Reasons to focus on refugee children during Refugee Week

Refugee Week is here. “With Courage let us all combine is the theme and is taken from the second verse of our national anthem, emphasising both the pluck it takes to flee persecution and establish yourself in a new country and the courage required by all Australians to build a protective and safe environment for refugees in these politically difficult times”. (Media Release, Refugee Council of Australia).

Australia has a policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Children and their families can wait for extended periods of time in detention resulting in their health and safety coming under threat. Recent Federal government and human rights exposure surrounding asylum seeker refugees has travelled across Australian airwaves, receiving prominent media coverage. Much of it sparked from the Human Rights Commission’s findings of The Forgotten children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, 2014. This report comes ten years after A last resort? : National Inquiry into Children in Immigration and the beginning of offshore detention.

By looking at refugee children during Refugee week we create awareness surrounding their vulnerability. Reading about children currently in detention is all the more important because information is not freely or easily shared by Australians who work or have worked in detention centres. Doctors who work in detention facilities now face 2-year jail terms if they reveal details of any abuse or substandard care they have witnessed.

Refugee week is a springboard for better understanding. The Refugee Week 2015 resource kit provides more information. We have also included some public awareness links here with a child focus, more involving healthcare are in the AWCH library database and earlier blog “B” is for Bowlby and “boat people”. You might like to read AWCH submissions to several inquiries into the impact of detention on children and young people and read the Never again: Let’s end the detention of children once and for all joint statement. ChilOut website does much to help people nut out the issues. A fact sheet from Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Children in detention, gives an overview of who is being held and the impact of detention on mental health and safety of children.

Photos courtesy of ChilOut website:

Listening to people who were child refugees, now older and living in our communities, is a learning experience many will take up during Refugee week. The Asylum Seekers Centre partnered with the City of Sydney are hosting an event, “Different Pasts, Shared Future: an evening of stories, music and inspiration”. It celebrates the contribution of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. Holroyd High School principal, Dorothy Hoddinott, AO, winner of the 2014 Human Rights medal and Nooria Wazefadost, a former student of Holroyd High and member of the Hazara Women of Australia Association, will be amongst the speakers.

School children and college students around Sydney, Wollongong and Melbourne are finding out what it is like to be a refugee by taking part in the Refugee Council of Australia’s incursion. Their Schools Program involves Refugee speakers who share personal stories giving students the opportunity to learn from their experiences and contributions to Australian society.

For a visual approach, take a look at drawings by children in detention or see Out of Sight website. Perhaps you have links to share?

Refugee Week 2015 with a theme that combines unity and courage offers a more holistic approach to help free children from detention.

Jillian Rattray & Anne Cutler
Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Healthcare (AWCH)
June 2015