We want the Labor government to call for an immediate, permanent, and lasting ceasefire” – another student told Woroni

Another student explained, “The reason I’m here today is because this target form of protest is potentially even more effective.” She continued, “It’s important that [Wong] feels that pressure…and knows the effects of her decisions.”

Students gathered outside Manning Clark Hall.

Inside Manning Clark Hall, during the oration the Senator exclaimed, “[Australia must] use our voices to advocate for a humanitarian ceasefire…and the release of hostages.” The Senator, however, did not address the incumbent government’s decision to cut UNRWA funding. 

The Malaysian Prime Minister called out the West’s “shocking double standard,” contrasting its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and it’s response to Israel’s invasion of Gaza. 

A small counter-protest was also present at the strike, composed of approximately five protestors. One such protestor told Woroni, “What’s happening in Gaza is an absolute tragedy,” but affirmed, “We believe that Israel has a right to defend itself.”

While police had surrounded the protestors against the Senator, counter-protestors were allowed to be on the opposite side of the barricade. 

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