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21 May 2024  •  Student News

EngSoc event interrupted by anti-war activists

The "Industry Trivia Night" is the third workshop EngSoc has held with Thales.

By Emersyn Wood (she/her) and Melody Kiptoo (she/they)
EngSoc event interrupted by anti-war activists

Anti-war protestors interrupted an intimate event in Building 11 last Tuesday to protest the on-campus presence of Thales, a multinational weapons manufacturer with strong ties to Israel's largest weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems.

The event “Industry Trivia Night” hosted by UTS Engineering Society, aimed to provide attendees an opportunity to network with Thales professionals. UTS has been in partnership with Thales since at least 2013. 

Zoe Bassett, a UTS student who attended Tuesday night’s demonstration, explained the group of student activists attended the event to educate their peers about the reality of Thales’ contributions to the ongoing attacks in besieged Palestine. 

Student activists made their way from the encampment at the University of Sydney to peacefully interrupt the event. 

“I just want to let everyone know that Thales is completely involved with the genocide. 40,000 people are dead. No universities are left in Gaza. While we’re sitting here in a university, I just think it's really important for us all to know this,” said one activist during the disruption. “Our university has ties that profit off the killing of a massive population of people overseas.” 

Video footage taken at the event showed EngSoc executives asking the protestors to leave, saying they would call security if they did not.

One attendee replied to society executives, asking them to listen to the demonstrators, “I’d like to know what she has to say please.”

Thales partners with Elbit Systems to manufacture Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), commonly known as drones. Elbit Systems has boasted about the companies’ work together on Watchkeeper X tactical, a new UAS modelled after the Hermes 450. It was this model of drone that killed 7 World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza on April 1st, including Australian Zomi Frankcom. 

In an address to event attendees, a second protestor said, “They’re bombing everything that you need to support life ...the healthcare system in Gaza has completely collapsed and that is what Thales is working towards. If you want to make a difference to the world as an engineer - you’re fucking smart, you’re good at what you do. Use what you do for good, this isn't good.”

UTS Engineering Society has been working on strengthening its relationship with Thales. In October 2023 members of EngSoc, along with other UTS societies, attended 1 of Thales’ 35 Australian sites. An EngSoc press release regarding the event read:

“Amongst the many companies that engineering students can work for, Thales Australia stands out as one of opportunity. With operations in an array of fields and sophisticated technological projects, Thales provides limitless potential for a rewarding career. This was no more apparent than to a lucky group of UTS students, who witnessed first-hand the staggering amount of technology and innovation hidden behind the unassuming façade of Thales.”

Engineering student and EngSoc member Adam D’Costa said he was “surprised” by the society’s collaboration with Thales, calling it tone-deaf and insensitive given the recent developments in the conflict. 

“[Within] engineering, one of the biggest parts of it is the ethics,” he said.

“The faculty's involvement with Thales is sending students the wrong message.”

“It shows to all these young engineers who are just getting into it that ethics aren’t something they should be considering.”

Protesting university ties to weapons suppliers has been an integral part of the global Pro-Palestinian student movement.

Despite this, UTS and USyd continue to maintain strong relationships with weapons manufacturers. The UTS Engineering Faculty’s long-standing partnership with Thales is ongoing. 

Vertigo contacted EngSoc for comment but received no reply. 

Additional reporting by Tyberius Seeto. 


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