A newly-formed group campaigning against the detention of asylum seeker children held a launch today on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. Grandmothers against Detention of Refugee Children has grown out of a meeting of friends last April and now numbers over two hundred, according to Dr Gwenda Davey, one of the founders, who spoke today. (For more about the group, see the website.)
Before the official start of the launch – note the banner on the wall of the cathedral.
From a media release for the event:
Hundreds of grandmothers from across Victoria will gather on Saturday to begin a campaign for the release of all the refugee and asylum seeker children incarcerated by the Australian government.
There will be speakers, music and highly visual protests against the plight of young children being held in indefinite detention.
These grandmothers are united in their horror at the heartless treatment and psychological damage inflicted on vulnerable, innocent children and are determined to take their campaign to every federal MP and even to the steps of Parliament House if necessary.
They are calling on all Australians to join with them in demanding the immediate release of all asylum seeker and refugee children in detention.
With their years of wisdom, compassion and determination, these grandmothers could well become the most formidable opponents of the heartless policies of the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison.
MC of the launch will be well-known actor, comedian and radio personality Denise Scott. Speakers will be Dr Gwenda Davey AM, coordinator of the Grandmothers initiative and Pamela Curr, Refugee Rights Advocate, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Speeches will be interspersed with songs from folk and blues singer Margret Roadknight.
The grandmothers will display 1000 paper dolls, representing the nearly 1000 children held in detention, including those held on Nauru and Christmas Island. The grandmothers will call on the Australian government to FREE THE CHILDREN.
And one thousand paper chains will be cut by the grandmothers, to the accompaniment of chanting and percussion instruments.
As mentioned in the media release, some of the grandmothers were linked by a black paper chain, the cutting of which marked the formal launch:
Others wore rows of the paper dolls that symbolised the nearly one thousand children currently in detention:
Apart from Dr Davey, whose account of the treatment endured by children in the camps brought tears to the eyes of many present, Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre focused on the contrast between the humane way asylum seekers arriving in Italy are treated with the brutality of Australia’s ‘welcome’. Folk and blues singer Margret Roadknight provided apposite music for the occasion, including one song by Indigenous Canadian singer/somgwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, and MC was another well known figure, Denise Scott.
Many of those present wore purple scarves, as can be seen in the accompanying photos, along with placards and mostly percussion instruments. At the end, following a photo op for the benefit of the Age photographer, there was what seemed to be an impromptu rendering of We Shall Overcome, perhaps in response to Pamela Curr’s earlier stirring call to action. Footage from the event was aired this evening in the main, 7pm, ABC news, and a camera crew from Channel Nine was also present, so it may have been covered there too. At time of writing nothing has appeared on the Age website.[Update 7 September – a report has been published in the Sunday Age. See here.]
Dr Gwenda Davey
By the stall of the Refugee Action Collective
At the end – not quite the whole gathering