REFUGEE advocates are using Warrnambool’s Fun4Kids Festival to shine a light on children in detention.
Love Makes a Way and Warrnambool’s Rural Australians for Refugees representatives have been at the festival each day and staged a larger protest on Friday to raise awareness of the issue.
Spokesman Don Stewart said it was not about politicising Fun4Kids, but rather drawing attention to the federal government’s asylum seeker policies.
“We didn’t want to put a dampener on the festival because we think the festival is great, but it’s to draw the contrast between the fact that there’s children here and families can come and freely have a good time, whereas our government is saying some kids we’re going to lock up and imprison,” he said.
“We felt like there was an opportunity just to communicate and let people know to just bear in mind that not everyone has the freedoms that they have because our government is stopping some people being able to do fun things like this.”
Love Makes a Way’s Joel Rothman said following the Warrnambool event, representatives headed to Hamilton where Prime Minister Tony Abbott had begun his tour of the region.
“We wanted to go just to be a presence there, maybe to pray outside the venue where he will be. We hope that he remembers what his faith is about,” he said.
Mr Rothman said the groups were continuing to lobby to have all children removed from detention.
“We’ve written to (Member for Wannon) Dan Tehan and we’ve spoken to him in person and presented him with a petition and we will continue to speak with him in the months ahead,” he said.
“There’s a lot about our whole detention system that is dehuminsing for adults and children, but basically the message is that, at the very least, we can’t do this to children. Numerous studies show that the condition of detention does deep and lasting damage.”
Warrnambool Rural Australians for Refugees’ Katherine Stewart said public feedback to the protests had been positive. “People have been very receptive. People take the cards that have a bit of information on them and read the T-shirts, that’s been the main approach, just awareness raising,” she said.
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