A provocative art installation – a large cage, filled with hundreds of dolls, symbolising children in Australian detention centres – was launched at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne today.
Speaking at the launch, former Uniting Church president and current minister at Wesley Church, Rev Alistair Macrae said the ongoing detention of children was a moral stain on Australia.
“I speak not only on behalf of the Uniting Church but a whole number of Churches and other faith communities across Australia who are deeply concerned about this humanitarian blight.
“The focus of this campaign is on children because they are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. At the beginning of October there were 603 in detention on the Australian mainland and Christmas Island – 186 children are currently detained on Nauru.
“Under the current dispensation these children have no prospect of resettlement in Australia even if they are found to be refugees.”
Mr Macrae said the issue of children in detention should be a matter of concern for all Australians and that the need to speak up was growing.
“You don’t need to be religious to look at Australia’s response and to judge it as fundamentally lacking in humanity,” he said.
“For a country of our capacity to actually accept more refugees, our response is pathetically inadequate to the international refugee crisis.”
Individuals are encouraged to enter the installation and free a doll from the cage, at the same time as filling out one of the ID cards that are around the necks of the dolls (which will be sent to the Minister for Immigration). Trained volunteers will be taking part to assist members of the public interact with the installation and find out more about the issue.
Organisers hope the installation will spark conversations and draw further attention to the plight of asylum seekers, particularly children, currently in detention.
“We hope that hearts will be moved and that action for change can continue,” Mr Macrae said.
“What we’re looking for is a compassionate response as we meditate on what this installation represents.
“We must continue to raise our voice and welcome asylum seekers into our community and to continue raising our voices in advocacy for all asylum seekers.”
Other speakers at the launch included former child detainee Bashir Yousefi, Dr Gwenda Davey (Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children) and Sister Brigid Arthur (Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project).
Organisers are encouraging people throughout Victoria to host the installation, especially in regional areas.
The installation will be at St Paul’s Cathedral until 23 November, from 9am to 5pm each day, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
To volunteer or for more information, contact Jill Ruzbacky, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 9251 5266.
Supporters of the Melbourne event include:
International Detention Coalition, Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Refugee Advocacy Network, Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children, Australian Young Christian Students, Victorian Council of Churches, Melbourne Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office and Office for Justice & Peace, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children.