‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.’ - Chinese proverb, and the inspiration for Amnesty’s iconic logo
This year, through the re-establishment of the Amnesty International Group, students lit the candle of awareness and action. We’ve become part of a movement of over seven million people in more than 150 countries who work to promote human rights and campaign against violations of these rights, such as torture, killings, and imprisonment for who people are and what they believe. This has been an empowering experience for all of us, and we are incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved together.
Amnesty has developed a strong presence in the school community (Amnesty badges and posters became endemic through the school!) and we have aimed to raise awareness amongst students of human rights violations across the globe. Topics of our meetings have been far-ranging, from the state of human rights in Myanmar (with help from guest speaker Jesse Bawi, who provided fascinating insight into the country’s history and politics), to the abuse of asylum seekers on Nauru, cobalt mining in the DRC, government investment in munitions and more. Other activities have included a discussion on LGBTI+ rights with guests from Technicolour Sandwich, letter writing to the King of Saudi Arabia, and a photo action in support of Team Refugee at the Rio Olympics.
For Amnesty’s Freedom Challenge in August, we held a contest for students to enter their creative work on topic ‘Ignite Minds Not Bombs’. We also spoke at assemblies about the use of British and American arms to kill civilians and bomb schools in Yemen (the focus of Freedom Challenge 2016) and circulated petitions around every House Group. At Market Day in Term 3, we had a stall with flyers, stickers, badges and our own homemade sign where we engaged students in discussions about Amnesty’s work.
For World Refugee Day, we arranged a student meeting with the Minister for Immigration, Michael Woodhouse, on the government’s refugee quota. This was incredibly timely as it followed the Minister’s announcement that the refugee quota would be increased for the first time in 29 years from 750 refugees a year to 1000. The Minister was sympathetic to Amnesty’s campaign to ‘Double the Quota’ but defended the government’s current approach. The meeting was very informative and students enjoyed the opportunity to engage in the democratic process and have their voice heard.
We also hosted our own World Refugee Day event, where we invited journalist Steve Addison to speak about his experiences visiting Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan and screened the documentary ‘Mary Meets Mohammad’. The film, which tells the inspiring story of refugees and locals in Tasmania, gave us a lot of hope for combating intolerance. Following these events, we were invited to write a blog for Amnesty about our activities, which was then featured in Amnesty’s August global bulletin.
Following Michael Woodhouse’s visit in Term 2, we held a second meeting in Term 3 with Metiria Turei, MP and Co-leader of the Green Party, on ‘Future Government Policy on Refugees and Asylum Seekers’. This allowed students a cross-party perspective on the issue and again the chance to get involved in the debate on what role the government should play in upholding the rights of refugees.
Other opportunities made available to us via this group have included skyping with Miriam Pierard, the Youth Coordinator at Amnesty NZ, attending a viewing of the inspiring art exhibition ‘Transplanted: Refugee Portraits in New Zealand’, and attending a meeting of the University Amnesty Youth Group. For International Day Against the Death Penalty, we had a fascinating debate on capital punishment, and the topic for a recent meeting was how human rights may be affected by the outcome of the US election.
The Amnesty Group has been terrifically active this year, both in raising important discussion and advocating for human rights. The success of our activities this year is a testament to the commitment of our members, the support of the wider school community, and the incredible ongoing encouragement of Mr Enright. We’re extremely thankful for his help in facilitating the re-establishment of the group.
We hope Amnesty will continue to have a presence at Logan Park in the future. Amnesty’s vision, to allow everyone the rights they are entitled to in the UDHR, will always be relevant and important. In the face of governments and individuals who see fit to undermine or deny their fellow humans their fundamental rights, Amnesty will continue to demand equal and irrevocable rights for us all.