The NGV’s contract with Wilson Security is an interim contract.
We understand that the current contract with Wilson is an interim contract and that the NGV is currently awaiting a long term security contract. This is the perfect opportunity for the NGV rule out any future partnership with Wilson Security.
The Wilson Security contract is with the State Government not the NGV.
We understand that the procurement of a long-term security contract is currently in the hands of a panel at the Department of Treasury and Finance; the same panel that appointed Wilson Security as the NGV’s interim security provider.
Nonetheless, we understand that the NGV is not mandated to follow Victorian Government Purchasing Board procedure. In any case, the NGV can’t absolve itself of the ethical dimensions of decisions to do with its supply chain.
Whether the contract is procured via the State Government or directly with NGV commercial procurement, the site for this contract and therefore the site of our concern as artists, is the NGV. For the horrific human right abuses committed by Wilson, we believe no-one should do business with Wilson.
Does Wilson's announcement last year that it would not renew its Manus Island and Nauru security contracts this October mitigate any of your concerns about human rights abuses detailed in the Nauru files?
Of course we know that Wilson made a decision back in 2016 to complete its contract and not to continue offering its services at the Manus Island or Nauru detention centres beyond end of October 2017. But October is too late for Hamed Shamshiripour. October is too late for Reza Berati. October is too late for Hamid Kehazaei, and for Faysal Ishak Ahmed, and for Omid Masoumali.
And of course, we also know Wilson’s decision was not based on ethics. Rather, it was an attempt to limit the horrendous brand damage the company suffered once the Nauru files were leaked last year.
This is a company leaving a trail of human rights abuses, producing intergenerational trauma, even today, as it winds up its contracts in offshore detention. Wilson had five years to get out of the offshore detention business. During this time the detrimental effects of their enforcement of this cruel policy have been widely reported. Their alleged assaults are not isolated incidents, but reveal an endemic culture of violence and corruption. Wilson failed in its duty of care to detainees, and then attempted to cover up those failings. Why would the NGV support such a company?
Does their imminent departure allow us to turn a blind eye from this? Take as a comparison, a company that was known to be using slave labour, but planning to stop some time in the near future. Would that company be an appropriate choice of contractor for a public institution? This is the same sort of issue. Slave labour is human rights abuse. So is indefinite detention.
Where do we draw the line? We struggle to think of a less ethical company than Wilson. The human rights abuses committed by Wilson Security are systematic and ongoing, and are implemented under a policy that is inherently abusive.
At this very time, Wilson Security is participating in the forced removal of detainees from the Manus Island detention centre, cutting off water and power to the compounds. Wilson Security is right now busy carrying out the government’s policy of forcing the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island to face hostile and dangerous opposition from locals who are known to be uncomfortable with their presence on the island.
Offshore detention is a government policy, not NGVs policy.
We understand that offshore detention is government policy, and that it’s supported by both major parties. That doesn’t make it right. The NGV is a public and government-funded institution. That doesn’t make it a mouthpiece for the government. It should demonstrate its independence and its moral vision by ensuring the highest standards of institutional social responsibility along all its supply chains, including security provision.
Why should a Gallery make moral choices?
As artists we ask the NGV to live up to its vision of “creating an inspiring future,” to position itself as a moral leader in our community and to act in the interest of democratic and humanitarian values. Our state and national art galleries are supposed to represent the best of us as human beings and the best of our society. The NGV should send a powerful message that we will not tolerate the continuing culture of abuse against refugees and people seeking asylum.
Who is the Artists’ Committee?
The Artists’ Committee is an informal association of emerging, mid-career and established artists and arts workers in Australia. All members of the Artists' Committee are signatories to the letter. However, not all signatories are part of the Artists’ Committee. 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.