Pip-Life Rad People Social Justice

Be A Penpal To A Child In Detention

August 19, 2015

write a letter threewrite a letter 2


It feels REALLY BAD to type part of that title. Does reading it hurt you? Ugh.

How is it possible that our country’s government condones keeping children (and others) in detention? It’s just one heart-breaking element of their general attitude towards asylum seekers. How on earth did we get here? Who are these people purporting to speak for us all? Where is their humanity in these decisions?

It’s hard to know what to do, right?

Here’s MORE than one thing you CAN do.

My next-door-neighbour in Melbourne’s Fitzroy, The Brotherhood Of St Laurence are apparently able to get letters and books to children in detention. After initial word that letters were not getting through, things have changed – for now, at least – which is heartening.

Perhaps you (or your family or class or workmates or craft gang) – whatever your politics – would like to write to one of the kids detained on Nauru or one of the other detention centres on our shores?

FYI: Here’s how many* kids are currently under Australian Government detention

  •  69 Children in Immigration Detention Centres/ APODs
  • 16 Children in Sydney Immigration Residential Housing
  • 1 Children in Adelaide Immigration Transit Accommodation
  • 18 Children in Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation
  • 23 Children in Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation
  • 95 Children in the Republic of Nauru
  • 127 Children in detention facilities
  • 1092 Children in Community Detention

Kids don’t belong in detention. When they are detained they are prone to self-harm, anxiety, failure to thrive, nightmares – a whole host of physical and mental health issues. While in detention they will most definitely be exposed to violence and trauma.

The Australian Human Rights Commission shares the following information about the frequency of violence in Australia’s detention centres:

  • 57 serious assaults
  • 233 assaults involving children
  • 207 incidents of actual self-harm
  • 436 incidents of threatened self-harm
  • 33 incidents of reported sexual assault (the majority involving children); and
  • 183 incidents of voluntary starvation/hunger strikes (with a further 27 involving children)

Imagine if that was your child or your cousin or your neighbour? Living in such terrible and scary conditions. Well this is pretty similar. These children are children of the WORLD. We are all responsible for them as a global community, aren’t we? It’s important to stand up for the vulnerable and voiceless, I reckon. This is inhumane and unnecessary and unforgivable.

Maybe you want to do one or two things to express how you feel about this and show that you care/want things to change?

+ You can head here to express your interest in signing up for this very important Penpal program.
+ And have a read of the Penpal’s Writing Guide to find out the best and most sensitive approach to writing your letter.
+ Head here to find out how to write to the Australian Government and voice your opposition to kids in detention (and other issues related to Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.)

Are you ready to write to a child who would love the distraction and excitement of a letter?

I know I AM READY. Let’s Penpal.

pip signature


Source: Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Security:  Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary, 30 April,  2015 p.3.


  • Reply Rachel September 22, 2015 at 2:50 PM

    Hey Pip,
    I have been trying to contact the ‘befriend a child in detention’ folks via the same website you’ve linked to in this post but have had no luck getting a reply from them. I am planning to host a letter writing brekkie as part of my birthday celebrations this weekend but am anxious that our letters will have nowhere to go. Can you offer any advice at all???

    • Reply Meet Me At Mikes September 23, 2015 at 10:42 AM

      I would say they have been inundated? Maybe try ringing the Brotherhood Of St Laurence in Fitzroy? x

    • Reply Jenny Pitts October 5, 2015 at 5:30 PM

      I also have emailed them on more than one occasion, asking how to find out where to send the letter. I, too have received not reply. It is disappointing.

      • Reply Meet Me At Mikes October 5, 2015 at 8:30 PM

        I know they were calling for volunteers – so I am thinking they just need a hand to get through the enquiries – I am SUPER sure they are not trying to ignore people. x

  • Reply Steph August 22, 2015 at 7:35 AM

    Done. What a great, great project! Thanks for promoting it to us.

  • Reply The Hipsterette August 21, 2015 at 9:17 AM

    Thanks for highlighting this Pip. Will see what I can do for the 18 children in Brisbane….

  • Reply Penny August 20, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    This is heartbreaking, Pip. Makes me so ashamed to be Australian. This is a lovely idea though and something I’m going to do with my children.

  • Reply Tash August 20, 2015 at 7:05 AM

    Great post – thanks for writing it and highlighting the reality of this issue. Awesome to share the letter writing too!

  • Reply Hannah August 19, 2015 at 10:30 PM

    This is so wonderful – I’m going to make an event of it and encourage everyone to join.

    So great that I even had to share it in my own post : https://theysayshewasaflowerchild.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/photoshoot-the-meaning-of-world/

  • Reply Bronnie - Maid In Australia August 19, 2015 at 8:27 PM

    Children don’t deserve this. Thank you so much for sharing a way we can help. x

  • Reply Sara August 19, 2015 at 7:40 PM

    Thank you so much for shedding a light on this topic Pip! I hate the fact that so many children have to live through this. Luckily there are people like you and The Brotherhood of St Laurence who are willing to make a difference 🙂 I’m off to contact them and see what I can do!

  • Reply Kate August 19, 2015 at 7:37 PM

    Amazing and heart breaking post – I am doing this with my boys. Thanks for sharing

  • Reply Erin August 19, 2015 at 6:55 PM

    Yes, it DOES hurt me to to read this title. Ugh alright.

    What is even more disturbing, it’s something I don’t think about often enough. I’m actually a little embarrassed.

    Thanks so much for sharing. I’m READY too.

  • Reply Miriam August 19, 2015 at 3:10 PM

    Pip! Thank you so much for sharing this, it makes me sick that it’s alright to treat people this way. Thanks for shining a light onto something beautiful too. Also, am loving your book Craft for the Soul xxx

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