November 19, 2014 | smh
High profile Australian sports stars, actors and media personalities have come together in a slick television and online campaign with a simple message to the Australian government: remove children from immigration detention.
The movement “We’re better than this” includes former Wallabies captain George Gregan, former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell, journalist Ita Buttrose and businesswoman Janet Homes a Court criticising the incarceration of asylum seeker children, particularly in the offshore processing centre in Nauru and the detention centre on Christmas Island.
Actress Deborah Mailman, author Tom Keneally, film critic Margaret Pomeranz, Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs and activist Gail Mabo also feature in the short one minute advertisements, while Bernard Fanning from Powderfinger has lent his musical skills to the production.
“I believe every child deserves a safe place to play,” Ian Chappell says in the video. “I mean Christmas Island, it’s a phosphate mine; it’s dangerous and it’s dirty and it’s got to affect the health of children. We’re better than this.”
Rosie Scott, an author and the founder of the movement, said she wanted to attract the attention of mainstream Australia through a campaign that could shine a light on the “horrors of children in detention”.
“I felt a different kind of approach could be to contact people whose expertise lies in communicating with the Australian public,” she said. Every participant gave their time and services for free, she said.
“This is just the beginning.”
Booker-prize winning novelist Mr Keneally said he wanted to take a stand against children being innocent objects of the current government’s “cruel policy”.
“I have never agreed that you can produce a policy outcome by being cruel to people,” he said. “It’s an insult to our ethos where we try to be as mentally cruel as tyrants are, to keep other people out. We’re better than this, most Australians are better than this.”
Children kept in immigration detention are shown to suffer from high rates of depression and mental health problems.
In July the government’s medical health group the International Health and Medical Service told an Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry into children in detention that the Immigration Department requested they withdraw alarming mental health figures of children in their report.
There are currently 603 children being held in Immigration detention, including on Christmas Island, and 186 children being held in Nauru, according to the Department of Immigration. The average length of detention is currently 413 days.