Student activists call on UOW to break ties with weapons companies

Student activists have called on the University of Wollongong to break ties with weapons companies.

On Thursday the ‘DisarmUOW’ protesters ramped up their campaign and disrupted UOW’s STEM Careers Day event to draw attention to the weapons manufacturers appearance on campus chanting “books not bombs”.

Wollongong Undergraduate Students’ Association (WUSA) education officer Isabelle Liddy called on her university to end all research collaboration with weapons manufacturers and military.

“UOW wants to integrate our education into the production chain of the weapons manufacturers,” she said.

“Already their research through the Defence Materials Technology Centre has helped to produce combat vehicles occupying Afghanistan and Iraq and sold on the world market.

“Students don’t want our degrees complicit in war crimes, we want independent, publicly driven research.”

Student protester Chloe Rafferty said students were angry their education is connected to companies such as Thales Australia and Northrop Grumman. 

A spokesman said UOW “proudly stands behind its researchers and the work they have done to protect Australian service men and women..”

“Reference has been made to UOW researchers’ work on ballistic protection features of Australian military protected mobility vehicles, such as Bushmaster and Hawkei,” the spokesman said.

“Bushmaster has been globally acclaimed as having saved countless lives. No soldier has been killed in a Bushmaster during conflict.”

But Rafferty said it was not right that the Australian Chairman of BAE Systems was sitting on the advisory council of the SMART facility at UOW.

“Essentially UOW is letting the CEO’s of weapons companies determine our research priorities,” she said.

“Thales Australia is one of the biggest weapons manufacturers operating in Australia. UOW research has helped them to secure a $1.3 billion deal to produce 1100 Hawkei combat vehicles.”

Disarm UOW’ activist Claire Dunning said more protests were needed to oppose weapons research on campus and defend the independence of education.

“Students don't want to see Northrop Grumman, the company that just sold the Turnbull government $7 billion worth of drones, here on campus,” she said.

“It's disgraceful that funding has been ripped out of universities and given to military corporations, and we're protesting today to make these companies feel very unwelcome at UOW.”

A UOW spokesman said war was a regrettable feature of our world and preventing such tragedies by peaceful resolution of tensions is the highest responsibility of diplomats and political leaders.

“Those who volunteer to serve in Australia’s armed forces do so to defend the very freedoms being exercised on campus today.

“UOW is proud to have contributed to protecting them when called on to serve in theatres of war, but urges educators, diplomats and political leaders to make every effort to prevent armed conflict occurring.”.