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For the sake of 766 children we say, “We’re better than this Australia."

A campaign says We are better than this.
A campaign says We are better than this.

766 children locked up.

Many playing against razor wire.

Look around your typical suburban primary school – the equivalent of that many children.

The majority locked up for more than six months.

766 children.

An appalling statistic.

And a new campaign is demanding this unjust treatment stops.

For the 766 children locked in Australia’s secure immigration detention facilities, 169 of these children are detained on Christmas Island, 193 in Nauru.

Some attend school. That’s ‘some.’

Many don’t.

The conditions these children live in are disgraceful. They suffer mental health problems, anxiety, self harm.

If you happen to be under five there is no preschool.

According to Refugee Action Group Chilout those who live in alternative places of detention (APOD) get to go out on what are termed “regular excursions” which is aimed at combatting the boredom. This means an excursion once a week for 10 or so children to a local park. In one particular APOD there are around 80 children detained there, so each child goes to the park roughly once every two months.

We are better than this Australia.

And a campaign by prominent Australians reminding us of this is hitting out screens today. The campaign demands we remove these children from immigration detention.

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Featuring high profile Australian sports stars, actors, authors and well-known media names there is one clear-cut simple message remove children from immigration detention.

“We’re better than this” says journalist Ita Buttrose and businesswoman Janet Homes a Court.

“We’re better than this” says Rachel Ward, Claudia Carvan, Deborah Mailman, Tom Keneally, Margaret Pomeranz, George Gregan and Ian Chapell.

Imogen Bailey, Marta Dusseldorp, Bryan Brown say “We’re better than this”

The campaign put together by author Rosie Scott was designed to attract the attention of mainstream Australia to the horrors of children in detention.

“Australia is no longer blind to institutional child abuse. We shine light deep into the dark corners of even the most venerated and powerful institutions. And yet, Australia locks up innocent, traumatised children without trial; indefinitely, and under a tightly woven cloak of secrecy.” Says the organization.

“Our Government has created detention centres—deterrence camps—on Christmas Island, Nauru and on our own soil. There, the treatment of children is so inhumane and the conditions so appalling that leading Australian psychiatrists and paediatricians have been moved to speak out in a voice unprecedented in their profession.

“These camps contravene international human rights conventions to which Australia is signatory.

“We are better than this.”

“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.”

Imogen Bailey says that these children are not getting proper protection, safety or healthcare.

Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs also features along with activist Gail Mabo. Musician Bernard Fanning from Powderfinger is behind the music.

Tom Keneally the Booker prize winning novelist told Fairfax Media it was time 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.”

In July Mamamia reported on the inquiry into children in immigration detention writing

Psychiatrist Dr Peter Young, who was compelled to attend the public hearing, told the inquiry in Sydney: “It is quite clear we have got a large number of children with significant mental distress and disorder in this population”

Dr Young also said there had been 128 cases of self-harm involving child detainees over 15 months, according to the ABC. That figure did not include Nauru.

Refugee spokesperson for Amnesty International Australia, Graeme McGregor, told Mamamia the revelations were concerning.

“The damage done to children’s mental health by prolonged and harsh detention does nothing to protect our borders or deter boat arrivals.”

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs told reporters this morning: “The inhumanity, the cruelty of these processes is very apparent and when it’s repeated without any conditions attached by all of these medical experts.”

“As Australians we have to ask, have we gone too far?,” she asked.

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