This is how it happened. Across the country, grandmothers began gathering. From every walk of life, they came together wearing the colour purple. They said: We never thought we would have to protest against the torture of children in Australia.

Parable of Purple Grannies, collage

They organised a freedom ride to the place where our leaders govern. They spoke with the power of purple. They spoke with the colour of wisdom and dignity, the colour of pride and peace. They spoke with the power of the crone.

Definition: Crone. 1. An old woman; a hag. 2. A woman venerated for her experience, judgment, and wisdom, often depicted as a grandmother, a wise woman. 3. Derived from the old word for crown, suggesting wisdom that emanates from the head like a halo.

On the lawns in front of the place where our leaders govern, the grandmothers wore their purple hats and halos. They planted one thousand cardboard children to remember those hidden in prisons and behind high walls and barbed wire fences.

Parable of Purple Grannies, Children

They spoke wise words. They spoke without fear. They put their faith into words and sang those words in songs.

Parable of Purple Grannies, They Sang

They said: Close the prisons. Free the children and their families. Free the young people alone without parents and families. Release them into the Australian community now.

Good people spoke to their cause. The Senator Sarah cried when she spoke of holding a four-week-old baby born in prison who was as small as her own daughter born prematurely. She said the baby’s father stayed awake all night to protect his wife and family from the danger of guards and other prisoners.

Parable of Purple Grannies, Senators

The Senator Andrew spoke about the inexcusable conditions in the island prisons, the outback prisons, the prisons on the edge of our cities. A city doctor cried when she spoke of the harm being done to children, all of the children, in those prisons.

The grandmothers cried ‘Shame!’ and ‘Free The Children!’ and ‘Now! Now! Now!’ And they were also moved to tears.

In order to enter the place where our leaders govern, the grandmothers hid their slogan t-shirts, and removed their slogan badges, and promised to sit quietly and respectfully in the galleries to hear our leaders speak.

The Senator Sarah asked the Leader in the Senate three questions about the refugee children. The government senators jeered and shouted at the Senator Sarah. The opposition senators hid their faces in shame and pretended to be busy.

Senator Sarah quoted our Leader’s comment that even one child in detention was one child too many. She asked when our Leader would do something about the children still suffering.

The Leader in the Senate said the High Court had made a ruling and the refugee children were not the government’s problem, they were now the problem of the island of Nauru.

Parable of Purple Grannies, Leader in the Senate

The grandmothers gasped in disbelief. Then they laughed a loud, grandmotherly laugh that echoed like a scornful hiss in the high red vault of the Senate chamber.

The Senate shuffled and settled and went on with its business. The Leader in the Senate buried his head for a time then looked up and stared at the grandmothers in the gallery.

What can you do with a gallery full of purple grandmothers who call a lie a lie and laugh in your face? Was he wondering about his own grandmother? His grandchildren?

Later the young policemen guarding the high-domed entrance hall, had the same difficulty. What to do with more than two hundred grandmothers who disobeyed the rules and took over the public space and joined together to sing: We shall o-ver-come…we shall o-ver-come…someday-ay-ay-ay…

Parable of Purple Grannies, Crowd

And when the grandmothers were ready to sing their way out of the place where our leaders govern, the policemen followed behind like respectful grandsons should.

The end of one story is always the beginning of another. Until the prisons are closed and the refugee children and their families are freed, rebel grannies will continue gathering wherever wise women meet.


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