11 August 2017
Dear Mr Ellwood,
As the National Gallery of Victoria takes up a new contract with Wilson Security, Wilson Security is violently enforcing the imprisonment of refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia’s offshore immigration detention centres.
The allegations against Wilson Security since the commencement of their contracts on Manus Island and Nauru in 2012 are extensive and disturbing, and the horrific effects of indefinite mandatory detention are well documented.
The Nauru Files reveal allegations of Wilson Security employees assaulting refugees and people seeking asylum, including allegations of physical abuse and sexual assault against women and children, and attacking and choking children. Furthermore, Wilson has attempted to minimise or even cover up these abuses. Wilson employees are alleged to have misled a Senate enquiry, to have failed to report child abuse, and to have pressured other workers to downgrade incident reports from critical to major or minor, even when it was clear that incidents, such as attempted suicide, were critical.
The record demonstrates clearly enough that Wilson failed in its responsibilities to care for and ensure the safety of detainees on Manus and Nauru. But even if it weren’t clear that it had so failed, Wilson’s participation in the delivery of cruel and inhumane immigration practices makes it complicit in Australia’s breach of its international human rights obligations.
There is no doubt about it: Wilson Security profits from human misery.
The NGV is a trusted cultural institution, a public beacon and a sanctuary for artists. As a public institution that Victorians are proud of, it sets a standard for our common values, reflects our collective ethos and shapes our shared identity.
However, the NGV’s contract with Wilson Security sends a message endorsing the systematic abuse of vulnerable people.
These associations cannot be reconciled.
In light of these facts, we ask you with urgency to discontinue NGV’s partnership with Wilson Security. As a community of artists, arts workers, patrons and members of the public, we are concerned with the ways in which our public institutions deal with urgent social responsibilities. We expect the NGV to acknowledge the voice of its audience - we are calling on your institution to act powerfully and immediately for justice, by cutting its ties with the detention industry.
We look forward to your reply with optimism. Please send your reply to email@example.com.
On behalf of the Artists’ Committee and signatories.
______________________________________ 1 See the Moss Report, the UNHCR Submission to the Inquiry into the serious allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect of asylum-seekers, the Australian Human Rights Commission National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention and the Nauru files. Accessed Wednesday 26 July 2017.
2 https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/nauru-files; Accessed Wednesday 26 July 2017.
3http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/peter-dutton-should-consider-resigning-after-sarah-hansonyoung-hotel-room-spy-allegations-greens-20150814-giz0di.html; Accessed Wednesday 26 July 2017.
4 https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/aug/11/nauru-files-reveal-cases-of-alleged-sexual-violence-and-child-abuse-not-disclosed-to-parliament; Accessed Wednesday 26 July 2017.
5 https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/sep/01/wilson-security-to-withdraw-from-australias-offshore-detention-centres; Accessed Wednesday 26 July 2017.
6 Under Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Australia has binding obligations to ensure that no one is subject to arbitrary detention. See http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-24/australias-immigration-policies-violating-international-law/7195432
All members of the Artists' Committee are signatories to this letter.
We have chosen not to foreground our names, so as not to prioritise our individual voices over the voices from wider communities that are calling for an end to the abuse of refugees and people seeking asylum.
Membership of the Artists' Committee is fluid and informal, and attributing a limited set of names to the group in this context felt reductive. That said, we are also not hiding. If it is important to you to know who we are, or if you have any questions, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.