By Kyra Gillespie
To mark International Children’s Day, local refugee advocacy groups took to the streets to protest the indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.
Members from a range of groups, including Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children La Trobe and McMillan For Refugees, gathered in Berwick outside Jason Wood’s electoral office on Wednesday 24 October.
After gathering in front of the Berwick office with a display of white cutouts representing refugee children, they then took to High Street carrying banners and placards supporting the #kidsoffnauru movement, gathering signatures to a Petition and handing out information about a rally to be held in Melbourne on Saturday 27 October.
The group stopped at the Cenotaph for a time, encouraged by passing motorists who tooted and waved their support.
Judith Taylor from the Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children said that the situation concerning the children has become critical, with doctors warning that children will die if they are not immediately removed from Nauru.
“Doctors Without Borders, whose members have recently been deported from Nauru, have identified a condition named ‘resignation syndrome’, and children suffering from this condition have effectively given up on life and now wish to die,” she said.
“This is an appalling indictment of our government’s treatment of these children. I am a mother and a grandmother and the thought that my children or my grandchildren could ever feel so unwanted and so worthless makes my blood run cold.
“This must stop. Bring them here. Australians are better than this. Enough is enough.”
This month, thousands of Australian medical professionals have called on the government to transfer the refugee children and their families off Nauru for urgent medical attention through a petition, which has garnered over 6000 signatures.
Margaret Edwards, a local Berwick mother and grandmother, has made it her mission to keep the issue in the public eye.
“We must not forget these poor refugees, our fellow human beings, who are stranded on Manus Island and Nauru.”
On Thursday mornings, between 8 and 9am, Margaret and other like-minded women hold banners and signs at the intersection of the Princes Highway and the Berwick-Clyde Road, with the intention of raising public awareness on the issue.
“We welcome anyone who would care to join us on Thursday mornings” she said.