CHILD 134 arrived on boat XAN and was promptly locked up.
That child — let’s call him Amir — was “rescued” yesterday and set free from his cage upon the lush green grass of Hovell Tree Park.
Only half that story is true — Amir spent last night still in mandatory detention after coming to Australia as an asylum seeker.
But a touring display, in Albury yesterday and today, hopes to encourage people to fight for the rights of children in detention through a powerful visual message.
The “Free the Children” protest work is the effort of a range of religious and secular groups, including Catholic Mission, and features a large cage filled with dolls to represent the almost 800 children now held in detention.
Bishop of the Diocese of Wagga, Gerard Hanna, opened the display yesterday and spoke powerfully against Australia’s stance on asylum seekers.
“The children are being punished, they are not being properly looked after, they can’t possibly be getting properly educated, they’re not getting proper nutrition,” he said.
“And we’re allowing it to happen.”
Bishop Hanna doubted Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would suffer any political consequences because of his actions, because the government was “broadly supported — a lot of Australians think it’s OK”.
Passers-by are encouraged to step inside the cage and rescue a “child” — each is tagged with the child’s number and the name of the boat on which they arrived, as a way of putting a very real identity to the issue.
They can then place the freed doll outside and sign a letter to be sent to local federal MPs Sussan Ley and Cathy McGowan, calling for them to act.
The Free the Children protest has been travelling around Australia.
It will be in Albury today, at Hovell Tree Park, before moving to Wagga tomorrow.