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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



Many of my clients

(while I was working as a Child and Adolescent Counsellor with STARTTS

June 2000 - January 2002) refused to talk about their experiences in Australian

Immigration Detention Centres. In addition, several mothers only let me

see their children for counselling on the condition that I not raise their

Australian Detention experiences as it would distress them too much and

they do not want to talk about it. This concerned me a lot. These same

children (aged between 6 and 17) discussed their trauma experiences in

their country of origin and other countries of asylum but would not talk

about their experiences in Australia.

Those clients who did discuss Australian Detention spoke of their traumatic

experiences, including such matter of lack of schooling; lack of information

regarding their health, status and rights; mistreatment by ACM staff including

separation from primary care givers within the centre.

Lack of support services for clients released on Temporary Protection

Visas was particularly disappointing. Families with extremely physically

ill children had no information on how to access health care; unaccompanied

minors had little information on their rights and minimal support in learning

how to function on a practical daily basis.

As a psychologist, I found this work very challenging. As an Australian,

I found it disappointing and shameful that these children appeared to

be further traumatised on arrival in Australian due to being mandatorily

detained, mistreated whilst in detention, and the lack of support and

information about survivng in society upon release. The fact that some

of my youngest clients refused to talk about their detention experiences

and would "prefer" to discuss such issues as witnessing violence

and having family members killed and tortured was highly disturbing. Their

refusal to discuss their Australian Detention experiences was problematic

as it was indicative that these experiences were more traumatising than

their horrific experiences in their country of origin and other countries

of asylum.

The children I counselled when working for STARTTS and those I saw as

a Settlement Services Officer when working for the Department of Immigration

had had very little security and stability in their lives, if at all.

On arriving in Australia, their sense of trust in a safe and just world

was further destroyed as they felt they were being punished and didn't

know why. Highly traumatised children should definately not be separated

from their primary care givers - the results I saw of this were high levels

of anxiety, difficulties in establishing trust and relationships, suicidal

ideation and depression.


Updated 14 July 2003.