For some people, traveling with kids is not a family holiday. It is a dangerous and uncertain bid to seek a new life in a country far away from home that oftentimes leads to a terrible outcome – incarceration. This has been the fate of many families also known as “boat people” who are caught illegally trying to enter Australian waters seeking refugee status. This Christmas will not be a happy time for these asylum seekers (many of whom are children) who will spend their time waiting for their cases to be processed on Christmas Island. But you can help. 

For many new immigrants, part of the culture shock of assimilating into a new country is the language barrier, so while on Christmas Island, some asylum seeks spend their time practicing and learning English. But this is hard to do when you don’t have money or access to books and reading materials of your own.

Books for New Arrivals is a not-for-profit program set up to deliver English language dictionaries and books to the families waiting on Christmas Island. It’s not a visit from Santa, but a dictionary or a novel is a gesture that shows asylum seekers that somewhere far away, others are thinking of them and wishing them well.

We can’t deliver toys or freedom, but we can deliver hope, encouragement and an investment in future immigrants. After all, we want everyone to have a Merry Christmas, even if it does have to be in incarceration on Christmas Island.

Books for New Arrivals accepts donations of AU$50 for 5 translation dictionaries or AU$100 for 10 translation dictionaries. You can add personalised messages of up to 20 words on the inside of your books. To donate or for more information email Books for New Arrivals at

Since this story ran Books for New Arrivals has received a response from the detainees inside the Christmas Island detention centres. Click here to see how the books were received. 

Christmas Island is also a bona fide family holiday destination. For more information on how to visit Christmas Island with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.