Secondary students stand up for refugee rights

November 1, 2013
Refugee rights rally in Melbourne, September 21. Photo: Secondary Students for Refugee Rights.

Secondary Students for Refugee Rights (SSFRR) is a group that was founded by Caitlin Woodland and Lucy Dodd, both students at Princes Hill Secondary College, to advocate for refugees’ rights.

It formed during the federal election campaign in response to refugees being demonised by politicians during the campaign.

The main purpose of the group is to raise awareness among young people about refugees. The group is organising a protest and candle-light vigil at Federation Square on November 15 and are about to release the first issue of its newsletter to distribute around schools and online.

It has not had many adults involved and it is trying to keep this to a minimum to show that young people can do things and make change. Recently it held a meeting with Greens MP Adam Bandt who spoke to the group, but he did not get involved in the group’s internal matters.

At most schools people have responded to SSFRR’s message quite positively. Many students have also given talks to their schools at various year levels about the situation of refugees and what SSFRR wants to achieve. Even more people have joined the group because of this.

The responses vary at different schools, but at all schools there has been a positive and open attitude to hearing everyone’s ideas. In most circumstances, young people are less affected by demonising of refugees than older people.

In some circumstances some students are anti-refugee, but mostly those who have not heard much about the issue — it’s more to do with the ideas they’ve grown up around. But most young people are open.

Everyone in the group feels that something needs to be done about children and teenagers in detention. These are young people missing out on so many life opportunities and a normal childhood. Many students really care about kids they haven’t even met.

SSFRR is hopeful that its members can visit detention centres and speak to young people who have been deprived of contact with other young people because of the demonisation of refugees.

To anyone who feels that they want to do something to help others and think that both the Coalition government and Labor Party policies are just appalling — there is something they can do, they can try to make a change and have their voices heard.

[Ruby Hooper is an SSFRR activist and student at Princes Hill Secondary College.]

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