Rights of Passage - 2005 competition


Children in detention

By Amanda Milios, 12, NSW

Children in detention charts Amanda's reaction to an incident which saw 2 children removed from their school and placed in a detention centre.

My name is Amanda Milios and I am in Year 7. I had never thought about human rights until very recently when I read a newspaper article about a six year old girl who was taken out of school because her parents were not born in Australia. Janey Hwang was forced into a detention centre with her twelve year old brother Ian, for more than four months. This disturbed me because the two children had not done anything wrong and they just wanted to live a normal life. I was also disturbed because they are very young (12 and 6 years old) and in my opinion they should not be put in a detention centre.

I never knew that the government would take innocent children out of school and make them stay in a detention centre while their friends and family protest against this disgraceful action. I do not think this is fair behaviour because education is compulsory for all children and separation of families is a horrible thing and is against all human rights!

Janey and Ian's parents were born in Korea and came to Australia with false passports. They had settled in Australia and never became citizens. Janey Hwang, though, was born in Australia and should be a citizen by birth. Unfortunately, according to the Australian Citizenship Act 1986, a child is only considered a citizen if his or her parents are Australian citizens or Australian residents.

This affects me because I never realised that the Government would have such a narrow view on who is an Australian citizen. In my opinion any child born in Australia should automatically be an Australian citizen regardless of where their parents are born.

If it was me in Janey Hwang's position, I would feel very rejected and as if I had done something wrong. I would feel very scared about facing court and very scared about being separated from my family and friends. In my heart, I'd know that wouldn't happen and I would be so scared of the possibility that my family would abandon me and that they would never love me if the court found me guilty. I would be wishing that the court would find me innocent and that my life would go on as normal. If I were Janey Hwang, I would be scarred for the rest of my life.

Due to endless media attention, the Hwang children have been freed from the detention centre but they are still anxiously waiting to find out whether the Federal Court will let them stay in Australia or have them deported.

Currently, the Hwang children are in the care of their mother who is not allowed to leave the house unaccompanied by her sponsor.

I think that the Hwang family should be allowed to stay in Australia because they have suffered a lot already and Janey Hwang, the youngest child in the family, was born in Australia.

If cases like these were determined quickly, (1-2 months), then there would be less suffering. This is much more appropriate and this is what should be happening. I have heard of cases where people are locked in detention centres for more than five years. I could only imagine how I would feel not knowing if I would be considered an Australian citizen or not. I would hate to be locked up behind bars for so many years.

I have never had an experience with issues like these but when I read the newspaper article about Janey Hwang, I developed a perspective about human rights. I hope you understand and think about my opinion on human rights and think about all the horrible things happening to families just like the Hwang's.