Skip to main content

Commission Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

Click here to return to the Submission Index

Submission to the National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from


City Mission

20 March 2002

Dr Sev Ozdowski


Human Rights Commissioner

Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner

GPO Box 5218


Dear Dr. Ozdowski,

Re: National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

Melbourne Citymission

would like to thank you for the opportunity to provide input into your

inquiry into children in immigration detention. It is an issue that goes

to the very heart of how we as a nation care for our children. It is particularly

pertinent to Melbourne Citymission as we are an organization committed

to supporting and advocating on behalf of the marginalised.

While we do not specifically

have expertise on how detention will impact on the psychological and social

well-being of children or on the most effective model for the provision

of education in immigration detention, we do have substantial expertise

in providing generalist and specialist services to children and their

families. Specifically we work with children and families from many diverse

cultural backgrounds including those cultural groups currently being targeted

for detention. This expertise means that we are well placed to highlight

the elements that need to be provided to all children to ensure their

developmental capacities are optimised and psychological and social well-being

are developed and sustained. Along with a well-developed understanding

of the specific needs of children and families who have experienced the

traumas forced migration.

In Melbourne Citymission’s

experience, as with all children, those children in immigration detention

will require:

  • A safe, supportive

    and relaxed environment where they are free to try new experiences/challenges,

    which is vital for their emotional development,

  • Equipment designed

    to develop their fine motor and gross motor skills for example puzzles

    and climbing frames,

  • Opportunities

    to play and interact with their peers in a safe and positive environment

    in order for their social development to be enhanced,

  • Opportunities

    to play games and use puzzles to expand their cognitive skills

  • Access to a wide

    range of life opportunities such as social activities, shopping, as

    well as different environments such as a park or the beach as a basis

    for dramatic play, writing etc. which is central to all facets of development,


  • To have access

    to physical/sporting activities for their physical and emotional health

    and wellbeing.

For unaccompanied

children who are already vulnerable to abuse and long-term psychological

and emotional implications, additional supports will be required in order

to redress the trauma that isolation and separation can cause.

Similarly for children

with disabilities, they will require all of the above plus access to specialised

assessment, equipment and professional support.

Additionally, all

of the parents and guardians caring for children in immigration detention

will, as with all parents/guardians, require the opportunity to access

information on child development and parenting skills.

In sum, for a child’s

health and well-being to be optimised they need a safe, healthy, positive,

interactive environment. Hence it is important to note that in the broader

community if it was evident;

  • that a child

    was not living in a positive (developmentally) environment,

  • where they were

    and/or had experienced trauma and/or

  • their specific

    developmental needs were not being met,

then the community

norm would be that the Child Protection system would be activated. It

behoves us to ensure that children in immigration detention have access

to the same right of protection. Melbourne Citymission therefore strongly

opposes any service system that denies children access to basic human

developmental rights.

We trust, therefore,

that in the process of assessing the current situation faced by children

in immigration detention that you utilise ‘normal child development’

factors as a critical part of your criteria.

Yours sincerely,

Anne Turley

Chief Executive Officer


Updated 30 June 2003.