We travelled in a cavalcade of cars and buses, all of which, and ourselves, were bedecked in purple. There were great receptions awaiting us in Violet Town and Wangaratta and much tooting of horns by passing motorists. The local media was also out in force.
A rally in the grounds of Parliament House was held last Wednesday morning with music provided by the Chorus of Women who became well known when they sang in Parliament’s public gallery against Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War.
A sea of cut-out children had been established on the lawns before the cavalcade arrived. The rally commenced with a powerful speech from the Leader of the Grandmothers and was followed by Parliamentarians Sarah Hansen-Young (Greens), Melissa Parke (Labor) and Andrew Wilkie (Independent) and Dr Anne Mijch (a leading child psychologist).
“There’s nothing more intimidating that a paddock full of angry grandmothers dressed in purple.”
Andrew Wilkie, Independent MP, addresses the Canberra rally.
A meeting was held during the morning in the Senate Committee Room with 80 of the grandmothers in attendance. It was addressed by Anna Burke [ALP], Richard Di Natale[Greens], Adam Bandt [Greens] and Cathy McGowan [Independent]. I met with Russell Broadbent, the Member for McMillan, who said to keep the message out there, loud and clear.
There is a real impasse with the two major parties having the same refugee policies. Last year the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said that one child in detention is a child too many. When asked about the children in detention on Nauru, Mr Broadbent replied that the government does not take them into account, following the recent decision by the High Court.
The grandmothers attended question time in both houses and there was a sea of purple in the public gallery!
When it was time to leave Parliament House, the 209 of us gathered in the foyer and sang We Shall Overcome and Let Us Free the Children. It was very moving and many people clapped and some cried, before we were asked to leave by security.
We then created a circle in front of the building and continued to sing. Many school children who had been visiting Parliament House joined in, asked questions and took photos.
There was good coverage of the rally in Canberra, on TV and radio, in rural NSW and Victoria, an article in The Australian, and interviews on 774 and Radio National.
The organisers of the freedom ride were full of praise for the Canberra rally. The Grandmothers will continue to raise their voices and say and sing over and over again: LET US FREE THE CHILDREN!
- South Gippsland Rural Australians for Refugees, contact Felicia Di Stefano, email@example.com
- Phillip Island Rural Australians for Refugees, contact Anne Davie firstname.lastname@example.org
March 27, 2016
What an inspiration the grandmothers in purple are. Future generations will surely wonder what disregard allowed children to be placed in detention. Haven't any consequences of the stolen children penetrated into the political thinking of our nation ? One has to say no. The lack of humanity shames me and how do we change it when both parties have the same policies !
Nerida Melsmith, Cape Woolamai