The idea of Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children came about in April 2014 when a group of friends met together to share their concerns about asylum seeker children being held in detention centres after seeking refuge in Australia. Grandmothers resolved to campaign until all the refugee and asylum seeker children who had come seeking help from Australia were safely settled with their families in community settings on the Australian mainland. Most of the group who founded Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children have been educators in early childhood development in Victorian universities. All are grandmothers, and all are deeply distressed by reports about the terrible effects their detention is having on children’s emotional, social and physical development.
Refugee Council of Australia Media Release, 2nd Feb 2014
'The devastating psychological impacts of detention on children are well-known and have been widely discussed for more than a decade. No one can reasonably argue that a locked detention facility is a suitable place for a child, particularly one who has already been damaged by conflict, war or persecution.'
Human rights commission President Gillian Triggs
Children being held in immigration detention on Christmas Island have told a Human Rights Commission inquiry it is like 'hell' in the centre.
‘The overwhelming sense is of the enormous anxiety, depression, mental illness but particularly developmental retardation’ .
‘The children are stopping talking. You can see a little girl comes up to you and she is just staring at you but won’t communicate.’ (ABC 'The World Today' 24 March 2014)
On Saturday June 28th more than 70 grandmothers came to a meeting at St Andrew’s Uniting Church in Fairfield and enthusiastically set up our organisation, with the main aim being to FREE THE CHILDREN. Ideas came thick and fast for activities such as public demonstrations, letter writing and interviews with politicians.
We planned for a launch of Grandmothers Against the Detention of Refugee Children on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday 6th September in a wonderfully central Melbourne location right opposite Federation Square. We planned banners and placards calling to FREE THE CHILDREN. We planned the wording of leaflets to give to supporters and passers-by.
We decided to carry one thousand paper dolls representing the refugee and asylum-seeker children in detention. We organised a working bee to prepare for 6th September at St Andrews Uniting Church Fairfield. The working bee happened. The dolls were cut out, the chains to be symbolically cut were constructed, and the wonderful placards were laminated. The banners were organised, the leaflets written and printed.
On Saturday 6th September, Grandmothers Against the Detention of Refugee Children was launched: The grandmothers came in droves and so did their friends and supporters. We all chanted FREE THE CHILDREN. Denise Scott was M.C. Dr. Gwenda Davey and Pamela Curr brought tears to our eyes as they described the plight of refugee children in detention. Margret Roadknight moved us all with song and the whole throng broke into a spontaneous rendition of We Shall Overcome at the end, immediately after the cutting of the paper chains to symbolise the freeing of the children, and the official launching of Grandmothers Against the Detention of Refugee Children.