Fossil Free Melbourne University

Did you know that Melbourne University is investing in fossil fuels? By continuing to support this reckless industry, the University is profiting at the expense of its students and their futures.

It’s time for Melbourne University to show its true commitment to sustainability, and join the world movement towards a prosperous low-carbon economy. 

Learn More

Behind the Sustainability Plan

Written by Anisa Rogers, March 2017

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When an institution as big as the University of Melbourne attempts to make a policy on anything, it is no easy task, and the Sustainability Plan is no different. A lot of good work and good intentions have gone into it, but with the terrifying reality of climate change and environmental degradation we need to be critically analysing what the university does to make sure we are helping, not exacerbating the situation.

As Environment Officer in the student union for 2016, I was very excited about the idea of the Sustainability Plan. It seemed like the administration was taking sustainability seriously by putting it into a policy that the whole university community would be part of enacting. I saw it as an opportunity to properly engage the wider university community about sustainability.  I attended the meetings of the Sustainability Executive (1) during my term (December 2015 - December 2016) in which the Plan was discussed and ultimately written.

The meetings were exciting to begin with. There were discussions about creative ways of engaging students and staff. I knew that if the university decision makers, most importantly those who control the money, actually wanted to do this right then they had a lot of resources and power to make wide consultation happen. But after a few meetings I started to realise that this plan was not going to be anything like i had imagined. The university was not going to put nearly enough resources towards creating community conversation and input.

The University's main consultation came in the form of two forums and a website with an email you could send ideas and feedback to.The forums were well attended, due in large part to work by passionate students and staff from groups like Fossil Free and the NTEU, but had very little follow up. Throughout both forums there were numerous questions asked of Allan Tait (Chief Financial Officer and Chair of the of Sustainability Executive) which he could not provide adequate answers to (2). Instead of the hoped for spaces of discussion and collaboration, these forums seemed much more like a one way information flow, with no public follow-up on the questions asked. As well as this public consultation, there were also many internal conversations within the staff. While these were important they were not transparent or inclusive of the wider university community. Many students and staff I talked to were not impressed at all with the overall consultation of the plan.

This lead myself to attempt to reach out to students and staff to get them involved in the consultation process. I communicated to the Sustainability Executive early on that this was not part of my role as Environment Officer, but that I felt that someone needed to be creating a space for meaningful discussion and contribution from the university community. Originally I thought my events would be complimentary to what the university was doing, but I soon understood that these events were providing the only space for conversations between the wider university community and the decision makers about the plan. My ask of further resources were not met until very late in the year when they hired someone (the wonderful Angus Dowell) to help me. We ran fortnightly open meetings about the plan for people to find out more and have input, as well as weekly stalls in the university’s Farmers Market. These led to specific sessions on each of the five parts of the plan in which members of the Sustainability Executive attended. I asked the university to advertise these sessions for me, and they put them on the website, but so many of their existing avenues for communication were not used. A university-wide email asking for input could have been sent by Glynn or Allan himself but this was never done, and I was not given space to speak at the second forum to advertise them.

After a while I came to realise that despite the good intentions of all the people passionate about sustainability, and who put in huge amounts of effort to see action from the university, it wasn’t going to go anywhere near far enough to address climate change and environmental degradation. It falls short of properly addressing the current environmental crisis; huge and increasing over consumption, the idea of infinite economic growth and rampant climate change. The urgency of the situation is not made clear through the actions laid out in the plan, and the mention of the Paris Climate Agreement to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees is bordering on tokenistic when the university still privileges profit over its role in addressing climate change.

Part of this is that the University is - once again - seeking to engage with the fossil fuel industry that urgently needs to be phased out. As the Fossil Free MU media release states: “The … Sustainability Plan has failed to make a commitment to divest from 21 of Australia’s most polluting fossil fuel companies. The investments portion of the plan commits to developing a sustainable investments framework by the end of 2017, and to have withdrawn investments from the decided companies by 2021. There is no assurance within the plan that this will lead to the powerful statement of full divestment these 21 companies, nor is there any indication that implementation of the plan will fulfil their commitment to honour the Paris agreement to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees.”(3)

The plan has so much potential to present a way for the University of Melbourne to meaningfully engage with the very real issues of sustainability, climate change (etc.). It seems clear the University’s existing ties with fossil fuel companies (such as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton) are inhibiting meaningful engagement, begging the question of whether the University, like so many other institutions, are simply doing the bidding of global corporations.

All of this points to a bigger story of our university, and what we want our university to be. I want a space of critical thinking, where anyone can come and learn from each other and provide services to our society. A place for constructive debates, a place that promotes the highest ethics. However, we can now see that the way the university is run us shaped heavily by corporate donors.

The most recent announcement of the partnership between Lockheed Martin (a huge weapons manufacturer) and Melbourne University are a worrying step in the wrong direction (4). How can a university have an independent critical view and interpretation of society when it is being funded by some huge and very questionable corporations? And worse still, how can our university act in the interests of society and future generations if it is reliant on unethical corporations for funding? This is obviously a huge topic with a lot of nuance, but one that we need to be thinking about if we are hoping to see a better more democratic university.

At Fossil Free MU (and the UMSU Enviro Collective) (5) we will continue to engage in the Sustainability Plan and with the university decision makers, but we are very wary of them wasting even more of our time with lengthy non-democratic bureaucracy and “consultation”. But we also do a lot more than that. Mostly we spend our time organising students, about divestment and also other campaigns, and planning further and escalated action. We have realised that our university being beholden to the corporations that fund it is holding it back from making meaningful action, and there is more need than ever to get organised and challenge that. We are looking forward to working with you in the year ahead, so please get in contact!   

We will be tracking the University’s progress re: the sustainability plan over the next 4 years on https://www.musustainabilitywatch.org/, so keep your eyes peeled!

 

(1) A decision making body that is part of Chancellery. It was created a few years ago and people from all over the university sit on, with Allan Tait (Chief Financial Officer) as its chair.

(2) You can see more about the process here, including a recording of the second forum. https://ourcampus.unimelb.edu.au/sustainability-plan

(3) For the full media release see here: http://www.fossilfreemu.org/news/the-sustainability-plan-is-greenwash2412017

(4) http://www.theage.com.     /victoria/students-angry-about-missilemaker-lockheed-martins-lab-at-melbourne-university-20160926-grorqj.html

(5)https://umsu.unimelb.edu.au/studentlife/environment/

Links:

Campaign against Lockheed Martin at Melbourne Universities - www.facebook.com/lockoutlockheed/

The subversion of Australian Universities - http://www.bmartin.cc/dissent/documents/sau/index.html




 

Graduating with a degree and a message

My graduation was a moment I had been working towards for four and a half years. As I leaned in to shake the hand of the Deputy Chancellor, I asked him to do what he can to divest our university from fossil fuels. Then, I pulled a banner out of my sleeve.

As graduates of the Bachelor of Environments, we have learnt about climate change, and how we all have a role to play in tackling it. Unfortunately, our University is investing $78 million in the companies whose very business model is predicated on wrecking our climate and plunging humanity into a cascade of ever growing crises.

Divestment from fossil fuels is a sound financial decision, as well as a powerful social and political act. It is the first step institutions can take to demonstrate they no longer want to support companies who are slowing progress towards a clean energy future, and whose dangerous coal, oil and gas reserves are a threat to everyone, especially the lives of poor and marginalised communities. Melbourne Uni must be a leader and commit to fully divest from the top 200 coal, oil and gas companies within five years, not only to protect their bottom line from the risk of stranded assets, but to protect our climate.

The Fossil Free Melbourne University campaign needs your support. Whether you are a student, staff, alumnus or member of the University's broader community, you can get involved. Sign the petition here, and we'll get in touch!

Why I camped out at Melbourne uni

I’ve known about the Fossil Free campaign for a while. I’ve mostly been a quiet social media supporter, but as things started to heat up in the past few weeks, and I began to pay more attention, I realised it was time for quiet supporters like myself to get louder, because it was quite clear that something big was about to happen.

As I write this I’ve just come out of a first-year Geography lecture where hundreds of students were told terrifying stats and facts about the world that we’re inheriting. The frustration that I feel in learning about the undeniable urgency of climate change is intensified by the hypocrisy of Melbourne uni’s position refusal to take a stand against fossil fuels. I reached the point where I knew that I had to act on this frustration. I attended an info night with Fossil Free MU on the Friday of week 6, where I was told that civil disobedience was going to occur on campus in the following week, and I couldn’t wait to be a part of it.

The following Monday, a group of us met at 7am at an off-campus location and put our game faces on. We marched over to the Raymond Priestley (administration) lawn with our camping gear at got to work. It only took us half an hour to set up camp, and security didn’t even seem to be interested. The uni were kind to us and turned off the sprinklers and gave us access to a bathroom overnight. We hung up the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags to remind ourselves and all who walked by that this action was taking place on stolen Wurundjeri country. Aboriginal peoples have been fighting for environmental justice on this land ever since it was invaded, and our campaign is only a small part of the fight for global climate justice. We set up our info desk and spent the day chatting to interested passers-by, held workshops, collected signatures, asked people to add messages of support to our bunting, and generally hung out.

The real fun got started after sunset. We shared a delicious meal cooked by the food team, heard bands play, heard spoken word poetry and sang terrible/amazing parody songs dedicated to our Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis and his administration. At about 10 pm we considered walking over to his mansion on campus and singing “Hey Glyn,”

(Hey Glyn, don't let us down, 
We have asked you, now start divesting,

Remember, no matter how you delay,
We will be here, staunchly protesting)

but decided that he needed his rest. The camp already felt like home. Who knew that divesting could be this fun and empowering?

It was weird and wonderful to wake up in a tent at uni on Tuesday morning, and it definitely made getting to class on time easier. The highlight of the day was seeing my brave and wonderful friends bare their asses for divestment on top of the Old Quad! It was so satisfying to have media crews there capturing the moment. Our media team worked hard to let journos know that there was going to be a photo opportunity at Melbourne uni that they didn’t want to miss. The shameless self-promotion payed off, with over a dozen online articles, three newspaper features and we even made it onto Channel 9’s 7 o’clock News. It was a huge win, but we weren’t done yet.

That night we huddled together and whispered about the following day’s plans under the watch of a nearby security guard. We tried not to rouse suspicion but it must have looked like we were plotting something.

At 6.15am on Wednesday morning we got up and started to organise ourselves. This is an impossible hour for your average uni student, so we staged a yoga class to make it look more believable. At just after 7am, a couple of students distracted the security guard while the rest of us blocked off the doors to the administration building. We used barrels, pipes, chains, quickset cement and human bodies to block off three main entrances. Several more bodies (including my own) sat on the stairs to block two more doors. We left the fire exits unblocked, because we take safety seriously. It all happened so quickly; we couldn’t really have been stopped.

Throughout the day we cared for those locked on as best we could, and chatted to literally hundreds of people who were keen to know what was going on. The police came and went, and we stood our ground. Arrests would have meant even more media attention, and the uni clearly wanted to avoid that. So our negotiations team sprung into action and we met with a group of uni representatives at 6pm. After 4 hours of intense negotiation we managed to get ourselves a 2-hour meeting with some important financial big-wigs who sit on the university council. By around 11pm we were packing everything away and were completely exhausted, but we couldn’t have been happier with what we’d achieved.  

Last week was months in the making, and I only came on board in time for the action (very strategic of me). Being involved in Flood the Campus week showed me how fun, engaging and satisfying it can be to collectively fight for something important. Fossil Free MU have secured a meeting, but there is still so much work to be done to ensure that the uni does the right thing for the future of its students. I’m more than willing to take bold action with Fossil Free MU until that happens... and next time I might even lock onto something.

By Ruby O'Loughlin

Why I Disrobed for Divestment

Last Tuesday, I crammed naked into into a university toilet cubicle and let my body become a human canvas for the fossil free movement. After a slightly stressful and very intimate painting session, nine bodies in total - both students and alumni of the University of Melbourne - clambered onto the roof of the Old Quad, stripping our clothes to the reveal the naked truth: our university cannot claim to be “sustainable” while continuing to invest in the fossil fuel industry. Standing at the edge of the roof and looking down to cameras, reporters and fellow Fossil Free-ers, I felt giddy, proud and utterly supported by my fellow bums on the roof and the Fossil Free community.

After the action, reporters asked us what the connection was between public nudity and divestment. We kept our answers pretty light “we dropped our assets to encourage the uni to drop theirs in coal, oil and gas” and “we wanted to be brave so hopefully the university will be brave too.” If I’m honest, a more realistic answer might be that we live in a world where a lot of people are more interested in reading about a bunch of students getting naked on a roof than more “depressing” news about corporate greed and its shocking impacts on our planet. Sometimes living in this world is hard. Sometimes the reality of a situation can be depressing and sometimes you can only talk so much about coral bleaching, farmers committing suicide, and corporate social responsibility to people who don’t want to listen. For FFMU, our public nudity action was a way to marry our passion for everyone to know about divestment with the Internet’s obsession with butts (thanks for that one, Kimmy K). It was a way for us to meet the public in the middle.

Divestment is not an idealistic or radical idea. It is entirely necessary and - as other universities around the world have already shown - entirely possible. It is not radical to want a safe and livable planet. It is not radical to think it makes economic sense to invest in renewable energy over finite resources. It is not radical to want to go to a university that aligns its investments with its teachings. I think that the more people that know what divestment means, the more people that would support it. Getting naked on a roof is just one more way of getting the message out there.

Climate action is for everyone because it affects everyone. It’s not just for people who love camping or those who know a lot about science (if it was, I definitely wouldn’t be here). The movement for a healthier planet is as diverse as the myriad of forms of action taken to make it happen. For those of us who stripped off on the roof on Tuesday, doing so was entirely empowering. For others, it would probably be their worst nightmare. For our voices to reach as many people as possible, our activism must be as diverse as possible.

So write a letter to the editor, tweet about it, make a youtube video, talk to your mum or do some performance art. Do whatever makes you feel empowered. We can all be activists if we let go of our preconceived notions of what an activist is meant to look like. I think that everyone has their role to play in fighting climate change, and I am so very grateful to FFMU for helping me find mine.

By Aoife Nicklason

Why I risked arrest for divestment

As a Masters student with a squeaky clean record and parents who don’t want to see me getting into trouble, the concept of getting arrested for a political purpose was pretty scary and anxiety-triggering for me.

It may seem crazy to some that I decided to put myself at risk, but three years in, we came to a point in our campaign where we realised that our voices were being ignored and sidelined by our University administration. We needed to take bold action in order for the University to realise that we meant business. Climate change is a critical global emergency, and we need to act with urgency.

At 6:55am on Wednesday morning, we huddled together in our makeshift campsite just 20 metres from the uni’s admin building, under the watchful eyes of a campus security guard. We psyched ourselves up for the lock-on that we had been been planning for six months.

For most of us, this was the first time that we would put ourselves in arrestable positions. Were understandably nervous.

Our security liaison Anisa went to distract the security guard, we were given the signal, and we went for it. Three barrels went down in front of entrance doors, arms locked together, and quick-set concrete was poured in so that the barrels could not be moved. Ten people sat on the steps in front of two additional doors to seal off all non-emergency exits (this building has a lot of doors, but we left two fire-exits free). We were locking in and I felt a wave of relief and exhilaration that the plan had actually worked.

Around 8 am, staff started turning up. Many were supportive, most seemed bemused, and a few were clearly upset and let us know about it.

We intended for this to be a disruptive action. It’s unfortunate that some staff members’ days were caught in the middle of our plans, but climate change will be more disruptive than shutting down a university building for a day. It’s already disrupting people’s lives – bushfires, floods, coral bleaching, losing Pacific islands – the impacts of climate change are serious and urgent and we need to treat them as such.

Given the extreme circumstances, we can’t afford to be scared of disrupting a few people’s days when institutions like Melbourne Uni are contributing to a fossil-fuel driven economic system that is disrupting people’s lives today, tomorrow, and well into the future.

At around 1 pm the police came and inspected our protest. They told us that we risked arrest for besetting (blocking all the entrances of a building) and trespassing. Earlier in the day, a university representative told us that we risked expulsion. We stayed strong. We knew that a future with a safe climate was worth a future with a criminal record. The police never came back.

At  6pm, a small group of university representatives came down to meet with our negotiation team. They wanted us to unlock and pack up the camp. For this, they were offering a two-hour meeting with Robert Johanson, a university council member and Chairman and Independent Director of Bendigo Bank (a bank that has divested from coal and coal seam gas) and Allan Tait, our Chief Financial Officer. After presenting our case to them, they will present the case for divestment to the University Council.

We discussed the offer amongst ourselves and added a few stipulations to the agreement, including greater transparency about the sustainability plan and the right to keep a stall opposite the Raymond Priestley building for the next 2 days, and gave them a call.

At 11pm, the negotiations were finalised, and we unlocked our chains and packed up the camp.

I still can’t believe that 16 strategically-placed students and three barrels shut down the admin building for a day, AND that we weren’t arrested!  Apart from access to the University Council, the protest was a massive public-engagement success. Dozens of people stopped by throughout the day to give us messages of encouragement, and we got hundreds of people to sign onto our petition. I’m so excited that there are people on campus that will be inspired to join us in the fight for climate justice.

This action showed the University our power and made them realise that they could no longer ignore us. I have always supported the uni’s upcoming Sustainability Plan, but felt disheartened that they didn’t mention divestment in the preceding Sustainability Charter. I’m now confident that the University will have an incredibly difficult time  omitting divestment from the Sustainability Plan.

The University administration know that we can disrupt them in a major way if they try to discount our voices again. At over 4000 people, our supporters are not a silent minority of the University community. We are a loud and passionate bunch and we have just grown stronger.

By Jesse Kalic

Two Years Too Late for Fossil Fuel Divestment at Melbourne

This afternoon, dozens of University of Melbourne students and staff gathered under the University’s Administration Building to speak out against Melbourne’s continued investment in fossil fuels. This comes after over two years of student campaigning, an effort which has gained the support of over 4000 students, staff, and alumni.  

Students and staff gathered at the base of the University’s Administration Building and took turns presenting their arguments for why the University should divest. These arguments were amplified through the use of a “human mic”, with the crowd loudly repeating each of the speaker’s sentences.

“In order to stay below 2 degrees of warming, we need to keep at least 80% of current fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Fossil fuel companies not only intend to burn all of their reserves, but they are pouring millions of dollars into searching for new reserves every day,” said Fossil Free MU spokesperson and student Anisa Rogers.

“On top of this, these companies are doing everything in their power to stop action on climate change. The University of Melbourne has divested from rogue industries in the past, why not fossil fuels?” asked Miss Rogers.

Fossil Free MU’s campaign has been running for over two years, during which time rallies, forums, stunts, a referendum and meetings with university officials have yet to produce a genuine commitment regarding fossil fuel divestment by the University.

In March last year, Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis publicly stated in an open letter published in The Australian that the University would not divest its endowment. 1.5 years on, and after continuous pressure from students, the University has returned to a more neutral position. Chief Financial Officer Allan Tait recently indicated that divestment is being considered as part of the University’s new “Charter of Sustainability”.

“In the last two years I’ve watched Fossil Free MU grow from a few students with a passion for climate change into a highly organised, well-informed, and incredibly motivated group of environmental justice activists,” said Associate Professor and lecturer in Climate Politics and Policy Dr Peter Christoff. “For the same two years, I’ve seen the University grow increasingly anxious about being the thought-leader that it portrays itself to be.”

“With the Paris Summit only two months away, and with Australian politics suffering from a coal haze-induced myopia, Universities must lead the way on climate leadership and policy. There will never be a better time than now for the University to divest its endowment from fossil fuels,” Dr Christoff finished.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change annual Conference of Parties will confer in Paris in late November/early December this year. Paris is expected to be the most promising UNFCCC conference in recent years and students hope that their University can play a role in pressuring the federal government to show more leadership on this issue. Australia’s emissions target for the conference, a 5 % reduction on 2000 emissions levels by 2020, is amongst the lowest targets of developed nations worldwide.

Mingling with VCs

We wait nervously as the sun sets and the string quartet inside Wilson Hall start playing. As the delegates start to trickle past, we approach with smiles, flyers, cupcakes and a strong message – it’s time for universities to divest from fossil fuels.

Those in our group are impassioned to see strong action on climate change. As young people. we recognise the serious challenges that global warming will present for us and many generations to come. Many of us thought that universities – bastions of forward-thinking, innovation, science, reason and education - would keenly embrace our calls to divest their moderate endowments from an industry that destroys our climate and funds climate denial. Yet every university in Australia has been reluctant to take this bold step to completion. This is how we came to find ourselves standing outside the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit, talking directly to university decision-makers and journalists from all over the world, and handing them cupcakes.

“Is this a protest?” one delegate asks me. “It’s more of a friendly campaign to pressure our universities to divest,” I respond. Some are receptive, others annoyed. We ask them if they have heard of fossil fuel divestment and explain how universities have a key role to play in addressing climate change. The summit organisers from the University of Melbourne are thoroughly pissed off. “Just keep walking!” an organiser cries to the delegates. We talk to leaders from the University of California, Glasgow University, and others who have divested,  giving us a glimmer of hope for what our universities can achieve. 

We gather after and discuss why divestment is important and why universities should lead the way on this critical issue. We reaffirm our commitment to the cause and try to understand why our own universities, like our government, continue to lag behind the rest of the world on climate change action. As the summit delegates enjoy their champagne and hors d’oeuvres, we drink pints at the pub. We will win this campaign; it is only a matter of time. University leaders can walk right past us if they like, but we will be next to them, every step of the way, reminding them that until they divest, they will be profiteers of climate change.

Al Gore visits Melbourne University

20th July, 2015.

The first time I saw an Inconvenient Truth was in my final year of high school, and I was struck. Not only did the science appear completely undeniable but the sense of urgency it brought out in me had my heart racing. 5 years on, seeing Mr Gore in the flesh was a strange mix of emotions. In person, he was as inspiring and compelling as I had imagined he would be, and I felt that I was amidst something powerful. However I also felt unsettled, knowing that this was absolutely not the first time Mr Gore had given this wonderful presentation, and would definitely not be the last. How many more would it take? Under the optimism and motivation, I sensed a note of pleading.

After disappointingly being told that there would not be an open question time, the topic of divestment was niggling on my mind. So many times Mr Gore appeared close to mentioning it, discussing the end of coal and the power of the fossil fuel industry that needed to be quashed, I felt like it was on the tip of his tongue. Although he did not utter the word, I had a feeling of satisfaction knowing that the decision makers of our university were in the same room, hearing and witnessing what we were, and I just hope that they take seriously what Mr Gore said, we are going to win this, so how long is it going to take?

Mr Gore encouraged us to have the moral courage to rise up, and rise up we must, and so should the University of Melbourne and cut ties from the fossil fuel industry.

 

- Anastasia Gramatikos

 

 

Watching Al Gore present his new slideshow was at first the most terrifying presentation I've ever seen, then the most hopeful presentation I've ever seen. However, I was a little uncomfortable with the intense green capitalist agenda that he was pushing, although he pushed it well and with amazing pictures.

I say with no sarcasm that Al Gore's presentation was the greatest slideshow that I have ever seen and will probably ever see. The show began with a stream of facts, graphs, and videos of terrified people running and hiding from a consistent barrage of natural disasters. I felt scared for the people and scared for humanity. About half way through Al switched tact and showed us that we can beat this climate monster, with green technology, a green economy, and by working together. The mood instantly became hopeful and empowering, but there seemed to be a disconnect between what technology can do for us and what our politicians (particularly in Australia) are willing to for us and with us. I don't think that this made his presentation less valuable though, I understand that even though he might not have a political office, he's still a politician and occupies a certain role in the climate change space. Gore's job is to show decision makers that climate change is real and that the world is salvageable, and he did a great job at that. We all have a role to play in the climate change space. For some it's getting the word out there, and for others, such as FFMU, it's action, which I feel even more motivated to do after seeing Al's passion and dedication to the cause.

Watching Al Gore speak was an emotional, terrifying, hopeful, confusingand reaffirming experience, and I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to see such a powerful, charismatic, and influential man speak. I'm only a little disappointed that we didn't get to ask him any questions about divestment in front of the university officials and perhaps make the university administration just a little uncomfortable.

 

- Jesse Kalic

Divestment activists take campaign to the Council

MEDIA RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


DIVESTMENT ACTIVISTS BRING CAMPAIGN TO THE COUNCIL

But questions still left unanswered

Melbourne, 10th June 2015: Over 50 students and alumni gathered for a demonstration at the site of a meeting of the University of Melbourne Council yesterday evening to encourage the University to include a policy of full divestment from fossil fuels in its new Charter of Sustainability. If passed, the Charter will cover operations, curriculum, research and investments.

Students and alumni marched to the meeting place to encourage Council members to both approve the Charter and include divestment from fossil fuels within the investment section. They offered words of encouragement and cheers as Councillors passed by. Nevertheless, after the meeting, Councillors did not respond to questions about the Charter. Furthermore, the Vice-Chancellor, along with other high-ranking University Administrators, were escorted out of the building’s rear entrance by a group of security guards. Consequently, whether the Charter has been approved or not remains unknown.

The demonstration is one of a series organised by Fossil Free Melbourne University (MU), a student-led group calling on the University to be an Australian leader in a global divestment movement that has gained considerable momentum, with Axa, Oxford University and Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund committing to reduce their exposure to fossil fuels in recent weeks.

“In order to stay below 2°C of global warming, 80% of current fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground. Fossil fuel companies not only plan to extract and sell their reserves but they do everything they can to block political action on climate. In the past, the University of Melbourne has divested from rogue industries like tobacco and immoral regimes such as Apartheid South Africa. Now it’s time to divest from fossil fuels,” stated Undergraduate student and member of Fossil Free MU Angus Dowell.

“The University has an obligation to take action in line with the climate science it teaches us and the values of responsibility and integrity it instils in us,” continued Dowell.  

“The Charter of Sustainability is an exciting concept with great promise. However, it will fail in its attempt to be ‘holistic’ if it does not include full divestment from fossil fuels within 5 years,” finished Dowell.

Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Economics Ben Neville commented on the University’s continued investment in fossil fuels, saying “It is putting its reputation and brand at risk. Rather than being seen as a public-spirited thought leader, the University risks looking like a mean-spirited, thought laggard.”

The event comes 10 months after the Australian National University divested from two mining companies, causing a media sensation that saw most of the Federal Cabinet weigh in on criticism of the University’s decision. Since then, 20 more universities have committed to drop their fossil fuel shares. Despite growing local and international pressure to divest, no other Australian university has committed to selling their mining stocks since the ANU announcement in September 2014.

Fossil Free Melbourne University is a student-led group calling on the University of Melbourne to divest its $1 billion endowment fund from the top 200 coal, oil and gas companies as part of a global fossil fuel divestment movement.

##END##

For more information visit http://www.fossilfreemu.org

For media inquiries please contact:

Morgan Kain-Bryan, morgankb@student.unimelb.edu.au, 0431 902 818

Vicky Fysh, vicky.fysh5@gmail.com, 0401 087 085


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Fossil Free Melbourne University acknowledge that as an organisation we meet and work on the land of the Wurundjeri in the Kulin nations. We pay respect to their Elders past and present, and acknowledge the pivotal role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within the Australian community.