Australia university orders students to leave pro-Palestine encampment, citing safety concerns

The Australian National University (ANU) on Monday officially ordered all students to pack up and leave an on-campus pro-Palestine encampment due to serious safety concerns.

A notice to vacate was ordered on Monday following safety concerns about the location of the encampment. It is situated in the primary emergency evacuation zone for the large number of people living in Kambri, Canberra. At the inception of the encampment, ANU identified an alternative evacuation point. However, during a fire alarm at the residential hall and the cultural center in Kambri on May 21, the alternative assembly area failed.

In the notice to vacate, ANU Director of Facilities & Services Division, Jeremy Matthew, stated “The encampment’s continued presence in this critical area poses an unacceptable risk to the safety and security of our staff and students.”

The Kambri encampment was set up in May in support of the people of Gaza amid Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas. The students demanded that the university divest from weapons companies connected to the Israeli military, and to disclose any affiliation with these companies.

However, throughout the month there have been continuing concerns about the encampment’s conduct. On May 10, ANU Vice-Chancellor, Genevieve Bell, released a statement saying “I have received multiple reports and complaints about the behaviour of some participants of the encampment at Kambri and there may have been breaches of the student code of conduct.” According to Bell, this code of conduct was also breached earlier in the week during the ANUSA Annual General Meeting, and disciplinary action has been taken.

Following the disruptive fire evacuation and ongoing safety concerns, the encampment has been ordered to immediately pack up and remove all materials. Non-compliance with this order will result in disciplinary action and potential involvement of the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

In a statement, ANU expressed that the university has not directed any of its students to stop protesting, and they may continue to do so as long as it is respectful, peaceful, and abides by the university codes of conduct.