Eleven female church leaders were arrested at the electoral office of WA Senator Michaelia Cash, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women and Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection on Monday 24 November.
The women refused to leave the office until Senator Cash committed to a date when all 726 children in Immigration Detention Centres will be released. The women did not disrupt the business of the office, engaging in quiet prayer. This sit-in was part of the Love Makes a Way movement which has seen more than 100 Christian leaders arrested this year.
Churches and their agencies in WA have offered to accommodate and support children and families in the community while their claims are being processed. This offer was rejected by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.
The group of women were inspired by White Ribbon Day – a campaign held on 25 November to stop violence against women – to encourage Senator Cash to become a champion for women and girls in Immigration Detention centres.
The Church Leaders are distressed by the many instances of rape, child abuse, forced terminations and sexual harassment occurring in Immigration Detention and believe that this is an unsafe environment for children. They urge Senator Cash to stand up against the violence experienced by women and children in Immigration Detention Centres.
The women have engaged in nonviolent direct action as a last resort. Churches have made submissions, spoken at hearings, had private meetings with politicians, signed petitions, produced resources, conducted rallies and written countless letters. These Church Leaders chose this action to dramatise the suffering of vulnerable children so that it can no longer be ignored.
Among those arrested was Rev Jeni Goring, Anglican priest at St Peter Emmaus Church, a joint Anglican and Uniting Church, and Rev Eira Clapton, Anglican deacon and justice and mission assistant for the Uniting Church in WA.
“I’ve personally witnessed the appalling conditions in which children are accommodated on Christmas Island, and I’ve had countless meetings with politicians,” Eira said. “They seem content to ignore these children and the harm they are doing. I’m taking action today to dramatise this issue so these children can no longer be ignored.”