Super Funds Detention: why the refugee rights movement should embrace divestment

Written by:

Kirstin Hunter

6th of February 2019

Australian pro-refugee activists have unknowingly been investing in companies that profit from the suffering of refugees.

Millions of Australians are outraged by our government’s mandatory offshore detention of refugees.

Protesters against mandatory offshore detention of refugees


We organise, sign online petitions, share articles showing our compassion for their suffering, and attend rallies to demand change. We fight against the tyranny of state-sanctioned human rights abuses happening on our watch. We fight for the right for fellow human beings to seek safety on our shores.

And yet, in the busyness of the everyday, many of us have unknowingly been investing in companies that profit from the suffering of refugees.

Image of people walking in the city

Super Funds Detention

Most of us would find it absurd that the people managing our super think Australia’s despicable mandatory offshore detention regime is an appropriate investment.

But that’s because few realise super fund managers start from a position of ‘anything goes’. They explicitly ignore social, environmental and ethical issues when making investment decisions, as if financial markets and the real world do not interact.

Sometimes these managers jump on trends and create “socially responsible” investment options. But as soon as you take a look under the covers, you see it for what it is - marketing spin to lull people of conscience into staying put.

Companies that profit from environmental or social harm are frequently found in the “socially responsible” portfolios for these large, mainstream super funds. How does BHP and ExxonMobil, whose products drive dangerous climate change, pass the social responsibility test? What about asbestos producer James Hardie? Or Ferrovial - the Spanish company that took over Transfield/Broadspectrum - which has been a major contractor for Australia’s detention regime on Manus and Nauru?

It’s hard to see how any reasonable person could think these companies are “socially responsible” investments. That’s why thousands of Australians have chosen to switch to a true-to-label ethical fund.

Embracing Divestment

Divestment is the act of moving money, shares or assets out of an industry or company. It’s a way for individuals to align their investments with their values, and for movements to erode the social licence of harmful activities.

Divestment contributed to bringing down Apartheid in South Africa. More recently, the climate movement has wielded divestment effectively, as has the movement against funding tobacco.

Divestment creates positive economic and a moral pressure for change. And, as a strategy, it really works. As Desmond Tutu explains:

During the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, using boycotts, divestment and sanctions… we were not only able to apply economic pressure on the unjust state, but also serious moral pressure.

It is time for the refugee movement to embrace divestment, too.*

Future Super Supports #Season4Justice

Mums 4 Refugees is an organisation dedicated to standing up for refugee rights. These powerful women are fundraising for a legal team to sue the government for human rights abuses on behalf of people seeking asylum.

Future Super is proud to team up with Mums 4 Refugees to support their fundraising campaign.

Image of Mums 4 Refugees on their fundraising campaign

‍Source: Mums 4 Refugees

As an ethical super fund, we at Future Super have zero tolerance for companies connected to the mandatory detention of refugees. Our rigorous screening process excludes companies that profit from harm, and we seek to raise the bar across all important ethical issues (we are Australia’s first 100% fossil fuel free super fund and are addressing issues of gender equality, too). Furthermore, we publish every investment so members can be confident their savings are aligned to their values.

As part of #Season4Justice, Future Super is donating $150 on behalf of every person who divests from detention centres from this page.

By simply making the switch to Future Super, you’ll get your super out of detention centres and also raise $150 to help fight Minister Dutton’s cruel detention regime in court.

Click here to get your super out of detention centres and raise money to take Dutton to court

Or share this link with your friends:


image of man with text that says "see you in court"


‍Source: Mums 4 Refugees

It takes just a few minutes to make the switch online, and we can help find all your forgotten accounts, too.

Investing in A Better World

We often don’t think of super as our money at work in the world, but it is. Through super we are part-owners of companies that have real world impacts. Do we want to profit from business models that lock up refugees, degrade the environment and give people cancer? Or do we want to profit from social good through smart investments in education, renewable energy and healthcare?

Invest in a better world today and stand up for refugee rights

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