“Melbourne celebrates animal cruelty while refugees suffer”: connecting distant sites of detention and the ‘race that stops the nation’

Dr Andrew Burridge1

1Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia


In both the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Melbourne Cup, protestors from the Whistle-blowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA) have taken direct action to disrupt the event, drawing attention to the damaging effects of both onshore and offshore detention of asylum seekers conducted by the Australian government. Those protesting have called for the immediate evacuation of those detained on Manus and Nauru, while also linking Australia’s cruelty towards both humans (asylum seekers) and animals (horses raced at Melbourne Cup).

While WACA have protested in a variety of locations and iconic sites, the decision to target the Melbourne Cup was important for several reasons. Flemington Racecourse is only 4km from the then operational Maribyrnong Detention Centre: connections were made between the detention of persons both onshore and offshore, and to Australia’s major cities and cultural events. Engaging with the theme of the 2019 IAG, this presentation explores the geographies of emergence, divergence and convergence enacted by WACA, connecting local and distant sites, while considering the ethico-political spaces and potentialities created through direct-action protest, while also drawing connections between the racialized practices of immigration controls and detention, and the torture of animals.


Urban and political geographer with specialisation in urban studies and urban planning; migration; asylum and refugee re/settlement; carceral geographies; critical border studies; international boundary law and border management; mobilities; humanitarianism; social and spatial justice.


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

IAG Website

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