Since becoming CEO of World Vision Australia 18 months ago, I’ve had very rapid, and at times somewhat harrowing, exposure to the truth of just how vulnerable children can be.
I’ve visited refugee camps in places like Uganda and Bangladesh and talked with children and parents who’ve fled terrible violence and suffered great loss.
The issue of children in detention anywhere in the world is an ongoing concern for World Vision, and a focus for our global efforts to ensure all children’s rights are protected wherever they are.
So that’s why we decided to see if we can do something that can be a real game changer for the forgotten children of Nauru.
And because this is bigger than us and because we believe that most Australians would agree that children shouldn’t be left to suffer and languish on an island prison, we approached other organisations to join us. This includes groups like Oxfam and Save the Children, the Human Rights Law Centre, the Refugee Council of Australia and many more.
As a coalition of more than 90 organisations, we’ve set a deadline for Australia’s political leaders to remove the more than 100 children and their families currently being held on Nauru by 20 November – Universal Children’s Day – at the latest.
We want them brought to Australia or to a third country that will welcome them and from where they can build a real future.
The plight of children on Nauru has largely been hidden from ordinary Australians’ eyes as they languish on an island the same size as Melbourne Airport. Many of them have lived for years in tents; they have been separated from close family members and have no safe place to play or access to acceptable medical care.
“As agencies charged with protecting children’s rights we are inviting all Australians who care about children to join us in demanding these kids be released,” says World Vision CEO Claire Rogers.
You don’t need a fence to detain a child
These children are also being forced to grow up without the very basics that Australian parents consider necessities for their own sons and daughters, like a decent education. Only 15 percent are believed to be attending school.
But most devastating to their wellbeing, their innocence has been taken. All they have known from a young age is a world of fences, security guards and uncertainty.
These children have seen and endured things that no child should ever see. They should have the chance to rebuild their lives in peace and safety.
The #KIDSOFFNAURU coalition is calling for common sense, compassion and leadership from our political leaders.
It’s a campaign for and by all decent Australians who are heartbroken that we are denying these children their most fundamental rights; their freedom and their future. Already more than 50,000 Australians have signed up in support of the campaign.