Tens of thousands of people have posted photos of themselves jumping to support a grassroots social media campaign to free children from immigration detention. Now the Jump Up & Down 4 Kids campaign has an anthem that both creators and supporters hope will go viral.
The song Jump was launched at a gathering of advocates at Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College Burwood on Thursday, with Refugee Council of Australia President Phil Glendenning and former Nauru worker Mark Isaacs, who wrote a book about the experience, among the guest speakers.
Campaign director Virginia Francis thanked everyone who collaborated on the project.
“What drives Jump Up & Down as an initiative is fairly simple,” she said.
“We can’t – we won’t – stand by knowing that children’s basic rights are being denied. This is not about complex immigration issues. It’s about children, and you don’t have to be a human rights lawyer to know what’s happening is wrong.
“We’ve heard compelling evidence of, and there is consistent reporting about, the harm that indefinite detention causes physically, psychologically, developmentally and emotionally. For those of us working in the area of education and counselling we know that even for those children who have been released, there is work to be done healing the damage.”
It’s good to help children to get out of detention so they can be free like us.
Refugee Council of Australia President Phil Glendenning and chief executive Paul Powers also spoke at the launch.
Mr Glendenning said the current policy of detaining children would likely give rise in the future to a national apology to the 205 children and their families who are currently in detention on Nauru. There have been up to 2000 children held in immigration detention.
“In Britain if a government wants to detain a child they can do so only for a period of 72 hours,” he said. “A minister can extend that to seven days and that is it. In Australia, for the 92 children who are on Nauru at the moment the average is around 13 months, but we know of children on Nauru who have been in detention longer than that. That is in my view a crime. It is a national shame.
“It has been really heartening to see in the past few weeks, people in Australia taking action.”
The Council’s chief executive Paul Powers said it was important to push not only for the release of children from detention, but for legislation to ensure it never happens again.
“The release of children from detention was achieved before in 2005 by a number of coalition MPs standing up to then Prime Minister John Howard,” he said. “In following years the department of immigration defined that decision as keeping children out of immigration detention centres, and they came up with another form of detention – alternative places of detention – which were remarkably similar to immigration detention centres but without the barbed wire.
“It’s really important that we push not only for the release of children from immigration detention, but also for the legislation to make it impossible for immigration bureaucrats to do what they have done over recent years.”
Autor of The Undesirables Mark Isaacs said it was amazing to see how much progress the Jump Up & Down 4 Kids campaign had made.
“We’re told by politicians and certain sections of the media that … the only way to stop boats arriving is through cruelty, by placing people in detention centres where they are subjected to all sorts of abuses,” he said. “I worked with men in these centres and I saw them break down, I saw them develop mental illnesses, I saw the self-harm and suicide attempts. I saw the fact that people were kept there for unnecessary lengths of time.
“Then you think about placing children in these centres, children who are protected by all sorts of international rights and treaties that we’ve signed. It’s horrifying to think that these kids have been put through such terrible trauma.”
Year 5 student at St Kevin’s Catholic Primary Eastwood Harrison Swampillai gained a role in the video after joining the Catholic Schools Creative and Performing Arts (CaSPA) brotherhood program for boys to participate in music, dance and drama.
“After we finished a producer came to me and asked if I wanted to do more videos and I said yes,” he said. “It’s a really good message. It’s good to help children to get out of detention so they can be free like us.”
Nava, 49, Was detained on Nauru and spoke about the experience less than three weeks after being released from immigration detention at the launch. He was the only person of 30 sent back to Nauru after journeying to Australia via the Cocos Islands and Christmas Island.
“It’s a terrible, terrible place Nauru,” he said. “ Families say they are suffering very much. I came to Melbourne in April and [detention there] was paradise for me. We’re very thankful to everybody who is fighting for us.”
‘Jump’ is performed by X-Factor finalist Jacinta Gulisano, a former Aquinas Catholic College Menai student. “I was crying actually as I was watching it because it is so powerful,” Jacinta said.
“I’m so happy that I was asked to be a part of it and I really hope that we can make a difference with the video, and I think we can.”
Marcellin College Randwick Principal John Hickey said he felt it was important for the school to get involved in the campaign. He attended the video launch with Year 10 students Harrison Smith, Jared Terry, and Sam Cantarella, who appear as lifeguards in the clip.
“These guys in many senses live the Australian dream,” Mr Hickey said. “They get the opportunity to go to a great school, they’re members of a surf club, they have a lifestyle where they have so many opportunities.
“Apart from the effect it has on their mental health, children locked up in detention just can’t do the sort of things that they can do. They can’t go down to the surf, they can’t go out and do things with their friends, they can’t be part of the local community, and as the students were saying that’s just not right.”
- To get involved, post a photo of yourself jumping on the campaign’s Facebook page: Jumping Up & Down 4 Kids, or Tweet @Jumping4Kids.