Grandmums rally to child refugees - city march on detention

Speaking out: Diane Gosden(r), Meg Petersen, who have formed a Sutherland Shire branch of the growing national movement, Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children. Picture: John Veage

Speaking out: Diane Gosden(r), Meg Petersen, who have formed a Sutherland Shire branch of the growing national movement, Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children. Picture: John Veage

BUNDEENA grandmothers Diane Gosden and Meg Petersen say they may have retired from work but they "certainly haven't retired from life".

The women, who between them have 19 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, have formed a Sutherland Shire branch of the movement Grandmothers Against the Detention of Refugee Children.

The group's first public protest was a "knit-in" on the day of the state election outside the Cronulla electoral office of Cook MP Scott Morrison, the former immigration minister who now has the Social Services portfolio.

On Sunday April 19, the pair will march with other members of the group under their new banner at an annual city rally in support of refugees.

Dr Gosden and Ms Petersen called on other shire grandmothers to join them.

"Grandfathers, as well as anyone else who is appalled by the policy of imprisoning children and their families, are also welcome," she said.

Dr Gosden said there was disturbing evidence of the damage long-term detention had on children.

"Australia is the only country in the world to detain children as its first option," she said.

"At the time the recent report The Forgotten Children was written, the average time children had been held in detention was more than 14 months.

"In contrast, in the United Kingdom, there is a statutory prohibition on the detention of children for longer than seven days."

Dr Gosden and Ms Petersen were both members of a previous Bundeena-based group that highlighted refugee matters, and they have made many visits to the Villawood Detention Centre.

Ms Petersen and her husband Alan took in four refugee children, who came to Australia unaccompanied after the Vietnam War.

"They now have grown up, with children of their own and have done wonderful things with their lives," she said.

"About three years ago, we had a young man from Bangladesh, who had a temporary protection visa, live with us for seven months.

"We are just ordinary folk living in Bundeena, but I do have a heart for children, and always have had."

NUMBERS FALLING

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says the number of children in detention has been greatly reduced, and continues to fall.

‘‘There were 114 children remaining in detention as of April 1, down from a peak of almost 2000 under the previous Labor government,’’ a spokesman said.

‘‘The Department of Immigration and Border Protection takes it responsibility for the care and wellbeing of children in detention very seriously and works closely with service providers to ensure their unique needs are met.

‘‘Children attend school and there is a broad range of programs and activities available at all other times.

‘‘They include family excursions, mothers’ clubs, play groups for younger children, homework clubs to support formal education for school- aged children and games, sports, hobbies and activities appropriate to meet a wide range of different tastes and ages.

‘‘All people in detention have access to healthcare at a standard at least comparable with that available to the Australian community generally.’’

Details: grandmothersrefsyd@gmail.com

Will you be joining the grandmothers in the city? 

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