On the 29th of April students occupied the Kambri lawns with tents demanding the University to “disclose and divest” from all ties with Israel, against its recent siege in Gaza. The students have posed five key demands to the ANU, asking the University to cut its ties to military corporations such as Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and BAE systems. This week, the 2024 ANUSA AGM saw the encampment protestors battle for its legitimacy as a “peaceful protest”. 

The ANUSA Annual General Meeting (AGM) is held once a year. As opposed to Student Representative Councils (SRCs), where only elected representatives of ANUSA can vote, all ANU students are allowed to move and subsequently vote for motions at the AGM and other ANUSA general meetings. This year’s AGM was held on two separate zoom calls, with approximately 570 students present between both calls. 

For a more detailed overview of the meeting, including speeches, Woroni’s live coverage of the meeting can be found here

There were three motions at this year’s AGM which were crucial to the Kambri encampment. 

The first motion, Motion 5.2, called on the Union to endorse the Jewish Council of Australia’s (JCA) statement on student encampments. The statement maintains that the, “Council strongly rejects the claims that these [university encampments] are a threat to Jewish students and staff.”

Motion 5.2 was moved by Palestinian and “anti-Zionist” Jewish students, and called on  ANUSA to “stand in solidarity with student encampments for Palestinians across the world”, and to “support the rights of students to protest peacefully”. The motion also called on the Union to reaffirm its “condemnation of all forms of discrimination including anti-Semitism and islamophobia.” Lastly, the motion called on the Union to “reaffirm that Jewish students have a right to participate in universities free from discrimination or antisemitism.”

Movers and speakers for the motion explained that the encampment constitutes a “legitimate” form of political action against the ANU’s military partnerships and ties to Israel, which “funds the Palestinian genocide.” Jewish speakers for the motion explained that as anti-zionist Jewish students they have always felt accepted at the encampment. Students maintained that the purpose of the encampment was to “stand against the genocide of Palestinians”, which they argued the ANU was complicit in “through its ties to Israel.” . 

Speakers against the motion argued that while they believed the encampment had the right to peacefully protest, this was undermined by was chants like, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, calls for “intifada” and comments made by members of the encampment on ABC Radio last Tuesday. 

However, speakers for the motion contended that “From the river to the sea” called for the liberation of “all peoples between the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea, including the liberation of Palestinians.” 

The Arabic word Intifada means “shaking off”. However, in the context of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the term relates to Palestinian civil uprisings against Israel, specifically those in the late 1980s and the early 2000s. The first is widely accepted to be non-violent Palestinian civil disobedience, but the second included violent protests that resulted in Israeli deaths. 

Pro-Palestinian activists have defended the term to signify resistance against the Israeli regime, however, many groups such as the Zionist Federation of Australia consider the term to mean the dismantling of the Israeli state or violence against Jewish people. 

Earlier this week, it was reported that University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott and the University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor Peter Høj, among other Group of Eight universities, sought legal advice from the Attorney General on the use of the word in the context of student protests. Attorney General Mark Dreyfus refused to provide legal advice and instead referenced the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), which states that, “it a civil offence to do a public act that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate people because of their race colour or national or ethnic origins.”

Speakers for motion 5.2 argued that “Intifada” chants at the protests referred to a “range of uprisings”, and maintained that the encampment showed no signs of violence.

Motion 5.2 passed as the first motion of the meeting. While the interpretation of this motion into ANUSA’s actions is yet to publicly manifest, the motion commits the Union to stand in solidarity with student encampments globally and consider the encampments, as according to the Jewish Council of Australia, as acts which are not a threat to Jewish students and staff.

Counter-protestors at the Wednesday rally.

Motion 5.3 was put forward by representatives from the Australian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS). 

Motion 5.3, Jewish students have a right to belong to the ANU community, argued that actions from protestors at the encampment, where “anti-semitism is encouraged”, have “led to a rise in anti-semitism at the university.” The motion details that chants such as “from the river to the sea” are “inherently problematic” and that “there is one solution, Intifada revolution” echoes policies of the “Nazi regime”. 

The preamble of the motion also sets out that anti-semitism has been “normalised and promoted” within ANUSA activists circles, citing examples of last year’s SRC 4 where the ANU Jewish Student’s Society were equated as “oppressors” of the Palestinian people by members of Socialist Alternative.   

Movers and speakers for the motion argued that while the motion does not “limit political action”, it calls on the Union to hold the encampment accountable for “the abhorrent statements made on ABC Radio.” Students articulated that, “showing support for Hamas undermines the cause of the encampment.”

Amendments were successfully passed to change the structure of motion 5.3. The first six action points of the motion, which were ultimately removed, included the following:

  1. [ANUSA] condemns Hamas; [and] 
  2. calls for a two-state solution to end the conflict in the Middle East
  3. condemns the comments in support of Hamas by former Education Officer and Beatrice Tucker;
  4. notes that these comments are discriminatory in nature 
  5. welcomes the statement released by ANUSA regarding the ABC Drive comments on 30 April 2024;
  6. condemns the use of hateful slogans, such as calls for an Intifada as anti-semitic hate speech which is not welcome within the ANUSA environment.

Point 9, which was also removed, stated:

9. [ANUSA] acknowledges that there is a toxic culture, including anti-semitism within activist circles at the ANU and that systemic action, and not just statements against anti-semitism, is needed to fix this; 


Motion 5.3 passed with the following action points: 

7. [ANUSA] affirms that Jewish students have a right to participate in ANUSA, in a discrimination-free environment;

8. affirms that Jewish students have a right to participate and belong to the University community;

10. encourages students to participate in governance review and reflect on how ANUSA could engage with the broader ANU community.

Students who moved an amendment to remove these points argued that the conflation of encampment with “Nazi policies” was an “abhorrent comparison”, maintaining that the purpose of the encampment is to “demand divestment” from the ANU. Students also pointed out that the motion conflated “Judaism with Zionism” and “criticisms of Israel with anti-Semitism”, which they argued were “inappropriate” and an “attack on Palestinian activism”. In particular, students for the amendments argued that labelling activism as “toxic”, would “discredit pro-Palestinian activism” as “anti-semitic and discriminatory”.

The students also argued that motions condemning Hamas have been satisfied by the Union’s “Free Gaza” motion and that comments made by the 2023 Education Officer Beatrice Tucker (they/them) and the former 2024 Officer Luke Harrison (they/them), who resigned last week, have been addressed by statements from both ANUSA and students at the encampment in days following the ABC Radio interview. 

The students maintained that “Jewish students’ right to safety and belonging on campus” were satisfied by action points 7, 8 and 10. 

Students speaking against the motion argued that “condemning Hamas should not be a controversial move”, and that the amendments to remove the preamble will “silence” the “voices of Jewish students”, many of whom have seen an “increase of anti-semitism on campus” and maintain that “anti-zionism impacts anti-semitism”. 

Movers of the original motion then dropped it entirely, signifying that they did not endorse the amended motion. These students voiced frustrations that the amendments “redefined [to Jewish students] what anti-semitism was.” They explained that the amendments reduced their ability to speak to the original motion, because following the amendments, the original movers could only speak on the amended motion. This means, the original movers and speakers were not given a sufficient opportunity to speak on action points 1 to 6 and 9. 

Motion 5.3 was then moved by a non-AUJS member and was also amended to include, “ANUSA condemns the incorrect statement that the pro-Israel counter-protestors are “definitely paid actors.”

Motion 5.3 passed with amendments, notably with multiple Jewish students, including representatives of AUJS, voting against the amended motion. It should be noted that although motions condemning Hamas were removed from this motion, it does not change the Union’s stance on Hamas, which is dictated by the “Free Gaza” motion. 

Motion 5.4, which was moved by students affiliated with the ACT Young Liberals, called for the Union to release a “public apology letter” to “Jewish students” following the “distress they may have caused through the actions of their executive members and other representatives during the Kambri lawns demonstration.” ACT Young Liberals condemned the encampment on the 29th of April, when the encampment first began, on the grounds that its demands were “anti-semitic and disgusting.”

Motion 5.4 called ANUSA to “reaffirm its condemnation of Hamas attacks” and further “release a report on what financial and material resources were allocated to the Kambri lawns demonstration” and “clarify if executive members continued to receive their salary during their participation in the Kambri lawns demonstration.”

It should be noted that ANUSA Treasurer Will Burfoot (he/him) explained earlier in the meeting that ANUSA’s support for the encampment consisted of “logistical support”, in terms of marquees and tents and through personnel support, not direct financial support. 

Movers and speakers for the motion argued ANUSA has a “responsibility to protect and apologise to Jewish students,” as a Union funded by “student fees”. The students argued that “ANUSA’s personnel costs” for the encampment count as “financial costs” given that participating executives likely considered their involvement at the encampment as working hours. 

As of the agenda for SRC 4, Vice-President Charlotte Carnes (she/they), Welfare Officer Skye Predevac (she/her), Clubs Officer Seungbin Kang (he/they) confirmed that their involvement was in their “personal capacity”, which is not included in their paid working hours. General Secretary Milli Macdonald (she/her) confirmed that she did not participate in the encampment. 

Multiple Jewish students voiced their disillusionment with the Union and the meeting saying that, following the previous motion, “Jewish voices were neglected.” Many explained that they “do not feel safe on this campus.” 

Students against the motion explained that “Palestinian students feel unsafe in the campus” because “their university is funding the genocide in Gaza.” Others argued that given ANUSA’s longstanding history of “standing against genocide and apartheid”, the Union’s support for the encampment was appropriate. 

Motion 5.4 failed, with the outcomes of the encampment causing divisions among students. Jewish students maintain their “voices were silenced”, while students at the encampment considered the outcome a “big win.”

Rally on the first week of encampment prior to ANUSA leaving.

The meeting had many instances of heckling, which General Secretary Milli McDonald (she/her) defined as using the zoom chat, holding up signs on screens, and using certain zoom reactions which might have indicated sarcasm or jest. 

Footage of at least one instance of alleged anti-semitism of a student gesturing the Hitler moustache at the meeting, has been circulating around popular online forums. This student and at least one other one, was immediately named and removed from the meeting. McDonald clarified that the students were removed on the grounds of “abhorrent discriminatory behaviour”, which “ANUSA condemned.” 

It should be noted that there is no mention of “abhorrent” behaviour in the ANUSA standing orders, instead speakers can be removed for “Discrimination based on gender, race or sexuality.” 

ANU spokesperson told Woroni,The University has just been made aware of this incident.” They explained, “ANU will investigate the incident in accordance with the University’s existing processes and take appropriate action as required.”

The University maintains, “To be clear, any racism or hate speech, including anti-semitism, is unacceptable at ANU. The University acts swiftly if such behaviour occurs.”

The instance has attracted broad media coverage from the ABC, the Australian and the Canberra Times.  

Students at the AGM were also named for using terms such as “actually Jewish”, when speaking in comparison to Jewish students who were anti-zionist, for laugh-reacting when students spoke about Palestinian deaths in Gaza. 

Following the AGM, the encampment has continued on the Kambri lawns. On Friday, ANU Vice-Chancellor Genevive Bell wrote in a University-wide email, “Our campus must strive to be a place which is safe and welcoming for all members of our community. We must also strive to be a place where we can have hard conversations which do not cause harm or hurt.” 

In particular, the Vice-Chancellor confirmed that the University has “received formal complaints,” and “have initiated investigations.” 

She continued, “I have reached out to organisers of the current encampment to discuss ways to enable the protest to continue in more respectful ways,” writing, “I am also deeply concerned by reports of the conduct of some of our students at the ANUSA Annual General Meeting (AGM) held earlier this week… We have taken disciplinary action following this event and will continue to take action where it is necessary to ensure our campus remains a safe place to learn and work.”

Almost a fortnight into the encampment, the University is yet to address the encampment’s demands publicly. With rallies every other day, including the students marching to and occupying the lobby of weapons BAE systems office on Childers street on Wednesday, the protestors at the encampment are seemingly steadfast in their demands. However, with increasing tensions surrounding the encampment, it remains to be seen whether the University will concede to the encampment demands or whether it will act to remove them. 

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 

This article was written by members of the Woroni Board of Editors. It does not accurately reflect any one person’s opinion or views. Please direct message Woroni, or email woronieic@gmail.com, if you have any questions, concerns or cor

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