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16 June 2024  •  Student News


This article is a product of the interviews, photos and experiences that I gathered from that Wednesday evening.

By Syed Abbas (he/him)
A tent graffitied with the Palestinian flag and the words "GADIGAL 2 GAZA" and "FREE GAZA"

It was a weekday pre-work ritual—running back home from the bus stop as I had forgotten something. My keys, a pair of headphones, a book I needed for the hour and a half long bus ride into the city. The morning walk of shame back to my granny flat from the stop eventually fizzled out. It was no longer worth rushing back home to grab a novel and risk being late to work. 

At times, the pilgrimage made sense. Had I turned off the heater? Did I lock the flyscreen door? Sometimes it was ridiculous. Two months ago I arrived late to work because I had forgotten to spray myself with my Issey Miyake perfume. I rushed back home, drenched myself in the perfume, and upon arriving back at the bus stop, realised I missed the bus and would be twenty minutes late.

My truce to no longer participate in this habit had been broken on the first Wednesday of May. I made the split-second decision of running back home to grab my camera. I was going to the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at the University of Sydney that evening. 


Clusters of tents covered the entire front and central grounds of the lawns at the University of Sydney Quadrangle. The grass was mushy, tents were drenched, and the pavement was waterlogged. I was unsure of where to start – I knew I wanted to write about life inside the encampment. Media outlets were merely dissecting the political rationale behind protestors’ motives, asking them the same mundane and counterproductive questions: Why are you guys here? Do you condemn Hamas? How are you responding to anti-Semetism claims? 

I headed towards the encampment and approached the first person I saw. 

A person showing a banner which has the text "FREE GAZA" with hands uplifitng a map of Palestine covered in the kuffiyeh pattern

Santana Baeza with the banner she made.

SYED: What brings you out here today? 

SANTI: I was watching the news with the whole American situation. When I found out there was one in Sydney, I had to join. The universities in Sydney have heavy ties to Israel. But it’s not only that, doing this is such a big statement about what needs to be done. A way to show we’re serious. It’s a way to publicise”

When I first came across the encampment on Instagram, there were around six tents set up. Santi tells me people are coming daily, and that the encampment has spread across the lawn.

“The rain has been disastrous, but we’ve set up a lot of tarps. I got my tent off Amazon. We have so much food, it’s insane. I basically live here – I’ve been showering here. I got sent a chart that lists where all the showers are across the campus. I’m going to the laundromat tomorrow.”

SYED: And how have you been mentally? 

“It’s been pretty hard as a hijabi. Especially sleeping in a tent with potential Zionists [approaching the camp]. It has been a concern of mine. I’m wearing the hijab 24/7. There was a group of Zionists in face masks who ripped down our posters. They were filming TikToks and one of them had been filming me.”

A Palestinian flag drapped over a tipped over trolley

“I think more Muslims and Arabs should get involved here. The Sydney University Muslim Students’ Association (SUMSA) has been really nice. The Muslim boys have their tents set up on the other side of the lawn. They make me feel safe. I feel protected around them. It’s great hearing the Adhan, they sing it out aloud every day. It makes me emotional.”

SYED: What would make you leave?

SANTI: Probably a move-on order from the police. We have all agreed none of us want to do anything illegal. We understand the risk and do not want to be violent. At the same time, we are staying firm and demanding institutions divest. We are firm on that.”


“I have two abayas and a jilbab, stuff to keep warm. Tomorrow I’m washing all my clothes. I'm staying here for as long as I can.”

SYED: Could you tell me about the hygiene situation here?

“There’s a lot of showers on campus. I make sure to shower where I don’t need a student ID card so that I can go whenever I want. We have a first aid tent that has a bed and a bunch of kits. We’re talking about starting a log to track all of it. I want everyone to know it is completely doable. People here are staying a few nights, coming and going. Some people go home to shower. Some people come on their days off work. 

A tent with the words "FREE PALESTINE" and the Palestinian flag graffitied all over it

“Those in Rafah are sleeping in makeshift tents under threats of invasion and bombing, they’re starving and sewerage is soaking into the sand. It makes me grateful to have a tent in the first place. I can always run to Kmart if I need to. I haven’t gotten my period yet. So many people have been supplying female sanitation products. Staying sanitary can be hard. But again, I think of the women in Gaza.” 


I eventually left Santi and started exploring the encampment. Wooden panels elevated tents, Palestinian flags were draped over most gazebos. I see the first-aid tent Santi had told me about, a table with an abundance of food. It was clear the encampment had been set up acknowledging that change would take some time. These protestors made it clear they were willing to wait. 

Eventually, I stumbled into Harrison Brennan and Tyberius Seeto. 

Two people posing outside a tent

Harrison Brennan, President of the University of Sydney Student Representative Council and Tyberius Seeto, editor-in-chief of Vertigo, the student publication of UTS.

HARRISON: We set up this encampment last Tuesday as a way to protest the University of Sydney’s ties to Israeli institutions such as the Tel Aviv University, but also to Thales, a weapons and manufacturing company that is responsible for deaths across the world, not only Palestine, but West Papua, Iran, Afghanistan. We do not plan to move until change happens.”

TYBERIUS: Just tapping off that, it just fucked. Most universities are complicit. Today the UTS Engineering Society had Thales speaking. Us students should not have our hands stained with blood. 


SYED: Could you tell me what an average day here looks like?

HARRISON: We wake up, we have an organising meeting at 10. We’ll have a teach-in or some events at around 12. We’ve had Anthony Loewenstein come in, who is a Jewish anti-Zionist writer. We’ll have a similar event later on in the afternoon and a chill film screening at the end of the night. Between these events we try to focus on the building of the encampment. We’ll make socials or do the physical crafts necessary. If people can’t stay the night, we are open to people just coming out. We can reimburse people for the tents. We just want to make this as big as possible.

A lattice shrine made with wooden planks

A lattice shrine with each ribbon tied to it representing 10 lives lost to the ongoing genocide within Palestine. Made by Sofia Angelini and Remy Lebreton.

SYED: What’s the best part about being here? 

HARRISON: The organising. Everyone is in it together. There’s always going to be divisions around politics, but with this, everyone has just gotten their shit together and decided to come together. We have people waking up at dawn to make statements. The community warmth is also great. People rocked up with a barbeque the other night. Someone walked up and handed up $500 in cash. 

SYED: What about the biggest challenges?

HARRISON: There’s a few. The rain. God. Everyone is trying to adapt. We’re tying tarps to gazebos, making sure our tents don’t get drenched. Another challenge are the Zionists, those on social media and those who show up physically.

TYBERIUS: The media has been the biggest challenge. They’ve been constructing everything that has been happening here. 


After feeling like I had gotten everything I needed for this article, I spent some time floating around the encampment. I watched as people painted banners, a group of protestors sat near a laptop, a tent being set up. Eventually, I ran into Shovan Bhattarai. I had seen Shovan on the Instagram account @studentsforpalestinesydneyuni. 

SHOVAN: We’re here for a very simple demand, really. That’s for universities to cut ties with Israeli businesses and organisations. We’ve been really inspired by the wave of activists in America too. 

SYED: How long have you been here for?

SHOVAN: I’ve been here from the very start. It’s been more than a week. The sleeping situation has been great. A huge amount of community outpour. I have a luxury tent and mattress which has been donated by the community. We’re eating better than we have ever eaten.

A person wearing a red beanie holding her fist up while in a tent

Shovan Bhattarai in her tent within the encampment.

“I wake up in the morning and I check out the whiteboard we have which sets out our itinerary. I’ll brush my teeth, take a shower and throw myself into building the encampment. We keep getting more and more support by the hour. New contingents are joining us. SUMSA has recently just joined us. Hopefully, we will eventually cover the whole lawn.”

“The biggest difficulty is getting on social media and seeing the carnage in Gaza. I think horror is a key reason as to why so many people have joined us. Our government and institutions support that carnage. International solidarity keeps us going.”

“ I woke up with the wonderful images of refugee tents in Gaza with spray painted “AUSTRALIA WE SEE YOU. WE HEAR YOU”, that’s what makes it worth it.”



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