Children suffer at immigration prisons

……Let us be the ones to say we are not satisfied that your place of birth determines your right to life. Let us be outraged, let us be loud, let us be bold. – Brad Pitt

Hollywood actor Brad Pitt never visited Manus Island, but if he does, he will probably reiterate what he said to the children of Africa.

On Christmas and Manus islands, innocent children are not exempted from mandatory detention if they attempt to arrive in Australia by boat.

ChilOut revives a campaign to raise awareness on child asylum seeker (Photo: ChilOut Revived FB)

The Australian Human Rights Commission notes a disturbing number of children in detention centres, citing statistics from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. As of 31 December 2012, there were 1,953 children in immigration detention on the mainland and Christmas Island. Of these, 732 children were in community detention and the remainder (1,221) were in immigration detention facilities.

As of February 2013, there were around 30 asylum seeker children in detention on Manus Island. The Commission is concerned about the detention of child asylum seekers. People who arrive in Australia by boat after 13 August 2012 are to be transferred to designated regional processing countries– Nauru and Manus.

Children have limited places to play in Manus. (Photo: Supplied)

In Manus, children live with adults awaiting news of their fates. Nobody knows how long will it take before the Australian government steps up the processing of their immigration statuses.

According to a ChilOut youth who was locked up in the Pacific island as a child, children who live with adults see the chaos of the demonstrations all day. They also see older people committing self-harm and to the extreme — suicides. They lost years of their childhood waiting in prison witnessing horrendous human suffering.

The Australian Greens notes that experts have been warning that detention is an entirely unsuitable place for any child, particularly those who have already been forced to seek asylum. The mental effects of mandatory detention can be devastating for children.

Children face a significantly high risk of long term mental and physical consequences as a result of detention. Some of these children have spent their whole lives behind bars, having committed no crime other than being born in a country from which they are forced to flee.

There are stories behind bars. The immigration department tried to censor information through various means, including Internet restrictions or phone surveillance. It has also barred the media and human rights organisations from access, including AHRC.

But letters and art work from children have been able to arrive in the mail boxes of human rights supporters.

Art work by a 10 year old sent to Greens Senator Sarah Hanson- Young: “Here in our block, three people passed out and there is no doctor. …is laughing and others are crying.”

GetUp has already launched another campaign to consolidate support for children detained in Manus.

Out of Sight, a GetUp and ChilOut collaboration, aims to raise awareness of the plight of children and adult asylum seekers detained on Manus Island. ChilOut has also put up a Facebook page to provide updates on the issue.

The campaign aims to defy media bans and other forms of communication barriers that attempt to silence the stories of asylum seekers, especially children.

GetUp reiterates the need to give children a voice and put video campaigns on TV screens all around Australia.

“Let’s ensure these children can’t be tucked away out of sight, out of mind. ”

Australia has an international obligation to protect these children, being one of the signatories to the UN convention on refugees.

ChilOut Youth Ambassadors along with 4 other child detainees from around the world presented their stories to more than 25 Governments and 5 key UN agencies. (Photo: ChilOut Revived FB)

GetUp shakes up with a new leadership

A bit delayed to post this, but here’s from the inbox. GetUp National Director Simon Sheikh has stepped down while introducing incoming National Director, Sam McLean.

Simon Sheikh (right) with incoming National Director, Sam McLean (left).

Dear friends,

I wanted to let you know that I have decided the time is right to step down as National Director. Of course, GetUp will continue its work, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

When I first took on this role in September 2008, many were still wondering whether this movement of ordinary people could continue to make a difference, or whether it would invariably prove a momentary trend; a flash in the political landscape.

Over the years you have proven that this movement of everyday Australians has the capacity to take on and win tough fights and strengthen democracy in the process.

GetUp is driven by its members. Over and over again we’ve demonstrated unequivocally that all of us working together can change things for the better. It has been an honour to stand alongside you over these last four years.

While we celebrate what we have won we should remember what we’re still campaigning for: a nation that better reflects the generosity of spirit, innate sense of fairness, strong community pride and ever-ready humour of its people. A nation that does not shrink back and buy into fear or division. A nation unafraid to aim higher and to understand its place in the world.

Expressing our belief in these ideals by collectively organising will be even more crucial as we approach the next election, a time when our movement can demonstrate its creativity and passion and make a huge impact along the way.

I’ll forever remember walking out of the High Court with two GetUp plaintiffs in a victory that gave over 150,000 Australians the opportunity to vote; standing alongside GetUp members in the Senate gallery the moment the clean energy bills passed; or the night I learned, in a budget lock-down inside the bowels of the Commonwealth Treasury, that, along with our partner organisations, we had won a massive increase in mental health funding. These moments are your victories: they would not have happened without your passion, actions, contributions and presence at every step. And they are just a taste of what this movement can achieve into the future.

Thank you.

It is my great honour to formally introduce to you GetUp’s new National Director, Sam McLean. Sam walked through GetUp’s doors as a volunteer over five years ago, and long-time members will remember the very first initiative he led: ‘Oz in 30 seconds,’ the ground-breaking competition that gave ordinary Australians the chance to create and air their own political ads during the 2007 federal election. Sam is a person of rare talent, energy and proven commitment to GetUp members and all that we fight for. You will have seen many emails from him, especially in his time as GetUp’s Deputy National Director over the last two years. His commitment to serving GetUp’s membership makes my decision to leave much easier.

I’ve suspected for a while now that it’s time in my own life for a change of pace. So while I’m fortunate to be back in good health, my next plan is to pack up the car and head out to see more of this remarkable country with my wife Anna, who has offered me so much support during my time at GetUp. After all, there are plenty of extraordinary places our movement has worked hard to protect. Now I’m personally keen to spend some time enjoying them!

GetUp is not, and never will be, the achievement of its small group of staff. It is the alchemy of many people becoming more than the sum of its parts: people united by common values, committed not just to reading the news, but to changing it.

I’m not going anywhere just yet; I’ll stick around for a while to ensure a smooth transition. But I wanted to make sure you heard this news from me first. And I wanted to take this chance to pay tribute to you – to thank you for all that you are, and all that you do 

Here’s to tomorrow, Simon

P.S. Over the last few years I have been supported by a huge number of volunteers, interns and staff. I wanted to particularly thank our current talented team who continue to drive so much of our work: Sam, Darren, Erin, Paul, Rosie, Rohan, Kieran, Kelsey, Justine, Simon DW, Jarra, Sara, Richard, James, Adri and Jess.

GetUp! rallies behind Swan on mining tax

“Politicians have a choice… between standing up for workers and kneeling down at the feet of the Gina Rineharts and the Clive Palmers …”  – Wayne Swan, The Monthly, March 2012

Here’s from the email inbox:

The Government is talking tough about the need to ensure all Australians benefit from the resources we own. But here’s the stark truth: Over the next three years, as the Minerals Resources Rent Tax brings in $10.6 billion from the mining industry, around $8.5 billion will be handed back to them in tax concessions and loopholes!

Wayne Swan is making critical decisions over the next few weeks in an attempt to reach a budget surplus in 2012/13. As we’ve seen at budget time in years past, ideas are floated out in the weeks leading up to the budget to see how the public responds. Just this morning, news outlets began running the story that perhaps mining subsidies would be cut in the upcoming budget. As Wayne Swan takes the public’s temperature on this issue, let’s turn up the heat on him.

Can you make sure Swan stands up for workers by ending mining handouts? Chip in to put this ad on the air so that he hears from everyday Australians instead of mining magnates:

Mining magnates such as Clive Palmer and Gina Reinhart continue to rake in record profits at the same time as receiving billions of dollars in handouts (our tax dollars) from the Government.

Each year, mining subsidies on offer include (but are not limited to): – $1.89 billion under the Diesel Fuel Tax Credit Scheme [1] – $330 million under the exploration and prospecting deduction [2] – $250 million via an accelerated deprecation scheme that lets them write down their assets early [3] – $390 million in various research & development deductions [4]

This billionaire welfare is occurring at the same time as nurses, teachers, aged-care workers and other public sector workers face further budget cuts.

That’s why we’ve made an ad that highlights the stories of the people who really deserve the Government’s aid – people working for public interest, not vested interest.

Can you help get their message on TV screens before it’s too late?

It’s safe to say that at some point in our lives – if it hasn’t happened already – we’ll all depend on people like Clare, Michelle, Janice and Inge. It’s not right that they continue to work hard and pay taxes week in and week out, facing budget cuts and staffing shortages – only to have that money handed over to Clive and Gina so they can become even richer.

We can put a stop to it. Ask Wayne Swan to put our money where his mouth is and end handouts to big mining:

Thanks for standing up for what’s right, for the GetUp team.

PS – With just weeks to go before the budget is handed down, the word out of Canberra is that key meetings to discuss policy options like ending mining subsidies are occurring over the next few weeks. Can you help us get this ad on the air as these important decisions are being made?

Sources: [1] ‘Taxation Statistics 2008-09’, Australian Taxation Office. 2011. p 14 [2] ‘Tax Expenditures Statement 2011’,  The Australian Government the Treasury. January, 2012. p. 108 [3] ‘Drill Now, Pay Later’, Australian Conservation Foundation. September, 2011. p. 8 [4] ‘The Berd in the Hand Report’, Australian Business Foundation. April 2011. pp 18 – 25