“If you’re not speaking up, it’s as if we’re saying it’s OK,” said former All Saints Catholic College Casula student and human rights lawyer.
Addressing the college on it’s “Community Day” complete with a mock detention centre set up in the playground, former College Captain (2009), Adriana Abu-Abara, told students Australia is the only country in the word to lock up immigrant children in detention.
As a result, one third of children in detention suffer a serious mental illness.
Adriana, whose family had sought refuge in Australia from Palestine, now works for a legal firm assisting refugees and has been a caseworker for Amnesty International.
She urged to students to get involved in Amnesty or the St Vincent de Paul “Spark” program (that involves reading or doing homework with newly arrived migrant children).
She said Australia was spending $1 billion housing asylum-seekers on Manus Island (where mostly men are housed)and Nauru (where mostly women are housed) each year, which amounted to $500,000 per asylum-seeker.
She told the school how each asylum seeker is given a number – a B.I.N. – or Boat Identification Number and that for the rest of their detention they are known only by a number.
“I find it very difficult to speak on their behalf when officially they’re known by a number, yet I know them by their name,” said Adriana.
“It’s really easy to detach but in the end we have to ask what kind of country do you want to be?”
“What matters most is your attitude. How you treat other people,” she said.
Principal David Fetterplace said the college was celebrating multicultural day by focusing an awareness on asylum-seekers.
Mr Fetterplace said the school’s 530 students also created its own cafe serving food from various parts of the world with many of the students dressing in their traditional clothes.