Grandmothers Against Detention page
The local women fighting for the children on Nauru
It’s a cold Monday morning and we’d all rather be inside with a warming shot of caffeine. But a bunch of women whose average age is probably 70, choose to stand out in freezing temperatures waving placards and calling out slogans.
Far from being derided as a bunch of do-gooding oldies, these women from Berowra and Hornsby Heights, Mt Colah, Pennant Hills and West Pennant Hills are following in a long line of powerful older women making their voices heard and changing both attitudes and public policy.
Think of the silver-haired antiCruise Missile warriors who kept the Greenham Common women’s peace camp in the UK going for two decades, or the powerful US female peace activists in the sixties who shaped the Vietnam debate. And not forgetting the suffragettes, many who carried on fighting for the right to vote well into their 80s.
“We aim to be a thorn in the side of the government,” says Gael Walker, a former university professor, from the 20-strong Berowra branch of the Australian movement Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children (GADRC NSW). “Just because we’re grandmothers doesn’t make us invisible.”
The group, a smart, informed cohort which includes a retired teacher, psychologist and research pathologist, works in close collaboration with other GADRC groups across Australia to lobby politicians in Canberra, hold monthly vigils at the QVB in Sydney involving leaflet handing out, conversations with passers-by and slogan shouting, and they show films that demonstrate the appalling plight of detainees on Manus and Nauru.
“No-one has been arrested yet,” says Gaby Judd who started the local group. “We aim for a peaceful protest. Most people don’t know what’s being done to innocent children on Nauru so we see it as a big part of what we’re doing, to let people know. If we’ve educated people about what’s going on, we’ve done our job.”
So what is going on? On Nauru’s Offshore Processing Centre, Rohingya, Tamil, Syrian, Hazara, Iraqi and Iranian refugees fleeing war-torn and brutalist regimes are being held in camps while their refugee status is assessed. “They’ve said there are no more kids in detention, but in fact around 36 are currently still in camps and about 124 are in the community - in great danger,” explains Gaby.
It’s a living hell with reports that even inside detention centres women would rather pee in their beds than go to the bathroom at night for fear of being raped by a guard. There’s also alleged abuse of children.
“Just because we’re grandmothers in our seventies doesn’t make us invisible”
Local grandmothers (from left), Gael Walker, Martha Mollison, Anni Totakatlian, Helen Esmond, Jill Udy, Margaret McDonald and group founder Gaby Judd at a protest.