I’ve written before about the failings of advocacy in Australia’s early childhood education sector. We’re too fragmented, our voices aren’t loud enough, and our actions don’t back our rhetoric.
With that context in mind, it has been nothing short of incredible to watch the actions of the doctors, nurses and support staff of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) over the past few days. Their visible, clear and brave advocacy on an issue so important as the health and wellbeing of vulnerable children is inspirational.
For anyone not following the news, the staff at RCH have publicly stated that children from immigration detention facilities being treated in the hospital will not be returned to those facilities. This a powerful act of advocacy from a traditionally conservative group – and could even be in breach of the Government’s insidious “Border Force Act”, which in effect criminalises health workers speaking out about the treatment of people in immigration detention.
“We see a whole range of physical, mental, emotional and social disturbances that are really severe and we have no hope of improving these things when we have to discharge our patients back into detention,” one paediatrician told News Corp.
The outlet reported that it understood the issue was sparked by a month-long standoff between doctors and authorities over the release of a child with a range of health issues this year.
Staff have also been outraged at immigration guards placed at the entrances of some patients’ rooms for 24 hours a day.
This is a courageous stand, and should be supported. This is an opportunity for the early childhood sector to add its own voice to this issue.
I’m proud to be an employee of an organisation that today released a public statement of support for the RCH staff, and called for an end to children in detention. I’d be very grateful if you would read and share that statement.
I wonder how many other organisations that work with young children will follow suit. If you’re in a position to, ask your organisation to do so. Please send any links to me, I’d love to share them out.
Children’s Week launches in two weeks time. The theme is “Children’s Rights are Human Rights”. Wouldn’t it be amazing if instead the usual “dress-up days” and “teddy bears picnics”, we saw leading early childhood organisations stand together and show their support.