Sitting down + sleeping out = standing up for justice

“The social justice sleep out opened me up to the idea that social justice is more than ending hunger in third world countries. It pressed the idea that socially unjust things happen in my own community.” David Walker, Year 10 student at St Peter’s Campus, All Saints College, Maitland, is reflecting on the school’s annual social justice awareness campaign. Co-ordinator and teacher, Ryan Gato, explains.

Sitting down + sleeping out = standing up for justice

The campaign this year affected every individual in our school community.

 

Students from Years 7 to 10 participated in various activities which invited them to reflect on, and actually feel, the struggles many face daily. For two lessons, students and teachers were deprived of electricity – no technology, no air conditioning, no lighting, no school bell! The second part of the day saw students manage without desks, chairs and equipment.

 

The highlight of the day occurred when 200 students volunteered to give up their lunch time to support the ‘Detention4Detention’ campaign. The initiative, from the Australian Coalition to End Immigration Detention of Children, urges the nation’s leaders to remove the mandatory detention of children seeking refuge in Australia. The students sat silently and passionately, as they stood for something they believed to be
extremely important. Not even the rain deterred their spirits.

 

Students and staff later engaged in an evening of fun and awareness-raising of the injustices many people know, overseas and locally. Students enjoyed games led by Melissa Fenech (Chisholm Region youth leader), an extraordinary liturgy and activities targeting issues such as gender inequity, poverty, racism, sexism and homelessness.

 

As the activities concluded, we migrated to the cold concrete of the school grounds. While we rested uncomfortably, we contemplated just how blessed we really are with the conditions we have so readily available.

 

Year 9 student Ben McEwan said, “It was a great night… it allowed us to meet some of the students who were oblivious to each other… it will be something that I will always remember.”

 

Wyatt Lantry of Year 7 said, “The sleep out was really eye-opening. It gave us all a chance to put ourselves in the shoes of those less fortunate and it raised awareness.”

 

As the co-ordinator, I created an environment that was blunt, direct and confronting. I knew it would be a tough day and evening, the ground would be uncomfortable, having no electricity would cause anxiety and the lack of sleep would make us tired the next day. My inspiration came from Mother Teresa: “Today it is fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them.” 

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