Melanie Noden. The Forgotten Children.

Earlier this week, a damning report by the Australian Human Rights Commission into children in detention was tabled, alleging extensive human rights violations. The Report clearly spells out the negative physical and psychological impact that policies of indefinite detention have on children and brings to light the concerns that many people already have about the treatment of asylum seeker children in Australia’s care.

The Report recommends that a royal commission needs to be established to  examine the breach of the Commonwealth’s duty of care, focussing in particular on the use of force against children in detention, and allegations of sexual assault.

Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission said,“It is troubling that members of the Government and Parliament and Departmental officials are either uninformed, or choose to ignore, the human rights treaties to which Australia is a party”.  

The Report was issued after 1,129 children in detention were interviewed. It shows there were 233 recorded assaults involving children and 33 incidents of reported sexual assaults.

The Report alleges human rights violations and says that children being detained indefinitely on Nauru are “suffering from extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress“.

Recommendations of the report are as follows:

  • all children to be released from Australian mainland detention and from detention centres on Nauru
  • laws be introduced to make sure children are not detained beyond health, identity and security checks
  • laws be introduced to give effect to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • No child to be sent offshore for processing unless it is clear that their human rights will be respected
  • An independent guardian be appointed for unaccompanied children on Christmas Island

It is Gillian Triggs’ hope that the Report will, “…prompt fair-minded Australians, Members of Parliament and the Federal Government to reconsider our asylum seeker policies and to release all children and their families immediately

She also stated that, “It is imperative that Australian governments never again use the lives of children to achieve political or strategic advantage. The aims of stopping people smugglers and deaths at sea do not justify the cruel and illegal means adopted. Australia is better than this.”

I and my colleagues in the sector welcome the recommendation to establish a royal commission to investigate what has been happening behind the closed gates of the detention centres to ensure clear parameters are established for future policy.

To this effect, The Asylum Seekers Centre has joined the Refugee Council of Australia and other agencies in signing a joint statement calling for legislative change to ensure that children are not subject to immigration detention in the future.

Melanie Noden is the CEO of the Asylum Seekers Centre, Sydney.


The report can be found here:https://humanrights.gov.au/publications/forgotten-children-national-inquiry-children-immigration-detention-2014

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