A publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

How one little boy’s death made the world blink

On a chilled and rainy night, thousands gathered in Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens, moved by the haunting images of the body of a three-year-old Syrian boy lying face down on a Turkish beach. The tragedy served as  a fresh reminder of the struggles endured by refugees trying to escape violence and persecution.

The child, Aylan Kurdi, died while fleeing Syria with his family who had been hoping to gain asylum in Canada.

Candles were lit at ‘Light the Dark’ vigils held in Australia’s state capitals.

An estimated 10,000 people gathered in Melbourne as a show of support for the refugees, while calling on the Federal Government to take in more asylum seekers.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott has since announced that Australia will take an additional 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq on a one-off basis, offering them permanent resettlement.

Many parents brought their children with them to Monday’s rally. One mother said that Aylan had reminded her of her own eight-month-old child.

“It looked like he was sleeping and it looked like how my baby sleeps, and he should be safe in bed,” she said in an interview with The Citizen.

Among the speakers who addressed the crowd was refugee advocate Mohammad Ali Baqiri, whose family fled Afghanistan when he was 10 and who spent three years living in detention on Nauru.

Now a youth ambassador for ChilOut, an organisation that aspires to get children out of detention centres, he thanked his parents for bringing him to Australia.

“In life-and-death situations a parent will do anything they can to provide comfort and protection for their child,” he told the crowd.

As the vigil drew to a close, a united crowd held a minute’s silence for the little boy who died fleeing war.

About The Citizen

THE CITIZEN is a publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism. It has several aims. Foremost, it is a teaching tool that showcases the work of the students in the University of Melbourne’s Master of Journalism and Master of International Journalism programs, giving them real-world experience in working for publication and to deadline. Find out more →

  • Editor: Jo Chandler
  • Reporter: Jack Banister
  • Audio & Video editor: Louisa Lim
  • Data editor: Craig Butt
  • Editor-In-Chief: Andrew Dodd
  • Business editor: Lucy Smy
Winner — BEST PUBLICATION 2016 Ossie Awards