Picture Books, Crooks, Refugees and Rabbits…

Once, I helped make a picture book about refugees and rabbits. There is a moral to this story, let me explain…

Last week I had the privilege to be part of a rally to end mandatory detention for refugees in Australia. This annual event protests the unjust policy continually perpetrated by Australian governments whereby people seeking asylum by sea are detained in ‘processing centres’ off shore. The whole mess is unfair, very expensive and more than a little racist.

As a result, many marginalised men, women and children end up behind bars for months, even years, leading to noted cases of mental illness. Now, I’m no lawyer, but I’m fairly certain that running for your life is not a crime punishable by imprisonment, nor is being poor or not-white (in fact, here’s what the UN has to say about it). So whilst many often question public protest, I still firmly believe that when our neighbours lose their basic human rights due to our own government, the least we can do is make some noise in the street.

WARNING: Picture book may contain rabbits and butterflies.

So, with approximately eight million refugees currently fleeing persecution, poverty and war, I thought it timely to offer a friendly plug for the picture book put out by the Social Justice Department at The Salvation Army here in Melbourne. Written by my sister-in-law Rachael Castle and illustrated by Nick Wight, their first book, Emmaline Rabbit, is a quaint fable exploring the racism in Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers while capturing the vivid elegance of 20th century children’s literature. It rhymes too.

On my part, I provided rough storyboards prior to Nick commencing the illustration. Overall, with little budget and time, the end product is quite strong. Nick’s charming technique is not too much, not too little, but just right for Rachael’s warm verse. You can find the book here. More to the point, you can also advocate for humane treatment of asylum seekers in Australia with GetUp!  and Welcome to Australia. Go.

Love thy (new) neighbour.

A

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