How do Aussie kids feel about asylum seekers? - Kate Aubusson for DailyLife

18 June 2015

When 18 Australian children were asked how they felt about refugees, their answers blew "we stopped the boats" right out of the water.

During a week of immigration policy blowback that has seen our nation's leaders refuse-to-deny, refuse to engage and refuse to step out from behind their four-word slogans, this bunch of savvy six to11-year-olds are showing them how powerful straight talking can be. The video project 'How Do Australian Kids Feel About Refugees' sought to find out how children, from a range of social and cultural backgrounds, made sense of our immigration policy. The release of the video comes after the Australian Human Rights Commission's inquiry into children in detention which the team, including Fairfax Media journalists Eryk Bagshaw and Amy McNeilage, and FBi producer Heidi Pett, say motivated them. "It really came home to us that children shouldn't have to know about immigration policy, least of all the inside of our detention centres," Bagshaw said. The children's answers are as charming and goofy as they are piercing. Some thought asylum seekers came from the South Pole, while another suggested Sydney's eastern suburbs. But it was the children's readiness to relate to the plight of asylum seekers, and inability to understand how human beings could treat each other so deplorably, that really struck close to home. First the children were asked: Why do boat people come here? "To be safe … your house could be bombed," said seven-year-old Parker. "It's scary because people are being killed. People are trying to take over your country and that's not nice," he said. Two of the children interviewed for the project were refugees themselves. Six-year-old Kamel nodded enthusiastically when he was asked if he wanted to go back to his home in Syria. Then his smile wavered. "But I can't," he said. Seven-year-old Siti twirls her fingers in the air as she describes the way her boat capsized on the way to Australia. "That boat already broken, so go under the water," she said. Liam, also seven years old, said he would be scared and worried if he were put in a detention centre. Even eight-year-old Galileo's surprising meditation on humans evolving from homo erectus made more sense than some of the diatribes levelled in defence of "operational matters" during parliamentary question time. "Why would I be scared of someone who is our species, who's homo sapiens," he mused. But when it came to understanding why asylum seekers chose to come to Australia there was little confusion. "I would go to a nice place where the government is nice to the people," said Liam. Please follow this link to view the article in your web browser.