A personal note to Gaby: thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to you about your efforts. Despite the draining and intensely sad nature of the information you are exposed to through your work with Grandmothers, you are a positive, forward-looking person invested in getting less children detained offshore. You are an inspiration and you gave me so much hope that people are out there connecting those children and families offshore to our world here in Australia.
As always I will note that I try very hard not to get political on this blog. This is a blog about inspiration, community, momentum and positive change. There are so many platforms and avenues for you to burrow deep down into if you’d like to get a more political view of this issue and I encourage you to do so!
Children in detention. It is uncomfortable. It is horrifying. It is mortifying. It is so many things and then because it is out of sight it gets put out of mind.
We are told in the media that there are no refugee children on Nauru but this is not true. The Department of Home Affairs publishes a monthly update on the numbers of people in detention. At the time I spoke to Gaby 22 children are currently listed. This number only reflects those children in tents, in the camps. It does not include those children and families who have been granted refugee status and released into the Nauruan community.
The total number of refugee children on Nauru is around 140. number is reported to more accurately be 140 children.
Gaby Judd founded the New South Wales chapter of Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children. Many of these women are Grandmothers, others are older women concerned about the appalling treatment and detention of refugee children. out the and they are against the detention of refugee children. There are metropolitan, regional and rural chapters across Australia and these humans are strong.
Gaby was incredibly kind in talking to me for this post. She told me about the monthly vigils the Grandmothers’ hold at Sydney’s Queen Victoria building, the aim being to talk to and inform the public about their campaign. The group holds monthly meetings at Pitt Street Uniting Church (Sydney) and educate and inform their members by having guest speakers attend meetings. In a world of increasing isolation (particularly in older members of our community) groups that are founded on kindness and shared humanity are essential.
“We want to make Australia kind.”
I saw the Grandmother’s whilst doing a brief stint at Parliament House a few years ago now. They held a demonstration on the lawns at the front of Parliament House before meeting with Members of Parliament and Senators. When attending Question Time, Senator Hanson-Young acknowledged and welcomed the women in attendance, in a beautiful sea of purple. They represented themselves as strong and powerful, informed and passionate, direct and kind. I was so inspired and I am sure anyone who sees these ladies in their efforts to raise community awareness is too.
They hold various public demonstrations and events to educate others and communicate their message that it is unacceptable to detain children in detention centers.
Many of the grandmothers involved in this grassroots movement are involved with care arrangements of their own grandchildren. Membership age spans 50-90 years old. Whilst no one from Grandmothers have been able to physically reach a detention centre for their own inspection they are in contact with those who formerly have been or currently are in attendance.
Back when Gaby became interested and contacted the women in Victoria who had started this grass roots campaign she was told that while it was great that she wanted to join, but she couldn’t because a chapter in NSW didn’t exist. But she could make the NSW chapter if she wanted to!
And so she bloody well did.
This alone makes me feel so happy. How often have you become motivated, excited and ready to get engaged in a cause or a concern only to find out that the effort you need to put in is just a little too big. A little too much. Maybe a little too scary? I know that I have experienced this.
Instead, Gaby got on with it. Just like Grandmothers do.
Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children is a grassroots, community driven initiative and this is very intentional.
Finding your purpose is key. Grandmothers raise community awareness, host vigils and ensure vulnerable people know that they are thought of, cared about and loved even if from afar.
- They fight for equal rights.
- They fight for community cohesion and kindness.
- They fight for their voice to be heard.
- They urge others to act with compassion.
- They encourage empathy and understanding.
My own grandmothers have been involved in their communities throughout their lives in various ways. It is necessary for those of us in younger generations to see that you are 1) never to old to protest and 2) that when you do, you can do so in a polite and respectful way.
So when Gaby told me she had experienced open hostility from people, including physical intimidation and being yelled at, even if only on an isolated occasion, I felt frustration, but also exhaustion on her behalf.
We all deserve to have our voices heard, and this world of ours is big enough that you can take yourself to one park to protest your view while I take myself to a different one to protest my view. There does not need to be conflict.
Let’s make it on the news because we have successfully rallied public opinion and influenced our political representatives to make change.
Gaby is just one of the many inspirational women in Sydney, in Australia, in the world who is speaking out on behalf of those more vulnerable than herself. Grandmothers are caring, but they are also strong and Gaby is the perfect blend.