Open Letter to Minister Penny Wong – children in Gaza

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Last time you were here, you were looking to help vulnerable children and families. Your support can save and change lives.

We are writing to urge you to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the siege on humanitarian aid that is preventing children and their families from accessing food, water and lifesaving medical supplies. Given the intensity of fighting and the degree of devastation on the ground, short pauses will not be adequate to ensure the flow of aid and humanitarian assistance required by affected civilians. Nor will it be adequate for an orderly release and transportation of civilian hostages.

Australia has been a strong advocate for an international rules-based order and for compliance with International Humanitarian Law. Nothing can ever justify the killing or maiming of children. As a group of experienced and trusted child rights’ organisations, we call for the Australian Government to:

  • call for an immediate ceasefire, in line with growing international consensus
  • continue to message that all parties to the conflict must observe their obligations under International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law
  • call for the release of all hostages
  • call for a safe pathway for the permanent entry for humanitarian aid into Gaza to meet humanitarian need including medical, food and clean water supplies
  • call attention to the special protection owed to children in armed conflict
  • as a signatory to the International Safe Schools Declaration condemn continued attacks and threats against schools, as well as children, teachers and other civilians talking shelter in schools (over 250 education facilities have been struck in Gaza since 7 October)
  • call for recognition of the global Responsibility to Protect all civilians in Palestine and in particular, children.

A humanitarian catastrophe is worsening every day in Gaza – the United Nations has described Gaza as a ‘graveyard for thousands of children’. At the time of writing this letter, over 10,000 civilians, including 4,000 children have been killed in Gaza over the past four weeks, with more than one thousand children missing. Save the Children estimates that the number of children reported killed in Gaza since 7 October is more than the annual number of children killed across the world’s conflict zones since 2019. That means one child is being killed every 10 minutes – something we, and the Australian people, refuse to accept.

For those children who have survived, they are living in an increasingly desperate and deteriorating situation, without access to clean water, food or medicine. Although aid deliveries have resumed, it is a drop in the ocean and nowhere near enough. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees has reported that to date, 151 trucks have entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza1. According to the UN, at least 100 trucks a day are needed to supply desperately needed food, water, medicine, and fuel2. There are reports of injured children and pregnant women being operated on without anaesthetic.

The impact on the children of Gaza will endure long after the immediate crisis. The trauma of this war will leave them with lifelong and profound psycho-social and mental health impacts.

All children have the right to a life free from violence and fear. Every child’s life – Palestinian and Israeli – should be valued and treated with humanity.

We are urgently calling on you to demand an immediate ceasefire and a resumption of the required humanitarian aid. Any delay is unacceptable.


Margaret Sheehan, CEO Childfund Australia
Susanne Legena, CEO Plan International Australia
Zahra Al-Hilaly, CEO Oaktree
Mat Tinkler, CEO Save the Children Australia

Link to the open letter: LR Minister Wong_ceasefire 9.11.23.pdf


  • ChildFund Australian received $48M income and created 73 projects delivered across Cambodia, Loas, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Vietnam, The Philippines and within Pacific Island nations throughout the last financial year.
  • Close to 150,000 children received critical support in the areas of Health, Education, Child Protection, Disaster Risk Reduction and Social and Emotional Learning.
  • Approximately 120,000 Women and girls received protective services, access to vital medicine and pre and post-natal care and education and learning services through the period.

 (Sydney, Australia). The 2023 ChildFund Australia Impact Report highlights some of the incredible stories of resilience from across the Pacific, Southeast Asia and around the world. Throughout the year, ChildFund have been instrumental in providing critical services to children and communities in nations that are under increasing economic pressure. 

Images from the Impact Report 

As the world continues to battle challenging economic times, those hardest hit are often in the most disadvantage countries. Rising inflation, climate change, the persistence of COVID19 and political instability continue to create challenges, but youth are resilient and committed to creating a better future. This Impact Report tells the important stories of a handful of individuals who are determined to provide a better future, both for themselves and their community. 

Stories like that of Maria, 21 from Papua New Guinea, a country with one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world. Maria talks about the grief of losing her baby and how she overcame the emotional distress through connecting with others in the program. “Once I joined the group it helped me,” Maria said. “It made me feel like I was going to be OK.” 

Maria learnt emotional and social skills to build her resilience to overcome everyday conflicts and challenges. “I learnt that I could share my experience with other girls,” she said. “We need to have good peers and good friends.” 

The Report also highlights the experience of fifteen-year-old Seila from Cambodia who dreams of becoming a teacher. However, from the age of nine Seila had a cyst on his hip that prevented him from walking or riding his bike the 10km journey to attend school. ChildFund were able to fund surgery and a brace for his leg giving him greater mobility and school attendance. “Now that I’m going to school regularly, I’m doing better at my studies,” he said. “I placed sixth out of 28 students this year.” 

ChildFund CEO Margaret Sheehan reflected on the work completed across the region and the impact of the organisation in difficult times. 

“The global environment is placing increasing pressure on us all. As the cost-of-living increases at home and overseas, it creates a pressure cooker environment in our ability to continue vital programs to uphold basic human rights around the world.” 

“We thank our community and donors here in Australia and around the world for their generous contributions to ChildFund and their help in delivering all we have achieved this year. With ongoing 

support, we look forward to continuing to provide these essential services to even more people in the coming year,” she concluded. 

To read this years Impact Report click here