Immigration

Australian teachers rally, calling for children off Nauru, Manus

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Seventeen child refugees remain on Nauru, after the evacuation of five on Monday.

Teachers walked off the job in Australian cities on Tuesday, calling for the release of refugees detained in offshore processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island. 

Backed by several major unions, contingents of teachers from Queensland and Victoria left their classrooms to attend rallies on Tuesday afternoon, while more turned up to a solidarity event in Sydney's on Tuesday night. 

A teacher of 15 years Hannah Clarke told the Melbourne rally she had very personal reason for talking part in the walk out action. 

"As teachers we have a duty to advocate for kids in need and to ensure their fundamental rights are being met," she told the crowd gathered at the State Library in Melbourne.

Protesters gathered outside the State Library in Melbourne.
Protesters gathered outside the State Library in Melbourne.
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It was the story of her six-year old student, a refugee who had spent five years detained on Nauru, which drove home her desire to do something about Nauru. 

"Nauru was all he knew. When he first arrived he occupied very little space, he was very contained. He had to be invited to look at other areas in the room. He had to be invited to play with the toys, and he had to be invited to initiate conversation," she said. 

The child was only in the classroom because her sister was receiving treatment for her deteriorating psychological health after a court-ordered intervention.  

"He was in a bad way. She got treatment and she improved and so did he," Hannah said.

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"In six months, he has come so far. He is (getting) on with the regular kids in the class, he is making friends, he has best buddies, he is talking about his feelings and everything else kids should do."

In Sydney, 200 people rallied on the steps of Town Hall, calling for the release of the 17 remaining children on Nauru on Universal Children's Day. 

Teachers with the National Tertiary Education Union took a photo on the steps of the University of Technology, Sydney to mark their solidarity with the call. 

Teachers in Sydney called for an end to offshore detention on Nauru and Manus Island.
Teachers in Sydney called for an end to offshore detention on Nauru and Manus Island.
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Addressing the Sydney crowd, NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi said the suffering by refugee children on Nauru must end. 

"These children have been trapped in those island prisons for years," she said.

"They are in anguish. Their mental health is deteriorating. They need urgent medical attention."

In Brisbane, 47 members of the Queensland Teachers' Union from Yeronga State High School walked off the job with students at 2.30pm to support the call to evacuate the kids off Nauru. 

Teachers led the call and chant: "Refugees are welcome here!"

The federal government said it expects all the children to be evacuated from Nauru by the year's end, but said that move does not signal a softening in its position that refugees on Nauru and Manus will not be resettled in Australia. 

The Refugee Council of Australia said as of 21 October 2018, 1278 people were being detained under Australia's offshore detention policy on Nauru or Manus Island. 

Over the past five years, 3,127 people have been detained on Nauru or Manus Island.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (up to age 25). More information about mental health is available at Beyond Blue.

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