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Commission Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

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Submission to National Inquiry

into Children in Immigration Detention from

Child Accident Prevention

Foundation of Australia


Under the Convention

on the Rights of the Child (1989), children in detention have the right

to 'Rest & Play'. The main focus of this submission is to promote

the services of the NSW Playground Advisory Unit in order to support these


'The Convention rights

of the child to rest, play, recreational activities and to participate

in cultural and artistic life are vital for the healthy development of

the child' (Background Paper 3: Mental Health and Development).

The NSW Playground

Advisory Unit is an independent body funded by four Government Departments;

Department of Health, Sport and Recreation, Community Services and Education

and Training. The Unit is the principal agency for playground safety and

development in NSW and aims to increase the number of safe, creative playspaces

that comply with safety standards. The Unit comprises of personnel with

backgrounds ranging from, Child Development, Landscape Architecture and


The Playground Advisory

Unit has the capacity to design playspaces that facilitates 'unstructured

activities free from adult direction' as well as participation in 'activities

undertaken for pleasure' (Background Paper 3: Mental Health and Development).


Play: Its relationship to

a healthy life

Play is an essential

element of child development, promoting skills for adult life, including

social and physical skills. 'Play can relax the child, relieve tensions,

help assimilate experiences learnt and help the child function within

the family and community' (Background Paper 3: Mental Health and Development).

Play is vital to

the well being of all children, helping them develop physical, social

and cognitive skills as well as enabling them to explore their environment.

Children learn through play, how to problem solve, resolve conflict and

discover their limitations (Roberts, 1993). Participation in play helps

children develop coordination and positive attitudes that are likely to

be maintained later in life.

The impact from a

lack of play facilities for children in detention emphasises the need

for provision of appropriate play environments that are safe and accessible

for all children. This need is even more dramatic for children detained

over long periods of time, particularly those who have fled from war torn

countries and those suffering from deprivation of human rights.

Also of concern is

the significant increase in obesity amongst children living in Australia.

Dr Michael Booth (Centre for the Advancement of Adolescent Health, Children's

Hospital at Westmead) has stated that children who begin recreational

activity early in life will maintain this activity later in their life.

He has also stated that one of the key factors for those who seek to be

active is a physical and social environment, which is pleasant, safe and

offers a wide range of opportunities to be active for all age groups.

The primary consideration

of the NSW Playground Advisory Unit is to ensure all playspace designs

are fully compliant with the current Australian Playground Standards.

The Unit conducts one & two day training workshops regarding the existing

Standards across NSW to all groups and agencies and also conducts Safety

Audits of existing playspaces. Our playspace design service has provided

Concept Plans for numerous organisations and groups including Emu Plains

Correctional Centre (this playspace was designed for the children who

live in the correctional centre with their mothers), the Children's Hospital

at Westmead and the Ashfield Infants Home, Sydney (refer to appendices).

Design of a true and meaningful play environment incorporates areas for

the four basic types of play; active, passive, social and creative.

The Playground Advisory

Unit is the only organisation of its kind and is coordinated from Kidsafe

NSW. Kidsafe is an independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to preventing

unintentional death and injury to children. At present approximately 5,000

Australian children are injured and one child dies each day! Injury has

now overtaken disease to become the most significant health risk to Australian

children in the one to nine year age bracket.

Our Submission Aim:

The aim of our submission

is to offer our services and provide expert advice on appropriate play

facilities and applicable Australian Standards for the design of play

and recreation areas as they apply to detention facility design throughout


'There must be adequate

and appropriate spaces and equipment to facilitate play and physical activity

by children with disabilities in immigration detention' (Background Paper

5: Prevention, Treatment and Accommodation of Disabilities). Areas within

the playspace can be incorporated to facilitate screening and assessment

of children with disabilities by the relevant health professionals. The

Playground Advisory Unit has a Paediatric Occupational Therapist within

the team who can also provide the appropriate advice regarding consideration

for the provision of spaces for children with disabilities.

There are many considerations

that designers of children's playspaces must be aware of including, equipment

height, undersurfacing and design for access by particular age groups

of children. The Playground Advisory Unit provides this advice on a daily

basis across NSW, averaging 100 initial telephone contacts per month.

How does Australia

meet its commitments to child detainees under the Convention on the Rights

of the Child (1989)?

At present children

are detained in facilities within Australia that do not provide the appropriate

opportunities for 'Rest and Play'. All children require participation

in play and self-expression activities to foster healthy development.

The NSW Playground Advisory Unit can offer support and advice regarding

the provision of these facilities. The cost of this support can be negotiated

depending on the level of support required.

For further information

please contact:

Margaret Cavanangh

Program Manager

Playground Advisory Unit of NSW


Phone: 02 9845


Fax: 02 9845 0895



Updated 22 October 2002.