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Commission Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

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Submission to the National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from

the Australian Education Union

"There have

been times in our history when Australia has been generous and open hearted

and times when it has been very mean. In 1938 at the Evian Conference

about dealing with Jewish and other refugees from Hitler, Australia took

a flint hearted position, saying that we did not want to import Europe's

problems, or to increase racial differences, and that refugees should

get back in the queue.

In the post World

War II years, Australia was generous, as it was after Tienanmen Square

and with refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia.

Words are like bullets

-or chain saws: tremendous damage can be inflicted very quickly, and it

may take years to recover.

Politically, there

is an emphasis on simple solutions for complex problems, an appeal to

the lowest common denominator in public discourse and there was a moral

and intellectual vacuum (on both sides) in the 2001 election."



Patron, Australians for Just Refugee Programs

"Tribune to Captain Arne Rinnan"

May 16, 2002


"For Nooria

and many of her fellow students at Holroyd High, their dreams and ambitions

will depend on getting permanent residency in Australia. Right now, they

are grateful for the freedoms of a normal school. In Port Hedland, as

Katie Brosnan leaves town for the last time, her thoughts are with her

students. She believes that while they remain behind the razor wire, the

children in immigration centres are being denied their fundamental rights."

"It's very,

very difficult for them. They don't understand why they've been there

one year, or two years, why they can't meet other children, why they can't

meet Australian children. They can't understand why they're not allowed

to go out and play with other children, why they can't go to school, a

normal school, a real school."


Hedland teacher Katie Brosnan

interviewed by Rebecca Baillie

7.30 Report, ABC

April 10th 2002





A Chance to Fill the Moral and Intellectual Vacuum


Education for Child Asylum Seekers


Alternative Models are at Hand


Alternative Policies Have Public Support




The AEU is pleased

to put forward this submission as an issue vital to members and the community.

Our primary concern is for those in immigration detention. The submission

raises practical experiences and proposals about how to change and implement

a policy which is failing the children in Australia's care.

We are also concerned at the way fear and suspicion has been used to turn

a generous nation to commit acts and pursue policies which are unduly

harsh, harmful and unconscionable.

This approach is

anathema to the goals and principles of the teaching profession, the members

of which have strongly supported the policy adopted by the AEU in January

2002, upon which the submission is based.


1. That, in view

of the harm suffered by children in immigration detention in facilities

in Australia, Manus Island and Nauru, they be released into the community

to live with their parents with appropriate support and services, including

education, counselling, welfare and health.

2. That Australia's

public school and TAFE systems provide the necessary resources to allow

children of asylum seekers and their parents to freely enrol in appropriate

language, education and training courses and to participate fully in

general education programs with gender equitable outcomes.

3. That the visa

system should be changed so that the current limits and prohibitions

applying to those on Temporary Protection Visas are removed and settlement,

reunion, social services and entitlement rights restored so that families

can live in peace and security while their position is determined.

4. That education

programs provided to asylum seekers in public education should be based

on those successfully developed under the 1999 Safe Havens program under

the auspices of DIMA in conjunction with a number of non-government

organisations, and should draw from the experience of the program currently

operating successfully in New Zealand.

5. That teachers

engaged to deliver educational programs to asylum seekers be provided

with professional development to enable them to cater for the particular

needs of child asylum seekers and their families.

6. That teachers

engaged in programs for asylum seekers be employed on comparable terms

and conditions to those engaged in the general teaching services of

the state or territory in question, and preferably be seconded from

those services, in order to attract experienced and qualified staff.

7. That the pervasive

culture of secrecy in matters related to asylum seekers should be replaced

by a more open administrative approach, including ending requirements

for signed confidentiality undertakings as a condition of employment

as a teacher.

The AEU thanks the

many activists in the union and the community who have contributed to

raising the issue of the education of the children in detention and to

this submission. We particularly want to recognise the dedicated teachers

of asylum seekers whose role is in the highest tradition of the teaching


1. A Chance

to Fill the Moral and Intellectual Vacuum

The Australian Education

Union appreciates the opportunity to prepare and submit views on the care

of children in immigration detention to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity

Commission. The Commission is to be congratulated for providing the chance

for a range of community organisations and individuals to submit their

views. This opportunity contrasts starkly with the lack of opportunities

to contribute to the evolution of immigration policy by Federal governments

over the past decade.

As the largest educational

organisation in the country, the AEU represents 156,000 members working

in schools, colleges and preschools in all states, territories and regions.

Members work either in or in proximity to all detention centres and are

often all too well aware of the needs and difficulties associated with

them. While they put their professional responsibilities first, they are

well aware of the extra resources required to address the problems of

children at risk and those who have been harmed by the detention system.

Members of the teaching

profession in public education have considerable experience in dealing

with a range of cultures and languages, new arrivals and those who have

experienced violence and trauma. This experience is drawn upon for the

recommendations in this submission, which will focus on the educational

issues and needs of children in Australia's immigration detention facilities.

1.1 Information

on Education and Child Detainees

Information about

children in detention is not readily available and has had to be collected

from people who sometimes cannot be identified for fear of retribution

by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) or

Australasian Correctional Management (ACM), the U.S.-based private operator

of Australia's detention facilities.

Teachers who have

been employed in these centres report their fear of retribution due

to a clause which they have agreed to sign to obtain employment, which

they believe contains penalties including the possibility of imprisonment

for so-called "whistle-blowers." Information from Manus Island

and Nauru has not been easy to obtain but some has been provided under

the auspices of the Council of Pacific Education (COPE), which represents

education unions in Pacific countries.

1.2 Criminalisation

of Detainees

Students who have

been released from detention centres and who are now on Temporary Protection

Visas (TPVs) have told teachers that they are afraid to identify themselves

and to talk about their experiences in Australian detention centres.

The climate of secrecy and intimidation which surrounds immigration

detention adds to the pervasive sense of criminalisation of people whose

only "crime" is to try to come to live in Australia free from

violence, fear and want and who have not done so within the narrow rules

established by Australian governments.

The criminalisation

of immigration detention contrasts with the temporary safe haven programs

conducted in 1999 for 4,000 Kosovar Albanians and 1,800 East Timorese.

The success of these programs makes the contrast with the current treatment

of children all the more repugnant.

Such programs have

shown that resources of all kinds are readily available in the public

education infrastructure in Australia to deal with the numbers currently

in detention. State governments have indicated their view that children

should be allowed to attend public schools and that they will provide

the resources to assist them.

It is time to recognise

that the current approach is inhumane, contrary to internationally recognised

obligations in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and is inflicting

harm on the children in Australia's care.

This submission

does not focus on breaches of international obligations, these breaches

having already been established by HREOC's own inspection of the Woomera

Centre and the AEU adopts the views of the KIDS submission on those


2. Education

for Child Asylum Seekers

HREOC has particularly

asked for views of educators on a range of issues which are set out in

the background papers to the Inquiry. The AEU provides the following views

in response to these questions.

2.1 Current Policies,

Programs and Practices

The current arrangements

represent a national disgrace for a country with the resources and experience

of Australia. There can be no other conclusion than that the children

of asylum seekers are being made to pay for the perceived "crime"

that their families have committed…seeking to come to Australia

outside the government established processes. The contrast with programs

mounted by Australia on previous occasions and with a country as close

in all respects as New Zealand is lamentable. State governments have

offered to support the enrolment of children in detention in their public

schools and colleges, but the Federal Government has continued to ignore

those offers.

Former inmates

of detention facilities and visitors report that children in detention

receive only minimal education programs or none at all. Sometimes these

are delivered by guards or by teachers who are not required to teach

to any established curriculum or state-recognised syllabus. The Australasian

Correctional Management, operators of Woomera, paid teachers at Woomera

Central School to prepare units of work for use in the facility. Also

at Woomera, young children had to attend lessons at a former school,

St Michael's Catholic School, largely it appeared for the benefit of

the media. At Maribyrnong it was reported that primary age children

were allowed to attend the local St Michael's Catholic School but that

secondary-age students received only a token amount of tuition.

2.2 No Environment

in which Children Can Learn

Teachers have been

told that a climate of fear and uncertainty prevails in detention centres

which is anathema to an effective educational environment. A student,

who has subsequently been released, reported to teachers at Holroyd

High School that he had been beaten by guards and required to clean

the facility when visitors were coming. Other children were "paid"

a bottle of coke to clean toilets which were otherwise left in a filthy

state. Students reported that once they reached the age of 12, their

entitlement to attend schools from detention centres ceased. They had

to stay in their rooms. There were no play facilities or options provided

and the single television was dominated by adults and did not allow

for children's preferences. At Maribyrnong, a playground is off-limits

to the children.

2.3 Unaccompanied

Minors Released Traumatised in S.A.

Even when children

are released from detention they face daunting challenges arising from

their experiences. Merridy Childs, a counsellor from the SA Secondary

School of Languages, in West Croydon, told the AEU South Australian

Branch Council in April 2002 that the school had enrolled a number of

unaccompanied minors who had been released from Woomera following unfavourable

publicity about their plight. The following is what Ms Childs told the

AEU Branch Council in South Australia.

Approximately 40

Afghan and Iraqi children were attending the school on Temporary Protection

Visas, with a further six to ten unaccompanied minors still in custody.

The children were in the care of the SA Department of Family and Youth

Services and if aged over 16 were placed in independent housing.

The children had

left their countries under terrible circumstances. Some had been sent

across the border by their families, to avoid being forced into the

Taliban, with payments made to people-smugglers to take them to Pakistan

and Indonesia. Sometimes they had spent weeks alone in those countries,

not knowing what was to happen to them. They had then been placed on

boats which had been apprehended at Ashmore Reef or Christmas Island

and thence transferred to Port Hedland and Woomera.

In the detention

centres children had experienced or witnessed fires, self-harm and abuse,

including sexual abuse. The children had huge problems as a result and

were suffering from trauma, sleep disorders, acting out and acting "spacey".

There was an urgent need for more resources including a male counsellor

to try to establish trust with the children who had no power or understanding.

They had lost contact with their families, had little education and

little English.

There was an attempt

to make teachers who were employed in the School of Languages subject

to the Immigration Act so that they could be "Directed Persons"

under the Act. Staff were resisting this request from DIMA because they

felt that it would put them in the position of having to act like guards,

rather than educators, which would destroy the trust they were attempting

to establish. Ms Childs was very concerned and upset at the position

in which the School of Languages was placed and the needs she saw, which

were not being met, for more support for the children enrolled there.

2.4 Formidable

Problems of TPV Children in Western Sydney

Western Sydney

received 40% of the net migration intake for the whole of Australia

per year. Schools in the vicinity of Villawood in Sydney, such as Holroyd,

Chester Hill, Fairfield, Cabramatta and Evans enrol many language groups

and nationalities, and programs and resources are provided to deal with

the needs. The schools named have Intensive English Centres to provide

programs to new arrivals of all kinds.

Dorothy Hoddinot,

Principal of Holroyd High School in Sydney, reported that there were

50 children on TPVs at the school in June 2002. The students had come

from Curtin, Derby and Woomera centres. Many of these children had suffered

from trauma and had witnessed unsettling events in the centres. The

school has an Intensive English Centre (IEC) and its student population

overall contained around 50% of children from refugee backgrounds, mainly

from the humanitarian program.

Two literacy classes

were included in the IEC for children with no English. Ms Hoddinot said

that the students bore their situation with grace given the experiences

they had been through, and in fact overcame problems better than their

parents. However, the experience of trauma would tend to resurface once

basic needs had been met in order to rebuild trust and confidence. Schools

needed intensive English, counsellors and support mechanisms in the


The Catholic Commission

for Justice and Peace reported on 21st May 2002 that the incidence of

self-harm in immigration detention was at a high level and that if it

occurred in an Australian prison it would prompt an enquiry. Many instances

of self-harm are witnessed by or actually committed by children in detention.

2.5 Students Need

Material Support

Teachers at Holroyd

High School reported that for students on TPVs the meagre support benefits

which were provided cut out at age 18 which sometimes forced students

to leave school to seek employment, whereas residents could get the

youth allowance. The students were denied access to the Adult Migrant

Education Program and Medicare benefits. For older students, the knowledge

that their TPV would end meant that they became cynical and believed

the government was capricious in its dealings with them. As many of

them acted as interpreters for their parents in dealings with government

officials, they were well aware of the situation in which they found


Students needed

additional resources as a result or meagre or discontinued benefits

such as warm clothing, calculators, exercise books, personal hygiene,

health checks and vaccinations. Holroyd HS has established a trust fund

to assist students with such needs, and to allow them to stay at school

to complete year 12 if possible.

2.6 Woomera Witness

The following letter

was received by Rob Durbridge, Federal Secretary of the AEU on 28th

of May, 2002 by email from Ms Inese Peterson, an AEU member in South

Australia. It speaks volumes about the professionalism of teachers who

have been attempting to deal with the issues in detention centres, and

ultimately the futility of attempting to do so in conditions of detention.

Inese Peterson was required to sign a confidentiality agreement by ACM

as a condition of employment, but in the public interest she has decided

to make her views known.

Dear Rob

In regard

to your article published in the Australian Educator Autumn 2002,

No 33, firstly I would like to congratulate you on a heartfelt contribution

and secondly, I would like to comment on and clarify some of the points

you made.

I am a registered

primary trained teacher in South Australia. In 2001 I was contracted

as an Education Officer by ACM to teach at the Woomera IRPC for 3

months, May to August . During my time there, the teaching staff,

consisted of a TAFE lecturer, a junior primary trained teacher qualified

overseas, another SA primary trained teacher and a private consultant

in Aged Care/Gerontology who had lectured at University - all professionally

trained individuals.

We were contracted

by ACM [a subsidiary company of ACS, a company wholly owned by Wackenhut,

USA], but I never considered myself as, nor identified with,

being "an employee" of either ACM or Wackenhut or DIMIA.

Yes, I was employed by ACM, but "worked" for the students/detainees.

A moot point I concede, but my profession, Duty of Care, belief in

human rights and social justice issues, demanded that I put the detainees

first and foremost in my teaching practice. I'm sure that my colleges

felt the same.

Most contracts

were for 6 weeks. Staffing for the 3 months I was there was as follows:

3 staff for 1 week, 2 for 2, 3 for 3, 4 for 1, 5 for 5. During these

3 months there were approximately 1500 detainees in the Centre, of

which 300 odd were children, and some 40 were Unaccompanied Minors

[children on their own without relatives aged 8-18].

There was

a Kindy; lower, middle and upper primary classes; Teenager and Unaccompanied

Minor focus classes [mine]; beginner, intermediate and advanced adult

classes and a special session for another focus group - the long-term

detainees [mine].

All teachers

taught 6, 1hr classes for 4 days [Mon - Thurs] and attended an induction

and training program Friday morning for the Assistant Teachers. Teachers

then attended 3, 1 hr classes in the afternoon. Most teachers worked

from 7.30 am - 5.30pm.

My Time Table

was as follows:


9-10 UAMs and prepubescent boys

10-11 UAMs and pubescent teen boys

11-12 UAMs & 13-17yrs girls

12-1 Lunch

1-2 Meetings/Housekeeping/Prep

2-3 UAMs & Teens mixed class

3-4 UAMs & Teens mixed class

4-5 Special Focus Group

Fri 9-12 Assist..

Teacher's training

12-1 Lunch

1-2 Visiting Case File

UAMs/Students Collecting Case File Data

2-3 UAMs & Teens mixed class

3-4 UAMs & Teens mixed class

4-5 Special Focus Group

All teachers

had a similar time-table with their particular focus/age/ability groups.

Classes were held in 4 different compounds, to which the teachers

rotated daily. The classes were held in allocated prefabricated rooms

which seated approx. 20 people comfortably. At times the classes were

attended by 2 students and at times 52. In times of new arrival influxes,

the classrooms were unable to cater for all the students, so classes

were held in the Mess, the activity room or outside. In fact anywhere

we could find space. Class numbers eventually stabilised or new classes

were established to meet needs, often held by Assistant Teachers.

The assistant teachers were detainees with advanced English skills,

IT skills, ex-teachers, librarians, interpreters, musicians, artists

and athletes etc. In fact anyone who had a transferable skill and

who was prepared to lend a hand or take a class. There were more than

50 detainees involved in some way in the education program. If it

was not for their generous and concerned efforts there would really

not have been an education program at all. They obviously filled in

where needed, and there was a need. Certainly their "pay"

of $1.00/hr was not what kept them involved!

Now, there

is the official [DIMIA/ACM] policy/standards version regarding the

delivery of education in Woomera. Then, there is the unofficial media

version. Certainly the public's perceptions and understandings regarding

educational delivery, based on their own experiences and a belief

that what happens in their arena also happens elsewhere, is a sad

misconception. And then there is the reality of what is actually happening

to the education program in Woomera.

It is my opinion

that a positive and meaningful education program is not possible in

Woomera given the current political and management policies, treatment

of detainees, environmental conditions, detainee's physical, mental

and emotional states and extreme lack of resources, both material

and human.

The teachers

there really did try to deliver a program. The ratio of 300 detainees

to 1 teacher, which is the minimal requirement under the standards/policy,

was only ever achieved for 5 weeks while I was there, and even then

1 of the teachers was totally involved in planning the Community Housing

Scheme which effectively left 4 teachers delivering the program -

ratio - 375 : 1.

When I first arrived, there was 1 Kindy area/room, 1 lower primary

classroom, 1 "Resource" room [consumables, minimal texts

and teaching materials ] 2 other prefab classrooms,1 library [ minimal

English literature and handful Arabic/Persian literature] and 1 IT

room with 8 computers, all located in the Main compound. The Main

compound housed about half of the number of detainees in the Centre.

The Mike and November compounds had no library, 1 non-resourced classroom

each [no consumables, text books, resource/materials, whiteboards,

cupboards or sufficient tables or chairs ] and no IT room/computers.

The Oscar compound had 1 equipped classroom but no library, consumables,

computers or teaching resources/materials. The India compound had

no educational resources or facilities. Towards the end of my contract

there was an attempt to resource the rooms in Mike and November and

to install 6-8 computers in each compound. I was given the task of

compiling a comprehensive and appropriate list of library, student/teacher

resource books/materials, ESL materials and ESL Software and bi-lingual

Dictionaries to supplement the scant teaching materials/resources

on site. Some books and dictionaries did arrive while I was there,

but to the best of my knowledge, nothing much arrived later in the

year, wether by design, lack of funds or as a result of retaliation

for riots. Much effort was put into the doing [compiling, planning,

discussing, changing etc] but very little in delivering.

After about

2 weeks I perceived a particular need to focus on the educational

needs of the Unaccompanied Minors and the teenagers of both genders.

These students would be the most vulnerable and disadvantaged educationally,

socially and culturally when they were released. Caught between child

and adult, conformity or conversion and choice or obedience, they

would have the hardest time of all adjusting, assimilating and being

accepted. I planned, programmed and initiated a series of lessons

based on what I saw as their specific learning needs, ensuring a continuity

of learning outcomes over all of the compounds. Regardless of which

compound they were moved to, or from, they would practically be able

to fit into any similar class without major disruptions to their learning.

I was disappointed when the Programs manager advised me that I had

acted outside my guide lines and that it was not considered to be

what was required. They were considered to be only short-term detainees

and that setting up such a program was a waste of time and resources.

The old adage "We're only here to keep you alive, not fatten

you up", came to mind. Well and good if you are only short-term,

but what happens when one is detained up to 2 years?

Given the

shortage of staff and continual staff turn-over and the lack of resources,

teaching was often a haphazard affair. Time-tables were adjusted on

a weekly basis. Considering that there was only 1 teacher contact

hour per day with each group, to deliver an appropriately comprehensive

educational program with any continuity of learning, in this context

was a difficult task. There was often a clash with Activities, considered

by Programs management more important than education and always given

priority. Add to this disruptions due to disturbances/riots, continual

relocation/rehousing of detainees between compounds, releases and

arrivals, detainee health and psychological states and the frequent

changes to the education program by management to meet perceived or

imposed needs, and a clearer understanding of just what was possible

emerges. Changes that were management driven were often obstructionist

and detainee detrimental. Also just what could be taught to what group,

and the time allocated to a specific group, varied according to where

they had progressed to in their Visa processing.

More importantly

the detainees themselves were not in a state conducive to learning.

The trauma of their experiences getting here and their treatment while

they were in detention, allowed for very little mental energy to devote

to learning. I found that their main focus and preoccupation was with

getting a Visa and its attendant problems.

I was responsible

for the educational program in the Oscar compound. This compound housed

the long-term detainees [up to 2 years], the dysfunctional, the traumatised,

the severely depressed, the suicidal, the self-mutilators, those on

High Risk Assessment, the medically controlled and the "trouble

makers" in isolation. Many of these detainees were professional,

highly intelligent and highly educated people, with an excellent command

of English. What could I teach them? What they needed and wanted to

know was not part of any program offered at the Centre. I learned

much from these people.

Learning was

a high priority for most detainees but coming to classes often depended

on their daily dispositions. Given their psychological states often

it appeared to be a diversion at best, and I found that they only

kept coming to classes regularly, if it was relevant to their needs.

Of course, one might say, it is common sense and best practice to

facilitate learning at their level, help them with what they need

to know and respond to what they want to know about life and living

in Australia. However this was not necessarily in keeping with the

Centre's educational policy. Regardless of what is written as policy,

what is expected in delivery, is not the same thing.

I firmly believe

that an educational program based on intensive language and literacy

acquisition, supported by practical life-skills training and Australian

cultural studies, based on factual and contextual learning/teaching,

should form the initial [perhaps 2-3 months] needs based program at

Woomera. If they are released during this time they have the basic

"Survival Kit" and may deal with the culture shock better.

If the detainees have been assessed at higher levels of learning they

can be appropriately catered for, and with longer detention, detainee

educational needs can be met in all areas of learning. It is extremely

difficult to promote and facilitate learning based on the current

SA curriculum, even with ESL adaptations, particularly if the infrastructure

to support and deliver it is not in place. Never mind trying to cater

for the extreme disparity in the educational experiences and learning

of the detainees: none to PhD's!

I would rather

more resources and funding be invested in providing educational opportunities

for all TPV holders in all areas of education. This is not currently

the case. How can we expect TPV holders to become fluent in English,

finish postponed studies, become gainfully employed and become productive

members of the community if they are not supported educationally on

release?. Educational institutions and providers have a vital role

to play, but only if their agendas, practices and programs are transparent

and delivered for the best outcomes for all.

I also concur

with, and support the statements made in the media, by the two young

ladies who taught in Pt. Headland. Our experiences are all too familiar.

There is much,

much more that I could add, but please be aware that while I was in

Woomera, I believe that all of the teaching staff worked extremely

hard to deliver a culturally sensitive and appropriate learning program

and environment to the detainees. This was often under less than suitable

conditions, stressful situations and often without Program Management's

support or approval.

In closing,

regardless of what is drafted, proposed, submitted, suggested, professed,

written about and even given as policy, if it is delivered by a body

which is not held to accountability, professionally, politically or

publicly then there can be no hope that any detainee will get "a

fair go" educationally or otherwise.

Yours etc,

Inese Peterson

2.7 Minister Ruddock

Fails the Education Question

Minister Ruddock

was questioned on the ABC 7.30 Report on 10th April 2002 about the programs

available. A number of educators involved with children in detention

appeared on the program which he said was "unbalanced." The

Minister appeared to believe that because some of the children did not

have much experience of formal education backgrounds there was not justification

for providing them opportunities for education in the centres. He said:


point is the numbers of people held in detention at any one time vary

considerably. The composition of those who come on boats vary considerably.

They're often of different nationalities so the variety of languages

spoken is wide. They may have no formal education."

2.8 Australia

Fails its International Obligations

It is clear from

the above that the Australian Government has failed in its duty under

the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide universal primary

education and secondary education equivalent to that of other citizens.

In the view of the AEU, it is semantic and legalistic obfuscation to

claim that the children in Australia's detention centres are beyond

its jurisdiction. In the language of educators, the children are within

the care and control of the Australian government, and thus a duty is

owed to them.

As part of the

wider failure, the Australian government is also failing to meet the

requirements of Articles 2,3,6 and 12 of the Convention which require

appropriate education programs for children of different cultural, linguistic

and immigration backgrounds.

2.9 Nauru and

Manus Island

As part of its

attempt to shed responsibility for the asylum seekers under its control,

the Australian government established the so-called "Pacific Solution"

which involves detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. The AEU

believes this is an entirely inappropriate way to treat asylum seekers

and that it poses considerable health, trauma and education risks to

the children in Australia's care.

According to information

received by the AEU, from Mr Len Baglow, as of May 6, 2002 there were

eight children held on Christmas Island, 243 on Nauru and 125 on Manus

Island. It is reported that most of these have been held for over 6

months. While the AEU has no grounds for verifying these figures, they

amount to 376 minors for which Australia has responsibility, despite

obfuscation about immigration zones etc. The centres are Australian-initiated,

funded and operated, with the Pacific countries involved acting as hosts

only. Jurisdiction and responsibility cannot be evaded by attempting

to shift the blame.

The Secretary of

the Council of Pacific Education (COPE) reported to the AEU the following

about the provision of education for children in these camps after discussion

with the Papua-New Guinea Teachers' Association and the Fiji Teachers

Union and Fiji Teachers Association who represent Fijian teachers employed

on Nauru.

1. There are

children of school going age at both camps

2. That in

Nauru some attempts have been made to provide a literacy class to

children and that some local teachers visit the camp to conduct these

classes after they had finished their own classes in their schools.

However there are no properly provided/resourced classrooms. You might

be interested to know that Nauru has an acute teacher shortage and

that approximately 70% of the teaching staff in the secondary school

is made up of expatriate staff, mostly from Fiji.

3. In the

case of Manus it appears that there are no formally set up classes

as yet. However the camp has far better facilities than Nauru as the

camp is a naval base complete with its medical facilities. Not much

is known at this stage about Manus but I will be in touch through

contacts and friends in my church.

From this report

it appears that the "Pacific Solution" pays no more regard

to the need for education than those who have been placed in immigration

detention on the Australian mainland.

2.10 No Pacific


The AEU's writ

does not reach to Manus Island and Nauru, where some of the children

who sought refuge in Australia have been transported. However, there

are AEU members working on Christmas Island. The existence of the "Pacific

Solution" detention centres away from Australian jurisdiction is

anathema to the rights and expectations which Australian law and custody

should create. Facts and opinion from teachers on Manus Island and Nauru

obtained with the assistance of the Council of Pacific Education, based

in Suva, Fiji show that educators in the Pacific regard the educational

provision for children of detainees to be inadequate.

3. Alternative

Models are at Hand

The AEU puts forward

the following examples of different ways in which children in immigration

detention and their families could be treated, at the same or less cost

to Australia and with no greater risk to the security or integrity of

the nation.

3.1 Contrast with

the New Zealand Approach

A sister-school

relationship exists between Holroyd H.S. in Western Sydney and Auckland's

Selwyn College. The Post-Primary Teachers Association of New Zealand

and the New Zealand Education Institute have provided information to

the AEU about the operation of programs in New Zealand. The contrast

between the Australian and New Zealand Government policies is graphic.

In New Zealand,

asylum seekers are released to live in the community. Children are enrolled

in local schools, families are provided with mentor families to support

them and a range of social services are employed to care for the families

while their immigration status is determined.

Selwyn College

has a high enrolment of immigrant and asylum-seeker children. It provides

intensive English programs for new arrivals, as well as counselling

and welfare assistance for students.


report that the NZ government's policy has wide public support and that

the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, has compared the Australian

policy unfavourably with that of her country.

3.2 State Public

Education Authorities Offer Support

Where Vocational

Education and Training is concerned, the Minister for the Queensland

TAFE system has decided to offer training for asylum seekers. This offer

has been taken up by other state authorities.

The Managing Director

of TAFE NSW and Director General of Education and Training, Ken Boston,

conveyed his view to the NSW Teachers Federation in April 2002 that

"children and young people detained in Villawood would benefit

from attending local public schools and colleges." Ken Boston referred

to a letter to the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Multicultural

Affairs, in which he said, "In my letter I indicated that the Department

of Education and Training would provide appropriate ESL and counselling

resources to public schools which welcomed those children and young


In correspondence

to John Hennessy, General Secretary of the NSW Teachers Federation on

30 November 2000, the then Minister for Education and Training in NSW

wrote that holders of TPVs would be considered for exemption from payment

of the Administration Charge in NSW TAFE colleges and could request

individual exemptions from payment of tuition fees, to be determined

on a case by case basis by TAFE directors. This has yet to translate

into reality in many institutions.

3.3 Recommendations

Draw Upon Successful Australian Programs

HREOC has requested

recommendations about how to deal with the needs of children in immigration

detention. The Australian Government through DIMA and a range of education

authorities including the Australian Centre for Languages, Adult Multicultural

Education Services Victoria, New South Wales Adult Migrant Education

Services, Services for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and

Trauma Survivors collaborated in the National Education Model developed

for Kosovar and East Timorese refugees in Safe Havens in 1999.

The Safe Havens

were operated at army bases where refugees were housed but which allowed

access and visits on an organised basis to events and places in the


In "Keeping

the Good Things in our Hearts", published by the Adult Multicultural

Education Service, Lilliana Hajncl detailed the programs which were

developed urgently and which proved successful for both adults and children.

Education provision

would include:

  • survival English

    language skills for adults;

  • English via

    a non-accredited, customised curriculum;

  • Kosovar, and

    then East Timorese, specific education services for children to provide

    a continued link to the education in the students' homeland;

  • Resource and

    information facilities;

  • Access to technology;
  • Social and

    cultural activities. (p3)

3.4 The Safe

Haven Resource and Information Centre (RIC)

Central to the

National Model of ESL/Education service delivery was the concept of

a Resource and Information Centre (RIC). The function of the RIC was

to provide a safe and comfortable environment, including reading, recreational

and play materials as well as access to news sources and communications.

The RIC was supervised by teachers assisted by support staff. (p4).

Good technology was provided as well as library and information resources

as was site-specific information. Each Safe Haven RIC was the first

point of contact for the provision of survival English skills for adults

and children and Kosovar/East Timorese specific education for children

and adolescents.

The RIC model

in practice provided a range of educational and other services including

primary, secondary, young adult, mature adult education as well as educational

activities. Linked with educational provision were child minding, internet

information services, email communication, individual self-paced learning

and recreational haven activities.

The AMES worked

closely with the state Department of Education as well as with TAFE

institutes located close to the Safe Havens. Staff was sought by expressions

of interest from the Department which called for experienced, culturally

aware teachers and administrative staff willing and able to work co-operatively

in a changing environment away from home. Staff for child minding and

care was recruited through the YWCA and Red Cross. Staff was prepared

for the task with briefings on the history and recent events in the

countries concerned and the likely experiences of the students they

would receive. Lessons learned included the value of art, craft and

recreation in developing a comfortable and effective learning environment.

Program delivery

emphasised some factors:

  • education for

    children should begin as soon as possible to help overcome the effects

    of trauma;

  • parents could

    attend with their children if they wished to ensure attendance;

  • the context

    of English language support needed to reflect the refugees' immediate

    language needs, and be sensitive to their recent life experience;

  • the programs

    took into account the way in which the Kosovar and East Timorese children

    had experienced education before: the methodology, age of commencement,

    fragmentation, etc.

Curriculum delivery

for children included:

  • Trust building


  • Traditional

    class settings;

  • Independent

    access to learning materials;

  • Games, story

    telling, music;

  • Sporting activities;
  • Family excursions;
  • Trauma counselling;
  • Interaction

    with volunteers;

  • Art and craft


An holistic approach

to the program was taken, with all aspects focused on helping the Safe

Haven residents to overcome trauma, re-establish psychological wellbeing

and have positive experiences. The structure and stability of the Safe

Haven was vital in achieving this.

For pre-schoolers,

the child minding and "play centre" service catered for children's

needs in providing:

  • opportunities

    for preschoolers to engage in developmentally and culturally appropriate

    play experiences;

  • occasional

    care for short periods of time to enable parents to access health

    and counselling services, and to participate in English and recreational


  • periods of operation

    that were structured to meet the needs of clients and other service


  • equity of access;
  • qualified childcare

    workers experienced in caring for children from language backgrounds

    other than English;

  • volunteers,

    who received training relevant to their role in working with young

    children in this situation;

  • opportunities

    for parents to stay in the Centre with their children if they wished;

  • indoor and outdoor


  • a secure environment

    with accident and medication documentation, first aid, hygiene and

    sign in/out procedures;

  • a décor

    that reflected the culture and familiar environment of each group.

3.5 Gender Equity

in Immigration Education Programs

The culture of

detention centres and their management structures and practices transmit

strong messages about the value placed on participation of girls and

women and boys and men in the wider society. The authoritarian nature

of the detention centres transmits definitions of "masculinity"

and "femininity" which the AEU challenges.

The AEU believes

that the principles and understandings of gender equity should underpin

and be incorporated into all aspects of curriculum, delivery and classroom

organization to which refugees are exposed.

The provision

of effective and appropriate educational practice in settings which

are integrated, holistic and adequately resourced is essential for all

children. To achieve gender equitable educational outcomes, girls and

boys must be provided with:

  • equitable use

    of and access to space, facilities and equipment;

  • in?service

    support and professional development for educators;

  • participation

    of parents/ carers and the refugee community;

  • strategies for

    eliminating violence and harassment;

  • education in

    life skills for girls and boys;

  • strategies for

    promoting and implementing welfare policies and programs;

  • access to life

    long learning for women and men;.

The AEU calls for

the incorporation of the range of experience, knowledge, skills and

aspirations of women and girls, men and boys to be incorporated in all

education programs for refugees.

The AEU insists

that gendered violence and sex-based harassment must be eliminated and

that teaching about the construction of gender, effective communication

and relationship skills, conflict management and resolution skills to

both girls and boys takes place.

It is in the context

of understanding and challenging inequality within our society that

education should be provided.

4. Alternative

Policies Have Public Support

4.1 AEU Federal

Conference January 2002

At the AEU's January

Federal Conference, four major themes were adopted for the union's work

in this year. One of those was to campaign around the defence of human

rights and opposition to the spectre of war and racism, internationally

and within Australia. The resolution called for the ending of mandatory

detention of children and was unanimously adopted. This resolution stated

that children and their parents should be allowed to live in the community

while their status was determined. In addition, the AEU called for children

to attend public schools with their peers as generations of new arrivals

to this country have done over the past century or more. Public education

authorities were called upon to provide the additional resources such

as counselling and medical help that schools enrolling refugee children

would require.

4.2 AEU Policy

has Membership and Public Support

The AEU's January

2002 call for children to be released from detention has been widely

supported within the AEU and the community. Negative responses among

the membership can be counted on one hand. The policy has been widely

publicised through journals distributed to members in most states and

territories. The union has made its views known through visibly joining

protest demonstrations and rallies such as that on Palm Sunday in the

major cities and by sponsoring newspaper advertisements and petitions.

The AEU has had

a positive and encouraging response from its members and the community

to its call to release child asylum seekers into the community. Most

teachers simply believe that a free and supportive educational environment,

with expert resources available for particular needs, is the best way

that child asylum seekers can heal and grow.

4.3 Education

International Concern

Education International

is the world's largest non-government organisation and represents 25

million educators in 159 countries. In a letter to the Prime Minister

of Australia, the General Secretary of EI wrote:

Education International

expresses its deep concern at the policies of your government towards

the children of asylum seekers who have sought refuge in Australia.

The world community has always looked to your country for humane and

principled policies in accordance with international standards. On this

issue Australia has failed to live up to its reputation and has attracted

widespread criticism. The detention centres your government has established

in remote and hostile parts of the land, as well as on offshore locations

in unhealthy climates in poor countries, are highly repugnant to those

looking for a civilised approach.

The complete letter

dated 24 April 2002 is appended to this submission.

4.4 Public Education

and Multiculturalism

The union believes

that Australia's public schools are at the core of the evolution of

the multicultural society we now enjoy. Recognising that aspects of

our history are problematic, we believe that Australian society is as

cohesive as it is due to the mixing of religions, cultures and races

in our public education systems. The environment of relative equality

and openness afforded by public schools has contributed to the strong

democratic values of the Australian community.

These values are

being undermined by the inspired campaign of suspicion and even fear

deliberately generated by the Federal Government for electoral purposes.

The fact that it is working is then used to justify further excesses.

The danger of this approach is evident to any student of human history.

4.5 Detention

Policy an Expression of "Xenoracism"

Professor Andrew

Jakubowicz used the term "xenoracism" at the HREOC National

Conference on Racism, "Beyond Tolerance" in March 2002 after

reviewing the linked elements of race, culture and nation which lie

behind popular support for Border Protection policies. These were xenophobic

in form but racist in substance and supported by the full force of state

racism; the use of the institutional power of the state to enforce and

amplify the policy.

The revelations

of the "Children Overboard" Senate inquiry have if nothing

else given a graphic illustration of the state's use of the armed forces

in what is a civilian matter and how military personnel have been politicised

and information has been manipulated. Information has been censored,

repressed, delayed or exaggerated by government and administration in

the name of "protection." The Howard Government's policies

are undoubtedly xenoracist.

4.5 Classroom


For teachers, xenoracism

is nothing new or unusual, it is often encountered as part of the daily

fare of children's values as they reveal received social attitudes uninhibited

by adult discretion. Teachers deal with such attitudes in the dynamic

of the classroom, guiding children towards the educational and civic

goals of multiculturalism, tolerance and respect for cultural diversity.

4.6 AEU Rejects


The AEU and its

members reject racism and xenophobia as anathema to the core values

they believe their work as public educators represents. While the AEU's

policy to allow the children who are asylum seekers to live in the community

with their parents is firstly directed at their best social, psychological

and educational interests, it is also a call to Australians. It is our

view that integration into ordinary public schools and colleges, providing

extra resources are provided, would be accepted by parents and students

alike. This has been the history of the massive post-war migration programme,

painful and difficult as it sometimes was at the time.

In February 2002

the Leader of the Opposition announced that the ALP would support removing

children from detention. In March 2002 the Executive of the Australian

Council of Trade Unions unanimously decided to oppose mandatory detention.

4.7 Immigration

Detention a Major Community Issue

AEU policy has

been widely publicised among members and the community, including:

  • Refugee Rights

    is a top campaign link on Branch and National websites, with links

    to refugee action campaign organisations;

  • The "Australia

    is Refugees" schools project at both primary and secondary levels

    has attracted wide participation and sponsorship;

  • Reports have

    been carried in membership newspapers and magazines in most states

    and nationally about conditions in detention centres and the lack

    of anything but minimal educational provision;

  • The Woomera

    Action at Easter which made world news and involved AEU members and

    AEU support;

  • SA AEU letter

    to Minister for Education in SA seeking resources for the School of


  • SA Govt Report

    to Stephanie Key, the Minister for Community Services who recently

    sent officers to report on the conditions in Woomera;

  • The HREOC report

    of officers who interviewed 20 families in Woomera;

  • The requests

    to Woomera Central School for curriculum materials and the meeting

    held recently to discuss placing children in the school;

  • NSW Teachers

    Federation Council resolution supporting the enrolment of TPV children

    and adults in free government-sponsored programs in school, TAFE and

    AMES and call for DOCS and NSW Govt negotiations to ensure all school

    age children have access to quality public education;

  • NSWTF Council

    decision calling for the repeal of current Border Protection and Migration


  • NSWTF Council

    decision to replace mandatory detention with a compassionate system,

    possibly similar to the Safe Haven program for Kosovar asylum seekers

    involving access to education, English classes, community participation

    and recreation;

  • The action

    which took place at Villawood involving NSWTF "teaching through

    the wire";

  • NSW Department

    of Education Director-General Ken Boston's letter to the NSWTF General

    Secretary, advising him of letters sent to Commonwealth officers of

    DIMA and DETS supporting the enrolment of children in detention in

    public schools in NSW and offering appropriate ESL and counselling

    resources in those schools;

  • Criticism of

    the ACM-Wackenhut corporation as the Detention Centre operator, the

    global operations of Wackenhut and the profits and costs involved

    to the Aust Govt, included in SA AEU Journal;

  • Financial Analysis

    of Detention Centre Costs by actuary Naomi Edwards which shows that

    by allowing asylum seekers to live in the community, with support,

    the government would save $70 million per year;

  • The provision

    of "education" at St Michaels closed primary school in Woomera

    as per the "Southern Cross";

  • Reports in the

    "Western Teacher" on detainees' art, letters on nazi memories

    and AMES, article on refugee rights;

  • Pen-pal initiatives

    to link school students with refugee children in centres.


Updated 22 October 2002.