Australia’s Arts Community Is Getting Behind Students Who Are Occupying A Building At Sydney Uni

"You have been conned and cheated. I would be screaming loud and clear, and I would be screaming in front of the media."

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A group of Sydney University students occupying the Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) have decided to extend their stay indefinitely as high-profile members of the arts community threw their support behind the campaign. Yesterday about a dozen student activists occupied a building at the SCA to protest staff and course cuts that they said will threaten the ongoing viability of arts education in Australia.

The students originally planned to occupy the building for three days but, less than 24 hours into their stay, they decided to extend the occupation indefinitely. A rally in support of the students, held outside the occupation this afternoon, was addressed by world-renowned Australian artist Mike Parr. Parr, an award-winning performance artist, threw his support behind the campaign, congratulating the students on their occupation.

“You have been conned and cheated,” he said. “I would be screaming loud and clear, and I would be screaming in front of the media. The value of this sit-in is in the media. The media is interested, not in your teachers, but in young students who are having their future fraudulently taken away from them.” The rally was also addressed by Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and a representative of the National Tertiary Education Union.

Mike Parr

Other organisations and individuals have also expressed their support for the occupying students. The National Association for the Visual Arts, the peak body for visual arts in Australia, have shared the news on their Facebook page, and UNSW Art and Design students held their own rally in solidarity with the SCA students.

The students appear to be in good spirits, though a shortage of peanut butter, Vegemite and bread was reported to the rally. Supplies are being passed onto protesters using an elaborate “basket on a rope” mechanism. At this stage it doesn’t appear as though university management are phased by the action, but the longer it goes on the more likely it is security step in and take back control of the building.

In the meantime, the occupation continues and support for the students and their demands continues to grow.