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Submission to the National
Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from
the Australian Education Union
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.
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
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."
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
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.
on Education and Child Detainees
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Problems of TPV Children in 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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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].
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
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
2-3 UAMs & Teens mixed class
3-4 UAMs & Teens mixed class
4-5 Special Focus Group
Fri 9-12 Assist..
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
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!
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
2.7 Minister Ruddock
Fails the Education Question
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."
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
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
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.
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
3.1 Contrast with
the New Zealand Approach
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.
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.
The PPTA and NZEI
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
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
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.
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
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.
- 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
- 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
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.
emphasised some factors:
- education for
children should begin as soon as possible to help overcome the effects
- 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,
for children included:
- Trust building
access to learning materials;
- Games, story
- Sporting activities;
- Family excursions;
- Trauma counselling;
- 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.
the child minding and "play centre" service catered for children's
needs in providing:
for preschoolers to engage in developmentally and culturally appropriate
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;
who received training relevant to their role in working with young
children in this situation;
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.
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;
support and professional development for educators;
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.
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
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.
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:
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
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.
Policy an Expression of "Xenoracism"
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
- The action
which took place at Villawood involving NSWTF "teaching through
- 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.