Life at La Trobe

January 8, 2015 by Michael Danby
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Jessica Cornish tackled intense anti-Israel sentiment at Melbourne’s La Trobe University.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Jessica Cornish and Labor M.P.  Michael Danby

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Jessica Cornish and Labor M.P. Michael Danby

Like so many before her, Jessica Cornish got involved in student politics to make a difference. To be a voice for her fellow students, gain experience in the rough environment of student political elections and perhaps to have a little fun along the way. Last year, Jessica was elected as the General Secretary of the La Trobe Student Union. And with that began a year of unpredictable and at times shocking events that were beyond tough. Beyond fair. Indeed they were an indictment on the far left mentality towards the Jewish state and anyone who supports it.

Jessica Cornish, a bright Jewish woman studying at La Trobe University, enjoyed the last week of the Parliamentary year in Canberra working in the House of Representatives. Alongside Members and senior Opposition staffers she sat on the floor of federal parliament. Jessica was feted by admirers and discussed her political issues with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Shorten expressed concern with the aggressive treatment she received at La Trobe University and also voiced satisfaction that she remained in the Labor Party, especially after her experiences at university.

Ms Cornish’s travails arose out of far-away events in the Middle East, during the Israel – Hamas conflict in Gaza earlier this year, a communist group, the Socialist Alternative brought an extreme anti-Israel motion to a La Trobe Student Council meeting.  The motion made totally one-sided claims about the Gaza conflict.  As a result, three Labor students voted against the motion, including Ms Cornish and it was modified. Retribution against them by the Communist group went beyond the aggressive political norms of student politics.

The far left faction of the SA (the same nomenclature as Hitler’s street thugs the Sturmabteilung – the SA) plastered La Trobe campus with posters of Ms Cornish and the other Labor students, labelling them as ‘supporters of genocide’, and vowing to ‘fight Zionism on campus.’  On campus several men from the SA besieged Ms Cornish, surrounding her and yelling insults like, “genocidal pig” and “Zionist piece of s**t.”  They also took to social media, ranting against Ms Cornish on Facebook.

A student at La Trobe University contacted Federal Member for Melbourne Ports, Hon Michael Danby MP, about these alarming events.  Upon hearing about Ms Cornish’s harassment, Michael Danby wrote to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof John Dewar, urging him to take action to stop the appalling campaign against Ms Cornish. La Trobe university responsibly instituted an investigation into anti-Jewish prejudice at La Trobe University. A private meeting to hear students views attracted some 40 students who vented their dissatisfaction with pervasive atmosphere of anti-Jewish hatred by the far left.  Subsequently, several SA group members have been issued with misconduct hearing notices, and one SA member has been suspended from the University.

Jessica was also assisted by the Australian Union of Jewish Students. Victorian President, Dean Sherr said “Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s support for Jessica is very much appreciated. Her treatment at the hands of her fellow students this year was appalling, especially the campaign of bullying, harassment and intimidation by Socialist Alternative students against her. AUJS thanks Bill Shorten and Michael Danby for their support. AUJS is lucky to have strong bipartisan support against antisemitism.”

In the serious ranks of federal and state politics the federal member for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby met with Ms Cornish and was impressed by her bravery and dedication.  Ms Cornish was invited her to do an internship at Danby’s electorate office. Cornish accompanied Danby and his staff to Canberra during the last Parliamentary sitting week of 2014.  During her Canberra visit, Ms Cornish met with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Now she is about to leave with a group of experienced young leaders in Israel on a leadership program that will include meetings with senior Labor figures such as Hilik Bar.

Despite the frightening backlash she experienced for bravely standing up for her beliefs, Ms Cornish remains passionately committed to her political cause. Her future is bright. The fact that she stood up to all the anti-Jewish bullying was greatly admired by people at senior levels of the Labor Party and the Australian Jewish Community. ‘This is Australia, no one ought to ever be afraid to be proud of their origins.’ Michael Danby, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition and member for Melbourne Ports said. Danby also said ‘Not only was she greeted at the top levels of our party but the fact that a whole group left for Israel is a great rebuff to the small number of anti-Israel bigots among the students at La Trobe.’


6 Responses to “Life at La Trobe”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    The point here is that in Jessica Cornishes’ case when she sought assistance through Labor MP, Michael Danby, she received it. Perhaps if in time she became affiliated with the ALP she could work from within to change the attitudes of the last years in regard to Israel! The first one she should try influencing would be Tanya Plibersek.

  2. Eleonora Mostert says:

    Perhaps Jessica Cornish could study a little harder and look into the Labour Party… Take off her rose coloured glasses and see who they are and what they stand for!

  3. Leon Poddebsky says:

    Let’s not get too carried away by all that “good will” shown by the ALP.
    Let’s not forget that the ALP federal caucus wanted to flout international law (and still wants to) by supporting the genocidal “Palestinian” government’s blatant violation of the Oslo Accords.
    Let’s not forget that the NSW ALP has officially embraced that flouting of law.
    Let’s not forget that a former ALP foreign minister (still influential) is opposed to Jewish citizens in Australia putting their point of view about the Arab-Israeli conflict, calling Jewish representations “unhealthy.”
    Let’s not forget that the Rudd government supported the importation by Hamas of military resources with which to make life impossible for the people of southern Israel; adding contempt to injury, the ALP tried to cloak this position by an appeal to “humanitarianism.”
    Let’s not forget the ALP’s membership of the axis that misrepresents the Geneva Convention with the purpose of hastening the staged destruction of Israel.

    Today’s ALP has betrayed not only freedom, democracy, enlightenment, progress, but it has betrayed all those Australians, Jews and non-Jews, who cherish those values.

  4. Liat Nagar says:

    Craig J Bolton, It’s your own subjective opinion that energy and resources should not go into the defence of Israel, and you’re entitled to it. It doesn’t follow that you have the right to suggest others follow suit. It does indeed take a lot of energy to defend Israel, not because the things being defended are ‘not wholly defensible’, but because there are so few internationally prepared to do so, so many obsessed with accusing and attacking Israel, either through hatred, biassed unreasonableness or ignorance.

    Explaining Judaism? It’s a wonderful subject, worthy of exploration and attention, although not as ‘fashionable’ in academic and educative institutions as Greek and Egyptian civilisation, say. By all means, do some research on Judaism – there’s nothing to stop you. Check out courses offered by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and while you’re at it read some Jewish history. Such a good thought, but, as you say, not so many interested in such an agenda.

  5. Craig J.Bolton says:

    Here’s a thought. Instead of spending resources and good will “defending Israel” (when some of the things being defended are not wholly defensible) why not spend the same resources explaining Judaism. Just a thought, I’m sure no one is really all that interested in such an agenda.

  6. Liat Nagar says:

    La Trobe is my old stamping ground. This kind of vicious bullying and senseless, hatred driven agenda on Israel is now endemic in most Universities in Australia, UK and America, so I guess it’s no surprise that the La Trobe campus is affected too. I’m glad there was such support for Jessica. At times during the year she would have been deeply affected by such traumatising behaviour. It’s up to University administrations to wipe this out once and for all. With the benefit of high intellects, surely they can easily tell the difference between victimisation and bullying, and free speech.

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