Posted on Wednesday, 10 January
A quick introduction
At the tail end of 2023, a wave of councils around Melbourne began passing pro-Palestine motions. This was in direct response to pressure from residents, concerned about the unfolding genocidal massacre and displacement of Palestinians, the ongoing occupation of Palestine, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as well as the inaction of most elected officials at all levels of Australian government. The image below, up to date as of December 22nd 2023, shows the progress so far:
Councillors and residents from all seven of the LGAs in the left-hand column should be applauded for their advocacy and organising in the lead-up to the motions being passed. For those working on a similar cause in their own council area, the motions passed in Merri-bek, Maribyrnong and Darebin can be used as a guide. These motions go beyond merely calling for a ceasefire, or acknowledging the criminal conduct of the Israeli apartheid state (both important factors no doubt!), and include a number of concrete measures such as flying the Palestinian flag at town halls, acknowledging the validity of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and applying BDS practices to the council’s own business dealings, and calling on higher levels of government to do more to end the genocide and occupation.
Each resident’s situation will be different depending on a whole variety of factors including the demographic makeup of the council area, how each council’s meetings work, and whether you find an enthusiastically pro-Palestine councillor from the start, or have to help create one. Even so, it’s really very straightforward! It is anticipated that this guide will make the process slightly easier, by gathering ideas and wisdom from a variety of sources. Away we go!
Where to start:
Step 1: Find out where your councillors stand on Palestine
Start by calling and emailing your councillors to find out where they stand on Palestine. At this stage, you are hoping to find a councillor who is sympathetic to the cause, which isn’t unlikely! At the time this is being written, seven councils around Melbourne have passed pro-Palestine motions, which is all over the news, and the conflict has been going on for around 90 days. The councillors are likely to have put some thought into the conflict and their council’s role in it prior to speaking to you.
If you are working by yourself, the easiest method is to scroll down the list available through your council’s website and ring each councillor. You may want to prioritise certain people – for example, any councillors whose biography mentions human rights, refugees, etc.; any councillors who are Islamic; and failing that, I’d probably start with the Greens and go from there (the Greens, at least federally, have been and continue to stand strongly with Palestine). You can also search through the signatories to Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN)’s Statement by Elected Officials (https://bit.ly/47kvtTg) to see if any of your councillors have signed – they would be your first point of contact.
Before you call, it would be helpful to familiarise yourself with the motions that have been passed (particularly Merri-bek, Maribyrnong and Darebin). The complete Darebin motion can be found here (https://linktr.ee/darebin4palestine); Maribyrnong, here (https://bit.ly/4aFcMfY); and Merri-bek here (https://bit.ly/48DMAAn). You’ll also want to find out when your council’s next meeting is – this can be found on their website & will give you some idea of your timeline.
There are some call scripts at the end of this document if you need them.
In addition to calling the councillors, send an email to each of them.
There is an email template/example at the end of this document if you need it.
You’ll now just need to persist – the hope is that you’ll hear back or speak to a pro-Palestine councillor, and they will be able to guide you on where they are at and the ‘next steps.’ If this is the case for you, some of the steps below may not be needed, although there are likely to be some undecided or unsupportive members of the council even if you do have a councillor or two on side!
Step 2: Forming or joining a group
At this point, if not before, you’ll need to gather some other people who are working towards the same goal as you. There are WhatsApp groups springing up all over Melbourne and Victoria, and the organisers of the workshop or people listed at the base of this document can put you in touch with some people. Call on your friends, put out a call on social media, etc. You won’t want to be doing this alone, so it’s time to get organised.
Step 3: Applying pressure on Council
This is a pretty simple one – you need to show the members of your council that Israeli’s genocidal occupation of Palestine is something a significant segment of their electorate care about. There’s a bunch of ways to do this, all fairly straightforward; the two things you will need are other people, and persistence. You can do this! At the most basic level, this pressure can take the form of calls and emails to the councillors.
Calls: It may be useful to create a shared spreadsheet with the names and numbers of councillors, and space for people to leave notes – as seen below.
It’s also useful to make the councillors’ phone numbers easily accessible for supporters – in Darebin, they are all clearly listed on one page, whereas the City of Melbourne Council requires you to click each Councillors name to access their bio and number. If your council is like Darebin, you can simply provide a link to this page (we used a Linktree – see here https://bit.ly/48i6YqV); if it’s like the City of Melbourne and the numbers are a few click away, it’d be helpful to list the numbers somewhere all on one page, the make things easier for people who are looking to call.
Your calls will be similar to those described in Step 1 above – you will tell the councillor why you are calling, what you want, and why. You may have to discuss the scale of casualties, or deal with some of the usual Zionist talking points (the hostages, false accusations of anti-Semitism, etc.), but you can most certainly do that. The idea here is 1) to show the councillors that many of their constituents, (eg. those who may or may not vote for them in future) want action on Palestine, and 2) convince them it’s worthwhile passing a pro-Palestine motion. It may be helpful to remember that not everything is riding on your one call – the force of numbers is what will be useful here.
Emails: Personalised messages are best. However, not everyone will feel they have the time and energy for this. It can be useful to set up either a copy/paste template, for people to drop into their email, or – better yet - a service like https://dogooder.co/ to allow people to do it automatically. Here is an excellent example: https://emailyourcouncillor.good.do/emailcityofmelbournecouncilto/emailCOBcouncillors/
The email template/example at the end of this document could be useful here too.
There are other ways to show your Council that the community cares – read on.
Petitions: These can be helpful in gathering and demonstrating support, and the ‘update signers’ function on change.org can keep people updated on rallies, motions, actions etc. Darebin’s is here: https://bit.ly/3RNuK78 and also at the end of this document. Adapt as needed, or see many of the other excellent examples online. As an aside, Darebin’s was also a paper petition, which gave us the opportunity for some good organising conversations and also allowed us to submit it at the Darebin Council meeting – see more below.
Council meeting-related pressure: This will depend on your council’s policy/governance rules. In Darebin, questions are fairly tightly controlled, and the Council were not addressing any on Palestine after ‘addressing the subject’ at a meeting in November. For us, a petition with 10 or more signatures was the only way to get on the agenda and have a voice within the meeting – the petition itself was read out by a councillor (Cr Greco) and the person who submitted the petition was able to speak to it for two minutes during the meeting. At your council, it might be different – the questions process might be more ‘open’ perhaps. It’s worth checking ASAP and figuring out how to get Palestine on the meeting agenda. Even if there is a motion being put forth, it’s worth working with a sympathetic councillor to get it on the agenda in multiple ways, because some councillors may need an extra ‘push’ on the night to get it over the line. Someone at the council offices should be able to help with clarity on this process, or one of the councillors or residents listed at the end of this document.
Public events/rallies: If you can get a decent turnout, a rally at the town hall, either at a time of your choosing or prior to the council meeting (whether or not there is a pro-Palestine motion on the agenda) is a great way to both show and build support. There are a few things to consider here.
Logistics: You will need a location (ideally, outside council chambers or the town hall) and should start around an hour before the meeting, depending on what you have planned. If you have people speaking (a good idea), you may need a PA system, an MC, & should put careful thought into who will be speaking. Palestinian voices should be prioritised. Depending on numbers, you may need to consider having marshalls.
Promotion: This will depend on the timeline for your rally. Social media posts clearly stating when and where and the reasons for the rally are easy and can get decent reach. Speak to APAN and other places with Events Calendars to have your event added. If there’s time, printing out flyers to distribute at the Sunday rallies or other pro-Palestine events is a great way to get the word out and also to have conversations about the event, the council, and Palestine.
Endorsements: If there is time, getting the endorsement of local groups for your rally can show widespread community support. A great example of this is Hume rally from December - see here: https://apan.org.au/event/hume-rally-for-humanity/
Your rights/dealing with police: It is important to consider designating someone as the ‘police liaison’. This is not to collaborate with or assist the police to any excessive extent, but rather to protect community members, especially those who may be more vulnerable, from having to interact with the police. You can make the call prior about whether you inform police of the event, but on the day of the rally they will likely have a presence. The liaison should make themselves known to the police to ensure that wherever possible any communication goes through them, but should also ensure they are informed of their rights and what can/can not be asked of them by police. This is a good resource: https://fls.org.au/law-handbook/rights-activism-and-fair-treatment-at-work/community-activism/protesting-your-rights-and-the-police/
Step 4: Get a motion on the agenda & show up
In Darebin, our motion would have failed without the supporters who showed up on the night and stayed around until the end. If there is a motion on the agenda, you will need to bring your people! In most areas, this has been a rally prior to the meeting, with speeches and chants, before as many supporters as possible file into the council meeting. Anyone who is speaking or asking a question should be prioritised, and you’ll need to consider your particular council’s rules about signs & noise in the chamber.
Step 5: Regroup
If the motion passed – well done & congratulations, onto the next target. In Darebin, this was a flag-raising ceremony along with getting the councillors to sign APAN’s Statement by Elected officials (https://bit.ly/47kvtTg), as well as targeting the Federal MP for the area with similar demands.
If the motion didn’t pass, speak with the councillor/s, your comrades, and even APAN about the next steps. In some councils, a failed motion may mean the subject cannot be discussed again for a period of time; in others, it might just mean ramping up the pressure described in Steps 3 & 4.
A final note:
Everyone’s experience will be different. If you are unsure of how to proceed, call on someone who may know. This could be a councillor involved in passing a motion elsewhere, someone involved in organising elsewhere, or an organisation like APAN or ICV.
Lastly, on the following pages you’ll find a number of resources. Sadly, many of the figures around death and destruction in these are much higher now – they will need to be updated accordingly.
Call script for calling councillors.
You’ll want to say something like what I’ve written below.
If it goes to voicemail:
“Hello councillor, my name is [name] and I am a resident of [council area]. I’m calling regarding the situation in Gaza. Please call me back when you can on [phone number].”
If they pick up:
“Hello councillor, my name is [name] and I am a resident of [council area]. I’m calling regarding the situation in Gaza. A number of councils around Melbourne have been passing motions regarding the conflict, and I was wondering if there had been discussions among councillors about [council area] passing something similar?”
Email text – to be adapted as needed.
My name is [name], I’m a [suburb] resident and love living as a part of the vibrant, diverse, and welcoming community we have created here in Darebin.
I’m writing regarding the ongoing violence in Gaza and the West Bank. Although the hostilities in Palestine have been going on for a long time, the recent attacks by Israel are, in numbers of dead and wounded as well as in sheer brutality, without peer in recent memory. The death toll after nearly 90 days of relentless violence, including on targets such as schools, hospitals and mosques, now exceeds 23,000 people. Over half of these victims are children. Many global organisations, including Amnesty International, the UN, UNICEF and many national governments, have condemned these atrocities and have outlined specific evidence of Israeli war crimes and what amounts to a genocide against the Palestinian people.
There is widespread outrage at these atrocities and continued targeting and bombarding of civilians across Australia and within the [council name] area. Similarly, there is widespread condemnation of the failure of the Australian Government, at all levels, to speak on the situation as it is and to call for immediate action. On the whole, Australia’s actions so far have been disgraceful.
That said, I refer you to the motion recently passed by Darebin Council, which, among other things, condemns the attacks on Palestine, calls upon Australia’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to condemn Israeli war crimes and call for an immediate ceasefire, and affirms Darebin as a diverse and welcoming community. The full text, which I urge you to read, is here: https://ugc.production.linktr.ee/f90e71e4-c17d-4965-827c-0fd67a71b247_Urgent-Business---Ceasefire-in-Palestine.pdf
I demand that [council name] follow the example of Darebin, Merri-Bek, Maribyrnong and other Councils, and pass a motion which:
- Condemns the ongoing attacks on Palestinian civilians, and in particular on targets such as hospitals, schools, and places of worship;
- Condemns the widespread inaction of all levels of Australian Government in the face of such attacks;
- Recognises the effect of the conflict on Darebin residents, many of whom are refugees, from migrant backgrounds, or have family members directly impacted by the events in Gaza and in Palestine;
- Calls upon Australia’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to condemn Israeli war crimes and call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and to end Australia’s military and economic ties with Israel;
- Commits to flying the Palestinian flag above our town hall until the above points have been satisfactorily addressed;
- Reaffirms Darebin as a diverse and welcoming community which stands against all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism.
I can be reached via email or at [phone number] and look forward to hearing what Council will be doing on this matter.
Sign the petition here.
Call on Darebin Council - Take a Stronger Stance on Palestine!
Dear Mayor Susanne Newton, Darebin Council, and Darebin Councillors,
Darebin Council is a progressive council, with an admirable record of advocating for human rights. This includes recent actions on the rights of First Nations people, LQBTQIA+ and disabled residents, refugees and asylum seekers, as well as on the war in Ukraine and the occupation of Palestine. This reflects the concerns and progressive values of the residents of Darebin.
Darebin Council speaks of their “sustained and unwavering commitment to human rights and peace, be it locally or globally”. The motion entitled ‘Ceasefire in Palestine’, slated to be discussed by Council this coming Monday, is a lukewarm motion which flies in the face of this commitment. In light of the recent UN General Assembly vote, as well as motions passed in Merri-bek, Maribyrnong, Dandenong and elsewhere, it could and should be strengthened significantly. Over 18,000 people have been killed, with thousands more under rubble. The 2.2 million people of Gaza have been placed under siege by Israeli forces, with limited to no access to water, food, electricity, medicine or fuel. Refugee camps, schools, hospitals and mosques are being targeted, as are teachers, journalists, healthcare workers, doctors and aid workers. International bodies such as the UN are pointing to evidence of war crimes and genocide. Darebin Council needs to do more.
Any motion passed by Darebin Council must contain these essential elements:
* A call for an immediate, unconditional and permanent ceasefire;
* A call for withdrawal of Israel from occupied Palestinian land;
* An acknowledgement and mourning of the horrific loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives, and a condemnation of all attacks targeting civilians.
* An acknowledgement that the conflict did not begin on October 7th, but with the Israeli occupation of Palestine;
* An acknowledgement that many global organisations and institutions have documented evidence of war crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians;
* A commitment to fly the Palestinian flag above Preston Town Hall;
* Call upon the Australian Government to condemn Israeli war crimes, call for an immediate, unconditional and permanent ceasefire, and end all military, economic, political and diplomatic ties to Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law.
Your community members.