We eX-detainees urge the Midsumma Festival to immediately cut ties with security company Serco, Victoria police or any current relationships with politicians both federal and state. There is nothing to be proud of about the detention industrial complex and any individual, political party, corporation and agency who benefit from this industry. There is also nothing to be proud of about police racial profiling.

Who are we ?
RISE: Refugees, Survivors and eX-detainees is a not-for-profit association and the FIRST eX-detainee led and governed welfare and advocacy organisation in Australia. RISE is a unique organisation distinguished by its ethics of self-determination and community control. RISE eX-detainees raise the bar in the non-profit sector by ensuring we are not subservient to politicians or businesses by not accepting blood money from the Federal government, State government, local government or corporations who invest in prisons, military or are complicit in land grab or labour exploitation.

What is the Midsumma Festival?
Midsumma Festival is a queer arts and culture festival based in Naarm (Melbourne), ‘Australia’. They are predominantly run by queer white people and a few handpicked queer people of colour. In recent years, Midsumma Festival has been working towards ticking diversity boxes after many years of being cis-white-able-bodied-queer centric.

1. Serco
Midsumma Festival allowed detention supply chain provider Serco to have a stall at the Midsumma Carnival last year. This is utterly abhorrent and triggering for queer eX-detainees who have survived rape and torture in the hands of Serco security as well as dismissive of the torture and trauma experienced by other eX-detainee survivors.

We question Midsumma Festival, who have authorised Serco to have a stall at their Carnival event on 23rd January 2022. Serco has a direct role in the Australian government’s abusive, human rights violating, asylum seeker trafficking, and detention supply chain in Manus and Nauru as well as in onshore detention centres. Giving a podium to Serco is an investment in the Australian mandatory detention scheme and the continued abuse and torture of refugees. There have been countless reports and inquiries regarding the deaths, torture, sexual abuse and gendered violence faced by refugees who have been incarcerated within Australia’s mandatory detention centres.

Detention Supply chain security company Serco at last year’s Midsumma Carnival 2022

2. Victoria Police
There are so many queer eX-detainees and refugees who has been and are still being targeted for being queer in our own countries, and are still suffering from ongoing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a consequence, some members of our queer eX-detainees and refugee communities still have irrevocable, permanent injuries. What makes Victoria Police so special to be there at the Midsumma Festival over us queer eX-detainees and refugees? Police racial profiling not only in so-called Victoria, but also around so-called Australia against the people of colour including queer people of colour has been condemned at an international level. After many years of community concerns about police’s presence at Midsumma and Pride March, Midsumma Festival has cunningly explained their promotion of Victoria Police without acknowledging the role of police in ongoing racial profiling, targeting and abuse of vulnerable groups including queer eX-detainees and the wider eX-detainees communities.

Victoria police at the last Midsumma Festival

3. Labor Party
It is Labor politicians who crafted Australia’s indefinite mandatory immigration detention system and tortured eX-detainees back in 1992. Keeping this in mind, the Labor party has blood on their hands more than any party in Australia over the last three decades. Further, there is an going Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian Border Force and Victoria Police, hence, the Daniel Andrews government is complicit in the torture and abuse of refugees and asylum seekers.

Note: The Australian Border Force is a paramilitary wing of the Department of Home Affairs, originally formed by the former Australian Prime Minister and current member of parliament for Cook (Cronulla), Scott Morrison.

Rainbow Labor at the last Midsumma Festival

Victoria Government, Labor Party leader Daniel Andrews at the last Midsumma Festival

Midsumma Festival management would have known the above points if they had a proper genuine connection with the impacted community like queer eX-detainees in Australia as well as having clear detention abolition and eX-detainees solidarity policy as part of their organisation.

We eX-detainees would like to make it clear that we are not part of the humanitarian refugee community and grouping us under the comical “culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)” or “multicultural” labels sanitises the ongoing abuse, oppression, discrimination and racism we face in Australia. This is very disrespectful to who we are as well as all the traumas we have been through in white Australia.Having experienced so many life traumas including detention torture in Australia and being one of the most targeted and impoverished communities in Australia, we queer eX-detainees should be prioritised for direct access to community events without any PTSD triggers and without being forced to bump into our abusers at events whilst Midsumma promote their festival as ‘safe’ along with their promotion of Serco, Victoria Police and the LGBTIQ+ Liason Officers (LLOs), the Daniel Andrews Victorian Government and the Labor Party.

There is significant financial interest in Midsumma Festival’s promotion of the Daniel Andrews Victorian Government and the Labor Party, and hence, Victoria Police. In the 2016-2017 financial year (FY), it was the first time Midsumma Festival received funding from the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, where from 2016-2017 FY to 2020-2021 FY, Midsumma Festival received between $200,000 and $283,442 each year. In 2021-2022 FY, this funding to Midsumma Festival jumped to a whooping $1,775,661, which accounts for over 54% of Midsumma Festival’s total annual revenue for 2021-2022.

It is very worrying, triggering and alarming that eX-detainees who have survived torture and abuse bear the burden of having to relive our trauma and initiate these types of discussions with so-called “allies”. Our voices and ongoing survival do matter and we need greater transparency from the Midsumma Festival that claims to be a place that ethically and safely supports and promotes health and well being of all queer people without discrimination.

In reflection and response to Midsumma Festival’s promotion of detention profiteers and architects, RISE Transgender eX-detainee Director said:

“It is our human rights to be able to attend community events safely. The fact that Midsumma Festival provides space to and promotes Serco, Victoria Police, Labor Party and other politicians at the Festival jeopardises our safety and wellbeing as queer eX-detainees who have been facing persecution everywhere we go.

If something happens at an event we attend where Victoria Police presents, they are likely to racially profile and arrest us. Then they will pass us onto Serco to be abused and deported. These corporations, institutions and individuals target us, detain us, abuse us and deport us at any possible opportunity, even when we did not do anything and even when it is clear that we would be harmed if deported.

Community events should provide safe space for EVERYONE, not only for a few. We should not be forced to face our torturers, abusers and their architects when attending the very few queer events that we have access to.”

We urge the Midsumma Festival to cut ties with Serco, Victoria Police, or any current relationships with politicians both federal and state. Queer eX-detainees’ and refugees who sought protection in Australia, who are survivors of detention rape and torture call for an urgent revamp of leadership and governance to Midsumma Festival. We continue to urge the public to contact Midsumma Festival management and share your concerns and queer eX-detainees’ open letter.

Enough is Enough.

Unless these changes are met, we ask eX-detainees not to attend the Midsumma Festival.

‘Nothing About Us Without Us’
RISE eX-detainees’ Team and RISE Queer Project Team

Useful Links
Midsumma Board https://www.midsumma.org.au/about/board-of-management/
Midsumma Staff https://www.midsumma.org.au/about/staff-board/