The grounds of the Cathedral of St Stephen have been home for the last week to the installation Free the Children.Organised by a coalition of organisations which included the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office; Catholic Religious Australia; ChilOut; International Detention Coalition; Australian Young Christian Students; Uniting Justice Australia; the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and PNG; and Catholic Mission, the "Free the Children Installation" was created by award winning sculptor artist Benjamin Gilbert.
I participated in this installation and have sent off a message to my local Federal Member,Terri Butler calling for an end to this inhumane policy.Join me in a chorus across the land that calls out #freethechildren
Media from Church Sources
“The Catholic Church welcomes proposals by the Greens for children to be removed from
Immigration detention centres,” Fr Maurizio Pettena, Director of the Australian Catholic
Migrant and Refugee Office, said today. Fr Pettena was responding to calls by the Greens,
supported by the Liberals, to release children from detention centres.
“Both in its pastoral activity and in its advocacy, the Catholic Church has always been
advocating for the release of children from the detention centres.” Fr Pettena said.
“The Catholic Church has been active over many years working with asylum seekers, both
inside detention centres and after they are released. Our workers have seen the trauma
and the damage that is caused by indefinite and, in many cases, arbitrary detention.
There must be a better way,” Fr Pettena said.
“Detention is particularly cruel and particularly inappropriate for children.”
“We note that the Social Justice Commissioner’s report on Indigenous Deaths in Custody
1989‐1996 said in part (recommendation 10) “disruption to the lives of children should be
a strong consideration” and “Mothers of young children should not be detained unless
“If the Social Justice Commissioner was correct 14 years ago regarding Indigenous women
and children, his comments are also correct today regarding women and children in
“The time has long passed, if it ever existed, for the wholesale detention of women and
children in Immigration detention”, Fr Pettena said.
“We call on the Government to release children from detention.”
Link to Official Copy of the Statement
Fr Maurizio Pettena
Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office
The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office opposes locking up children
in immigration detention centres because:
- The detention environment and length of time spent in detention inflicts
- mental and physical harm, anguish and suffering on Children.
- The detention environment subjects children to violent and distressing
- incidents, including self-harm and witnessing their parents and other
- children and adults mentally and physically breakdown.
- The prolonged and mandatory nature of detention inherently treats
- children as criminals and fails to uphold their human dignity.
- The policy of locking vulnerable groups in detention without trial is
- fundamentally oppressive and morally corrupt.
- Australia has effective alternatives to held immigration detention which
- address national concerns and allow asylum seekers to be treated
- humanely in the community.
- Punishing people for seeking protection ignores the gravity of a global
- humanitarian crisis and the realities people face when compelled to seek
- protection through clandestine channels.