Who has the right to childhood?

Who has the right to childhood?

Last night I asked I AM facebook followers a simple question: “Can you name one incredibly fun thing you used to do as a child?”
We received a great response and were so appreciative to get snippets of our readers past childhoods. And we found the answers contained one similar factor . . . here’s what they said. . .

Michelle: “We had an old bathtub in our backyard filled with tadpoles/frogs and beautiful lilies…My neighbour and I would also love to explore (I had quite a big backyard) we would catch the tadpoles, watch them grow legs, and then put them back in the tub – it never got old. We loved it!”

Lyndall: “Exploring the bush behind our property with the kids next door and hanging out in our cave that we turned into a cubby house – complete with chairs and tables. We would make our own coloured paint from the cave’s sandstone. Great memories!”

Kerry: “Sliding down the sand hills with my brother at the mineral sands depot opposite our house. Mum was never impressed as the sand was black. I also don’t think we were allowed in there, but we did every day we could.”

Seian: “Make forts in the bush and throw rocks at each other …. The usual childhood signs of a budding social anarchist.” [Freedom to play]

Me: “For me, it was exploring! When I was growing up we lived in multiple caravan/mobile home parks. The insanely cool similarity the parks had was that they were situated on huge properties with an abundance of bush & even rapids – well, let’s just say as an 8 year old, they resembled rapids. There was always a new adventure to be had, and clubhouses to develop.”

Growing up in Australia we are afforded the Human Right to experience our childhood freely. We are encouraged to embrace life and seize every opportunity because life is precious and is a gift to be enjoyed completely. As children, we could choose whether to stay indoors and play with our endless mass of toys or venture outdoors, where clearly most of us experienced our fondest memories. It is a Human Right to have a childhood that is safe & full of possibilities.

A recent Sun Herald article (June 16th 2013), stated the following statistic: “Almost 2000 children are being held on Manus Island, Christmas and Cocos Islands and in other closed detention areas around the country.” Being ‘held’ means this – these children are placed behind bars or locked gates and told they cannot leave! The conditions families, and especially children, are kept under does not offer safety, adequate health services, or opportunity for a better life. And definitely not FREEDOM!

If you are reading this, chances are you had a similar childhood to me and the majority of I AM readers. Sure, not every childhood is perfect – terrible things can happen to a child, even in Australia, ‘the lucky country’. If you consider a safe childhood to be a basic Human Right, compare what we expect for our kids with what we allow to happen to refugee children. It’s difficult to believe our silence is not a contributing factor to the extreme emotional distress these children suffer while detained behind bars in Australian detention centres.

I know people feel like they’re being bombarded with all of this “Asylum Seeker stuff” and they’re possibly thinking, “Why keep going on about it? It’s not like I can do anything!”
Here’s something Desmund Tutu said that will stay with me forever: “Become concerned about what’s happening.” It’s that simple!
The first step toward change is observing the situation and expressing concern. Look at the situation for what it is, children behind bars, children being stripped of their childhood, children suffering. Look at these families as if they were your own and ask yourself, “What would I do?”
Of course there has been progress, but we’re a long way from having the Asylum Seeker debate resolved. Sadly, we have been educated to believe we are separate, that our actions do not affect anyone but ourselves or our immediate family. Break the cycle! Teach your children that we are connected. That we all have basic rights. That geographical borders do not define the limits of our Rights.

Education on compassion, empathy & connectedness will change the world, and hopefully someday all children will have the freedom to experience frogs in backyard bath tubs, the construction of cubby houses & sliding down sand hills.

Teach your children that we are not separate.




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