The coronavirus pandemic has created physical barriers to staying connected with our loved ones and friends. But long before the outbreak reached Australia, these children found a way to support and connect with other children more than 4,000 kilometres away.
Thousands of compassionate messages, just like this, were tucked within the pages of books and sent to children on Nauru.
They were part of the Befriend a Child in Detention project, which challenged the decision to detain children whose families had fled their country and sought refuge.
The letters were written by school children from across Australia at a time when pressure was mounting for the Federal Government to get children off the tiny island country.
Australian children were reaching out to those stuck in limbo on Nauru to remind them that someone was listening, that someone cared.
Some letters made it and were held and cherished. They offered friendship, support and compassion. Others were never delivered to the children – without explanation.
While government MPs - on both sides - have been divided on what number of refugees Australia will settle, Australian children have managed to strip away the political headache to focus on one thing: humanity.
These children hadn’t met their pen pals - they didn’t even know their names. But they were aware that the asylum seeker children detained on the tiny island of Nauru were not happy and they wanted to do their part to help.
Children and young people have remarkable insight into the way policies and social matters affect them and the people around them. They are eager to participate in society and to make valuable contributions to discussions on major issues. These letters are evidence of that.
Following numerous reports of deteriorating mental health and self-harm by asylum seeker children and their family members, the Australian Government made a pledge to remove all children off Nauru in 2018. The last remaining asylum seeker children were removed from the island in February 2019.
But the uncertainty for these children is not over. The children who have moved to Australia are stuck in legal limbo, waiting to move on in their lives in a country that can provide safe and permanent resettlement.
The urgency of the situation for these children and their families cannot be overstated - the decline of their mental and physical health is the result of living in detention-like settings and prolonged uncertainty for years.
Detention is never in the best interest of a child. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child, of which Australia was an early signatory, insists that children who come into a country as refugees should have the same rights as children who are born in that country.
We need change and we need long-term solutions that prioritise the interests of every child.
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