Parkville Station

FFMU keeps the pressure on

Dressed in protective gear and accompanied by their signature oil barrels, activists from Fossil Free Melbourne University (FFMU) cleaned up a mock “oil spill” outside the front of the Raymond Priestley building today, aiming to put further pressure on the University to commit to divesting from fossil-fuel–intensive companies.

The action comes as members of the University’s Chancellery Executive consider whether to accept a draft of the University’s new Sustainability Plan. According to representatives from FFMU, the draft version of the plan being considered today doesn’t make a specific commitment for or against divestment, deferring that decision to a future process.

FFMU member Matt Clare described the mood as “frustrated, disappointed […] but not really surprised”, saying that FFMU had “put a lot of faith in the Sustainability Plan” but felt that the University had been “yanking our chain” and had not been making progress on the plan, at least as far as it came to divestment, at a reasonable pace.

The Sustainability Plan is designed to “realise” (i.e., implement) what the University expressed in its Sustainability Charter, which was developed over the course of 2015 and released in March this year. The Plan has been under development since that time.

According to the University’s website, the University Executive (a distinct body, we understand, from the Chancellery Executive) will consider the plan on Wednesday 19th October, in anticipation of it being presented to University Council at its November meeting, on 16th November.

FFMU’s Clare said the group had had “more meetings […] but not more engagement” with the University since its action earlier this year. He also cited a “conflict of interest” that the University had when making decisions about its investment portfolio, as well as key decision-makers from the University not showing up to meetings intended to hammer out the Sustainability Plan.

FFMU has been running a “Where Interests Collide” campaign in an attempt to highlight what they perceive as a conflict of interest that the University holds with respect to its investment portfolio.

In a statement to Parkville Station, the University told us they considered the Sustainability Plan to be “well advanced and on track to be presented to University Council for final approval in November”.

“The University has had good engagement with FFMU and many other stakeholders throughout the development of both the Plan and the Charter, and has received valuable input as part of the process.”

The action is a smaller scale—and perhaps less disruptive—version of a protest action that FFMU ran earlier this year, which saw FFMU activists blockade the Raymond Priestley building, an action which ultimately saw the University arrange a meeting between FFMU representatives and key decisionmakers in the University, including Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Allan Tait.

The news comes as the University of Queensland ruled out divestment last Friday.

Update: This article was updated to reflect the response received from the University.

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