An inner-city basketball court will today be transformed into the crumbling remains of a bombed-out classroom complete with a real-life military tank.
The war-like scene has been set up by Save the Children to highlight the harrowing impact conflict has on millions of children around the world, as the aid agency launches its Centenary campaign, Stop the War on Children.
Celebrities including Lisa Wilkinson and Meshel Laurie will also support the launch, including by using the hashtag #StoptheWaronChildren.
Save the Children analysis reveals that a child is killed every three minutes from the indirect impacts of war, including starvation, destruction of livelihoods and loss of access to basic medical facilities.
“Children are the innocent victims of wars waged by adults, and they are dying at a staggering rate. Every war is a war on children,” Save the Children Acting CEO Mat Tinkler said.
“It’s startling to see a military tank in inner city Melbourne today, particularly when it’s surrounded by bombed out tables and chairs, toys and debris strewn all over the place and other remnants of a classroom that’s been hit by an explosive weapon.
“Thankfully this is just an installation designed to make people think because for millions of children around the world, this is their daily reality. In fact, more children than ever before are living – and dying – in conflict zones.”
Analysis by Save the Children found that more than 420 million children are currently living in conflict zones, or 1 in 5 children around the world.
Syrian-Australian advocate Omar Al-Kassab, who came to Australia with his family after fleeing the Syrian war, will help launch the Stop the War on Children campaign.
“In Syria, millions of children have had their childhoods ripped out from beneath their feet from war, including myself and my brother Saad. I was shot and arrested for taking part in peaceful protests, and our education, and our futures, were put on hold,” Mr Al-Kassab said.
“Children around the world suffer the burdens of wars they had no part in. They are being killed, they are out of school, they have lost their parents. Their future life is damaged forever by conflict. No matter what side of politics we are on, we are all human, and we can all agree that children have the right to be safe. That is why I am supporting this campaign.”
In a colourful show of support for the campaign, dozens of children at the South Yarra launch will paint their hand-prints on pieces of paper that will be pegged to the tank.
“The reason we’ve created this chilling scene is to highlight the plight of children who cannot go to school because of war, and to urge governments around the world, including Australia, to do more to protect children in conflict,” Mr Tinkler said.
“In Australia, thousands of people have signed our petition to halt Australia’s export of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – countries accused of committing war crimes against children in Yemen.
“It’s unthinkable that in this day and age Australia could be supplying military assets that are fuelling the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet – a war that has seen more than 85,000 children die from extreme hunger or disease.
“At the same time, we’ve been vocal in our call for the children of Australian foreign fighters to be brought home from dangerous camps in Syria. These children should not be punished for the horrific decisions of their parents to join the Islamic State and take their children to a warzone.
“With the Federal election less than two weeks away, we are calling on whichever political party forms government to do more to stop the war on children.”