NGOs in Cambodia complicit in the Australia-Cambodia refugee deal

Human traffickers

With the collapse of Australia’s oversees aid program into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Australian aid has become much more strongly aligned to the logic of security and in particular, propping up the detention industry. In Cambodia, this means orientating the aid program towards the controversial ‘Australia-Cambodia refugee deal‘ – whereby DFAT will provide the government of Cambodia with $35 mill in exchange for providing Cambodia as a dumping ground for asylum seekers. This places NGOs in Cambodia who receive funding from DFAT in an awkward position – in that they now receive their funding from the same agency that is helping to secure the Australia-refugee deal. NGOs working in the field of governance/corruption/gender are now complicit in Australia’s refugee/human trafficking operations – providing DFAT with an alibi in the form of small highly visible projects that give the impression that Australian aid is fighting human rights abuses, ‘corruption’ and ‘gender inequality’.  In an aid dependent country such as Cambodia, most NGOs have become complacent with the donor funding structure, putting their own short term survival ahead of meaningful political work. For instance NGOs have been eerily silent on the Cambodian government hunting down highland Vietnamese asylum seekers with dogs in the northeastern province of Ratanakiri – an action that appeared to receive tacit support from the Australian embassy. NGOs such as The Asia Foundation,  Transparency International, International Bridges to Justice, Legal Aid Cambodia, Social Services Cambodia, CARE, Cambodia Children’s Fund and Save the Children, now need to urgently ween themselves off Australian aid.

By Tim Frewer.


Culture Washing: Operation Sovereign Borders, Transfield, and The Festival of Dangerous Ideas | #FODI

Note: An earlier version of this graphic depicts Douglas Sneddon as an existing board member of St James Ethics Centre. We now know that Sneddon left the St James Ethics Centre board in April 2014 and left the St James Ethics Foundation board in May 2014. The graphic above depicts the current connections as indicated on the St James Ethics Centre’s website.


Why is the ASRC partnering with the NAB, a major shareholder in Transfield? #NABdivest #TSEdivest #Manus #Nauru

We call on the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre to clearly oppose mandatory detention, immediately sever its links with the National Australia Bank, and to seriously review its approach toward and involvement in the detention industry.

The National Australia Bank (NAB) is a substantial shareholder in Transfield Services. Transfield Services holds multi-billion dollar contracts to run the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. Continue reading “Why is the ASRC partnering with the NAB, a major shareholder in Transfield? #NABdivest #TSEdivest #Manus #Nauru”


An important note on Superannuation Fund Divestment from Mandatory Detention

Ever since private superannuation became compulsory in Australia, superannuation funds—and superannuation fund managers—have created an immense pool of investment dollars. Continue reading “An important note on Superannuation Fund Divestment from Mandatory Detention”


A Statement Addressing Inaccuracies in Print and Media About Transfield #19BoS

Listen to the Radio National podcast on the Biennale boycott.

The following is a selection of statements made by Transfield and repeated in print and media. Continue reading “A Statement Addressing Inaccuracies in Print and Media About Transfield #19BoS”


Five Artists Withdraw from the 19th Biennale. Statement by Castro, Ólafsson, Sofo, de Vietri, Öğüt

26 February 2014

We are five of the 37 artists – Libia Castro, Ólafur Ólafsson, Charlie Sofo, Gabrielle de Vietri and Ahmet Öğüt – who signed a letter to the Board of the Biennale of Sydney in relation to their founding sponsor, Transfield.

We make this statement in light of Transfield’s expanding management of Manus Island and Nauru immigration detention centres. We act in the wake of the death of Reza Berati from inside Manus Island detention centre on February 17. We are in urgent political circumstances with a government that is stepping up their warfare on the world’s most vulnerable people daily.

We have received indications from the Board of the Biennale and Transfield that there will be no movement on their involvement in this issue. In our letter to the Board we asked for action and engagement, but we are told that the issue is too complex, and that the financial agreements are too important to re-negotiate.

And so we make this statement from a critical juncture of political urgency and artistic autonomy.

This is a statement of our withdrawal from the 19th Biennale of Sydney.

We have revoked our works, cancelled our public events and relinquished our artists’ fees. While we have sought ways to address our strong opposition to Australia’s mandatory detention policy as participants of the Biennale, we have decided that withdrawal is our most constructive choice. We do not accept the platform that Transfield provides via the Biennale for critique. We see our participation in the Biennale as an active link in a chain of associations that leads to the abuse of human rights. For us, this is undeniable and indefensible.

Our withdrawal is one action in a multiplicity of others, already enacted and soon to be carried out in and around the Biennale. We do not propose to know the exact ethical, strategic or effective action to end mandatory detention, but we act on conscience and we act with hope.

We have chosen to redirect our energies into multiple forms of action: discussions, workshops, publications, exhibitions and works that will continue to fuel this debate in the public sphere. In this, we stand with our local and international communities that are calling for the closure of Australia’s offshore detention facilities. We ask for their active support in keeping this issue at the forefront of our minds, in the warmest part of our hearts, in the most urgent of discussions and in the most bold of actions, until the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru close.

We withdraw to send a message to the Biennale urging them, again, to act ethically and transparently. To send a message to Transfield that we will not add value to their brand and its inhumane enterprise. Finally, and most importantly, we withdraw to send a message to the Australian Government that we do not accept their unethical policy against asylum seekers.

We ask that the Biennale of Sydney acknowledge the absence of our work from the exhibition. As the Biennale has offered to provide a platform and support for our dissent, we request that our withdrawal be registered on the Biennale website and signposted at the physical site of our projects. In the pervasive silence that the Government enforces around this issue, we will not let this action be unnoticed.

We act in solidarity with all those who are working towards a better future for asylum seekers. We hope that others will join us.
Libia Castro

Ólafur Ólafsson

Charlie Sofo

Gabrielle de Vietri

Ahmet Öğüt


The Biennale boycott and diversity of tactics

[UPDATE: please note that links to this article were previously being blocked and deleted from Facebook. This now appears to have been fixed.]

On Monday night, 17 February, a meeting was held at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney to discuss Transfield’s involvement in the 19th Biennale of Sydney. Despite the intensity and diversity of opinions at play it seems fair to say that a productive discussion was had. Credit for this must go to the organiser Zanny Begg, facilitator Wenny, and all those who participated. Continue reading “The Biennale boycott and diversity of tactics”


Australian connection to UK Minister responsible for racist ‘Go Home’ van

Mark Harper, the immigration minister behind the controversial campaign that put “go home” adverts on vans to urge illegal immigrants to leave Britain, has resigned after learning that his private cleaner for seven years did not have permission to work in the UK. [more] Continue reading “Australian connection to UK Minister responsible for racist ‘Go Home’ van”