Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

To act or not to act - there is no question.

To act or not to act - there is no question.

Samiksha Rajesh

Year 8, Loreto Normanhurst

It is said that a picture can speak a thousand words. But the picture of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying on the beach, face down, dead, spoke to the whole world. Syrian or otherwise; refugee or otherwise; what the world saw here was the death of innocence. A death caused by the desperation to escape persecution, violence and war, and seek refuge in a more peaceful environment. This is the plight of every refugee today. Any child, refugee or not, has the right to a decent life and education and it is the moral and ethical responsibility of the progressive nations of the world to ensure that their future is secured.

When we think of our childhood, all we remember is the bliss of living in ignorance of the challenges of life, of not having to look at the world from behind a barred cage, of not having to eat food laced with maggots, of not having to be surrounded by the sound of distressing violence. Everything is so painfully different for 11.25 million children in the world who are currently being housed in the detention centres. Everything that makes them happy has been stripped away, their family, home, possessions, and most of the time, their lives. This needs to be stopped. While countries like Australia have made a step forward to ensure that there are no child detainees, there are still children living in painful conditions across the world.  Over 370,000 of the children of Myanmar, are living in, overcrowded detention centres with poor unhygienic conditions.  From these children, 51 out of 1000 children do not get to see 5 years. 60,000 of these Rohingya children have fled the ghastly violence that occurred in their home, their eyes having seen horrors no child should ever see. Such injustice is unacceptable. 

Most refugee children in Australia value the education they get, and they often end up giving back to the society that has nurtured them. Dr Munjed Al Muderis is a famous Australian orthopedic surgeon who fled Iraq whilst still a student and spent ten months as a refugee at the Curtin detention centre. Today his service to society has enabled many people to take their first steps. This shows us that the world needs to adopt a more humane approach to refugee children and allow them to live lives and seek their futures. We as a nation of immigrants must band together to make sure people like Dr-Muderis are set free as a child in other countries. Australia has climbed out of this dark hole, let us give a hand to help other countries escape with us. It is not us versus them. We are all on the same team. Having said that, we still sadly have many xenophobic people living in Australia who oppose this right to life for a refugee child. Such attitudes are detrimental to progressive societies and our government needs to take a tough stand against such discrimination. Let us try and break down the barriers in their mind. Do not attack these people, help them so they can join us on our quest for salvation.

 Australia, we need to act!  Let us band together as a nation to salvage our conscience and do the right thing. How many more children will walk around wearing their horrific experiences like weights around them before we finally realize that this is not humane? How many children will have to work three times as hard to catch up with the more privileged to be accepted in our society? How many more children's blood will be on our hands?