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To: Professor Caroline McMillen, Vice-Chancellor, University of Newcastle
University of Newcastle: Stop supporting abuse
This open letter calls on the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle (UON) to lawfully terminate UON's relationship with Transfield Services, and to commit UON to engage only with companies, institutions and organisations that refuse to support or profit from abusive practices towards people seeking asylum. As staff and students of UON, alumni and concerned members of the community, we object to the University associating with a corporation that profits from offshore detention centres, sites of gross and ongoing human rights violations and physical, psychological and sexual abuse of vulnerable people seeking asylum.
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Open letter to Professor Caroline McMillen, Vice-Chancellor, University of Newcastle
Dear Professor McMillen,
We the undersigned are deeply troubled to hear of the University of Newcastle’s (UON’s) decision to award a five-year contract valued at $88 million to Transfield Services, as it places the University in a highly contentious, and we believe untenable, position.
Transfield Services will now be the head contractor for the delivery of UON’s infrastructure and facilities management and maintenance. Transfield is also the lead company contracted to manage and operate Australia's offshore detention camps. That these centres are sites of gross and ongoing human rights violations and physical, psychological and sexual abuse of vulnerable people seeking asylum has been well documented, including by a recent Senate enquiry, and by the ‘No Business in Abuse’ group, amongst others.
As staff and students of UON, alumni and concerned members of the community, we believe that Transfield Services cannot be dissociated from its activities in offshore detention centres. It is our position that, by awarding this significant contract to Transfield Services, UON is, however unwittingly, providing a level of implicit endorsement for the company and all of its activities, including those in offshore detention camps.
We therefore call on UON to lawfully terminate this contract, and seek an alternative contractor(s) to provide these services.
We further call on UON to adopt the No Business in Abuse pledge, the text of which can be found in full here, www.nobusinessinabuse.org, and which would commit UON to engage only with companies, institutions and organisations that refuse to support or profit from abusive practices towards people seeking asylum.
We trust that this letter is received in the intended spirit, to minimise and repair the reputational damage done to the University, and to advance a new direction that could see UON leading the sector in areas of ethical policy and practice.
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