With hundreds of children in detention under the Howard Government, ChilOut brought together a group of passionate and talented young people to speak out on the issues.
Our first group of Ambassadors visited Canberra on 11 March 2004 to present our children's petition and to meet and talk with politicians. Read about their visit
Photo courtesy of the Adelaide Advertiser ChilOut Ambassadors at Parliament House
FRONT ROW, L TO R: Reza, Bonne, Nahid
BACK ROW, L TO R: Hannah, Joan, Zahra, Fabienne, Krystal
Azeena ,17, came from Sri Lanka, studied at Holroyd High, and was Auburn Council's Young Citizen of 2004. She has represented Australia at international human rights conferences. We're here, get used to it: students give refugees younger voice , 21 June, 2004, SMH.
Azeena asked: "Why are we still saying 'No' to asylum seekers? They have been through so much in their homeland and we lock them up. These children are our future doctors, teachers, our future leaders."
Bonne , 15, attended high school in Port Augusta, SA, where her classmates were children who went back to the Baxter and Port Augusta detention centres each night. Bonne has won a UNHCR Encouragement Award for her efforts to help her friends.
The now famous Najeeba Wazedadost was, at 16 a ChilOut Ambassador. Najeeba has now gone on to be an accomplished media spokesperson, representative for Afghan women in her community, youth worker in her local area and all round advocate for social change. Najeeba and her family are refugees from Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Najeeba spoke with her older sister Nooria at Sydney Town Hall on 10 June 2004 .
Nooria, 18, Najeeba's older sister in year 12 at Holroyd High School at the time. A young refugee's plea for a better future , 21 June, 2004, SMH.
Fabienne , 14, was a student at North Sydney Girls High and was a regular pen-pal to children detained in Baxter and on Nauru.
Hannah , 16, from rural Victoria, was a year 11 student at Castlemaine Secondary College with pen pals detained on the mainland and on Nauru. In 2003 Hannah was selected as a Girlfriend magazine "Girlfriend of the Year" due to her involvement in refugee activism. In February 2004, she appeared in Girlfriend again with a report on her last visit to Baxter detention centre.
Joan , 17, had just started university and is from Ulverstone, north-west Tasmania. She is part of the social justice network in her community and through the online advocacy group, Nauruwire Joan wrote to many Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers detained on Nauru.
Krystal , 16 from Wagga Wagga, NSW, was doing Year 11 at TAFE. She has experienced a lot in her young life, including the death and illness of close family members, but she has come through it all wanting to help people, especially children in detention. Krystal is a volunteer art teacher, volunteer teacher to young Afghan refugees living in Wagga Wagga and plans to become a school teacher. She is also an outspoken member of Greenpeace. Krystal's views...
Nahid delivered her message to politicians in Canberra and was i nterviewed with Zahra on Triple J's Hack program.
Reza Sayed, arrived to Australia as an Afghan refugee. He is in Year 11 at Holroyd High School. He left Afghanistan in 2000, when he was 14 years old. Since meeting with politicians in Canberra in March, Sayed has spoken at Sydney Town Hall on June 10 , and at Hyde Park for World Refugee Day.
Zahra , 18 was a student at Holroyd High in western Sydney, NSW. Following her father's murder by the Taliban, Zahra fled from Afghanistan to Pakistan in 1998, where she lived in a refugee camp for a year. She and her mother and younger brother came to Australia as part of the offshore humanitarian program. While Zahra has not been detained in Australia, she has plenty of friends who have been. Zahra has been interviewed with Nahid for Radio TripleJ 's Hack program. Zahra's views...
Emma When I was asked to be an Ambassador for ChilOut I was flattered and excited!
I've been asked to speak about my background, my interest in helping people and how I would like to help the children in detention.
Firstly let me explain a little about my life so far, but first let me say this is hard for me to actually put into words.
I was born with infantile polycystic kidneys. It is a disease that can effect all organs, but luckily only effected my kidneys, liver and spleen. Most of my childhood and up until a few years ago have been spent in hospital being locked in four walls with no phone and only family, doctors and nurses as company. I have had two kidney transplants (both successful) I have had dialysis, my spleen removed and numerous other surgeries and many side-effects from different drugs.
This may all sound awful, but the opposite has occurred.
I have come to the conclusion that this has made me a better person. How?
By realising that having no control over your own life and not being able to change this no matter how much people care for you and love you, if it is a situation not of your doing, can be one of the worst situations and can lead to feelings of utter despair, anger and hatred. I can imagine the despair of the detainees, having their lives taken out of their control and shut away from society.
This is how my empathy for other people developed.
I am currently supporting a little girl in Bangladesh with World Vision, writing to the Prime Minister of Australia (he has never answered my letters!) going on peace marches and trying to right injustices where I can. This is because I believe all people are equal and deserve fair and just treatment; they are innocent until proven guilty.
How to help the children in detention? I am not sure as I have just been asked to be an Ambassador for ChilOut and until now have tried all I know how to, to help them.
So I am hoping that the people at ChilOut and the general public will help me decide what is the best course of action to help the children.