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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 NSW Department of Education

and Training



Adequacy of current educational provision

Educational programs in NSW government schools

Temporary Protection Visa Holders enrolled in government schools.

Cost of educating child asylum seekers and students on temporary protection


Support for children and families who have been released from detention



1. Introduction

'The Department

of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (should) negotiate agreements

with State Governments … to enable children in detention centres

to gain access to nearby schools.'

A report on visits

to immigration detention centres.

Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. (June


This submission supports

the proposition that for children in detention their education would be

best served by allowing such children to enrol in government schools outside

the detention centres.

To date no agreement

or memorandum of understanding exists between the Commonwealth and the

New South Wales Government in regard to the education of children held

in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (IDC).

Currently children

in Villawood IDC do not access local schools and must remain in Villawood

for their education. The major educational provider in New South Wales,

the Department of Education and Training, has no direct or indirect input

into educational programs for children in detention at Villawood. The

nature of the educational provision in Villawood IDC is determined by

the contractor, Australasian Correctional Services (ACS), in accordance

with the Commonwealth's Immigration Detention Standards (IDS).

In 2001, in one particular

instance, the New South Wales Department of Education and Training worked

with the Commonwealth Government to enable a child in Villawood to attend

a government school. In this case the child was released from Villawood

IDC into the custody of another family. Then, in order to enrol the child

who was still considered to be an unlawful non-citizen, the chosen public

school was approved as a place of detention under the Migration Act

1958. The school principal accepted DIMIA's request to hold the child

in immigration detention while he attended school.

Generally, however,

children in Villawood IDC are not separated from parents or family and

so remain in detention unable to access local schools.

Children and unaccompanied

minors holding temporary protection visas who have been released into

the community are currently able to enrol in NSW government schools. Schools

recognise that these students often have experienced torture and or trauma,

have interrupted education and many are at risk of not completing their

schooling and so the schools provide appropriate counselling and welfare

programs. In addition such children are able to access intensive English

as a second language and community language tuition where appropriate.

On an international

comparison Australia's policies on mandatory detention of 'unlawful non-citizens'

appear to be unique. The current system of operation in almost all refugee-receiving

countries is generally the release of asylum seekers into the community.

The number of asylum seekers in Australia is small in relation to many

of these countries. Countries such as Great Britain, Sweden, the United

States of America and Canada do not impose long-term mandatory detention

and do allow asylum seekers' children to enrol in school.

2. Adequacy

of current educational provision

Education shall

be directed to the … 'preparation of the child for responsible

life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance,

equality of sexes and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national

and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin.'

Convention on the

Rights of the Child, Article 29 (1), 1989.

Under the United

Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) (the Convention),

all children have a fundamental right to be educated. In particular it

requires that primary education be compulsory and that different forms

of secondary education, including general and vocational education, be

available and accessible to every child.

The right of the

child to be educated in New South Wales is reflected in the Education

Act (1990) with its requirement for compulsory education for all children

aged between 6 and 15 years.

However, education

for children of any age in Villawood IDC is not compulsory. The Immigration

Detention Standards do not require the provider to meet state or territory

curriculum requirements. Nor do the standards require the provider to

use qualified or registered teachers.

Information available

indicates that educational programs in Villawood do not provide the same

level of education available to children in local schools. This contradicts

the Convention principle that there must be no discrimination in access

to education for any child, regardless of status. A child in detention

has the right to access and participate in education 'to the maximum extent

of available resources' (the Convention, Article 4).

Advice from the Department

of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) indicates

that at 23 April 2002, 26 children of school age and seven pre-school

age children were detained at Villawood. This number is subject to fluctuation.

Villawood IDC educational

programs for children include pre-primary education and general education.

Adult education programs include general education, life skills, English

classes, basic computing and vocational training. It is the Department's

understanding that at Villawood both children and adults participate in

the same classroom. Three qualified teachers: one adult educator, one

primary school teacher and one pre-school teacher are available to support

the education needs of people detained at Villawood IDC. English classes

consist of 4 x 1 hour sessions per day for 4 days per week.

On the available

evidence, the educational programs provided by the contractor are inadequate

and inappropriate in providing for children of different ages and abilities

and cannot meet the Convention requirements.

It could be deemed

discriminatory to educate children in the isolated environment of a detention

centre. Children need to learn more than English to advance their education

and they learn much more from interaction with peers in school. In school,

children would be able to learn in a safe and nurturing environment.

The current educational

provision at Villawood is limited in terms of breadth of curriculum and

depth of teaching programs. The quality of provision is severely impacted

on by teacher quality and numbers of students participating in educational

activities. The small numbers of both students and teachers means that

to group students of similar age and educational needs would not be possible.

Essential to achievement

of educational success for students is the correct placement of students

in programs. Initial educational assessment of a child is essential but

can be difficult, particularly for children with little or disrupted education

and the resulting difficulties of literacy in a student's first language.

Assessors need to have appropriate experience in assessing English language

competence as well as experience in identifying the impact of previous

torture and trauma and the settlement process on psychological development

and educational progress. The use of bilingual support to conduct such

educational assessments is necessary.

Children at Villawood

IDC, possibly already traumatised by previous experiences, need the stability

and normality of school. There they can achieve some successes such as

progress in school work and English, be encouraged to have a positive

attitude to their own culture and language, make friends or be supported

by welfare programs and counsellors experienced in helping refugee students.

If children in detention

were allowed to enrol in schools they would be able to resume their interrupted

education and continue to learn English in an environment with good English

speaking models to support their English language learning. This is extremely

important in light of information from DIMIA which indicates that the

majority of people in detention centres who have applied for protection

as refugees are eventually released into the community on three year temporary

protection visas. When the children then later enrol in school, they have

experienced considerable disruption to their learning, sometimes for several



Educational programs in NSW government schools

*Rany's Journey

*not her real name

Rany is a Year

12 student in a Sydney high school who enjoys both school and social

activities. A keen member of the Student Representative Council at school,

she always wants to be involved and achieve as well as she can. She

enjoys good health and life. But it has not always been so.

A frail child,

Rany had been born in a Thai refugee camp where her Cambodian parents

waited for resettlement in another country. After waiting seven years

in the camp, they paid smugglers to take them to Australia. They could

only afford for two to go. Rany's father stayed behind.

Mother and daughter

arrived in Australia after a long boat journey and were taken to the

detention centre at Port Hedland. Other Cambodians arrived later and

one brought the news that Rany's father had died of hepatitis.

After 12 months

of detention, Rany and her mother were released and eventually arrived

in Sydney. By this stage Rany was in such poor health she spent periods

of time in hospital. A philanthropic organisation paid for life-saving

medical treatment for her.

At the same

time, Rany, then aged 8, enrolled in a government primary school in

Western Sydney. She had very little English but she wanted to learn.

She had been bored with so little to do in the detention camp.

In primary school,

Rany was immediately placed in a special new arrivals class for intensive

English tuition. A support teacher, learning difficulties, also helped

her to catch up lost school years. Rany was able to study Khmer as a

community language and a bilingual aide supported her language and learning.

The school counsellor referred Rany to appropriate medical and community

support services.

With liaison

between primary school and high school to support the transition, Rany

completed primary school and moved on to a government high school. With

continuing English as second language support, she worked hard, sometimes

struggling but always trying; she made friends, her optimism growing.

Intensive counselling enabled strong communication between Rany and

her mother and the school. She was encouraged to join the Student Representative

Council undertaking school and district programs in leadership skills.

Rany moved through her high school years with increasing confidence.

She is in her

final year at school, studying for the Higher School Certificate - a

young adult and active participant in Australian society.

In accordance with

the principles of the Convention, children in New South Wales have the

right to access and participate in education 'to the maximum extent of

available resources'. Unfortunately, in May 2002, this right is not available

for children from Villawood IDC.

Access to available

educational resources for children in detention should mean the right

to enrol in their local primary school, high school or Intensive English

Centre or college of TAFE, where appropriate. Appendix

1 provides details of government schools in the Villawood area where

children in detention could enrol.

Government schools

cater to the needs of children of a wide range of ages and cultural and

linguistic backgrounds. In 2001 NSW government schools enrolled 182,884

(25%) students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Some 6,614 newly arrived students from overseas were also enrolled during

the year. In total approximately 83,336 students received English as a

second language tuition and some 46,000 students participated in community

language programs.

In New South Wales,

multicultural policy is enshrined in The Community Relations Commission

and Principles of Multiculturalism Act (2000). This act recognises

and values the different linguistic, religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds

of the people of New South Wales.

Curriculum and

educational provision

The New South Wales

school curriculum is inclusive of students from language backgrounds other

than English and provides programs which value the cultural and linguistic

backgrounds of students and address their specific learning needs. Such

programs enhance personal and cultural identity and are relevant to the

particular needs and situation of children in immigration detention.

The New South Wales

Department of Education and Training operates 78 pre-schools across the

state. Three pre-schools are located in nearby schools. Children who attend

pre-school can learn social and early educational skills through play

and structured activities supervised by trained pre-school teachers.

Students in primary

schools learn through six key learning areas: English, Mathematics, Science,

Human Society and its Environment, Science and Technology, Personal Development,

Health and Physical Education and Creative Arts.

In high schools the

school curriculum is taught through eight key learning areas: English,

Mathematics, Science, Technology and Applied Studies, Human Society and

its Environment, Personal Development, Health and Physical Education,

Creative Arts and Languages other than English.

The development of

students' literacy and numeracy skills and understanding through a broad

range of subjects is a fundamental focus of the curriculum and this is

supported by the provision of English as a Second Language tuition for

students whose first language is not English. Continued development of

these skills is paramount for children in detention whose education has

been disrupted.

Maintenance of a

child's first language is encouraged. Community language courses are valued

and can be studied in schools, in TAFE and through the Saturday School

of Community Languages.

The civics and citizenship

content involves knowledge and understanding of how our Australian society

operates. Multicultural content in subjects assists the development of

the student's knowledge, understanding and skills applicable to the multicultural

and multilingual nature of Australia. Children who have been able to enrol

in schools prior to release into the community would have a better chance

of coping with resettlement if they already possess knowledge and understanding

of Australian society.

Students also learn

key competencies which are generic competencies essential for effective

participation in schools and for learning for further education, work

and everyday life. In high school, students can choose to study specific

vocational education and training courses.

A number of high

schools in New South Wales place a special emphasis on a particular area

of learning. Parents can choose to enrol their children in a comprehensive

high school, boys or girls high school, technology high school, languages

high school, performing arts high school, sports high school, creative

arts high school or an agricultural high school.

Assessment and


All primary and secondary

schools report student achievement and progress to parents or caregivers

at least twice a year. As well as school based reporting statewide testing

of students also takes place.

Basic Skills Tests

(BST) are conducted in primary school to test aspects of literacy and

numeracy. Results are reported to parents. In years 7 and 8 students'

achievements in literacy and numeracy are tested through the English

Language and Literacy Assessment (ELLA) and the Secondary Numeracy

Assessment (SNAP) programs.

The School Certificate

is awarded to students who successfully complete examinations at the end

of Year 10. Students who successfully complete Year 12 and sit for the

examinations at the end of the course are awarded the Higher School Certificate.

This qualification is recognised locally, nationally and internationally

and examination results provide the main gateway for university entrance.

English as a Second

Language tuition

English as a Second

Language (ESL) tuition is provided in primary schools, high schools and

Intensive English Centres (IECs) to support the English language development

of students whose first language is not English. There are 876 (full time

equivalent) ESL teacher positions across primary schools and high schools

providing support for approximately 84,000 ESL students.

High school age students

generally enrol in an IEC for an average of three terms. Upon completion

of their intensive English program students transfer to a high school.

IECs prepare students for studying in high school by providing English

language, orientation, settlement and welfare programs in a high school

like environment.

In order to make

a successful transition, students participate in a Transition to High

School program. This program assists students to make informed decisions

about future subject and school selection. Each student leaves the IEC

with a record of their educational achievement. This is used by the receiving

school to place the student in an appropriate educational program.

Special needs


In line with Article

23(3) of the Convention, which articulates the need for effective access

to the fullest possible social integration and individual development

in education, government schools in NSW follow a policy of integration

in mainstream classes for students with a disability. Where appropriate

students may also attend special schools.

A wide range of

special education support services is provided to meet the educational

needs of students with disabilities and learning difficulties. Teachers

trained in special education and learning difficulties are available to

meet the specific needs of students.

Religious education

Students attending

government schools have the opportunity to participate in special religious

education. This involves representatives of approved religious groups

attending schools during specified times to provide instruction to students

of that group.

Schools also allow

for students' religious observance, for example, by designating a room

within school as a prayer room.

Counselling Services

All government schools

have access to school counsellors. Many are registered psychologists.

School counsellors provide assistance to students experiencing emotional,

psychological, social and learning problems. Appropriate counselling services

are able to support at risk students who have previously experienced torture

and trauma. Specialist migrant counsellors are based in Intensive English

Centres (IECs) and support local counsellors in meeting the particular

needs of child asylum seekers. In supporting the needs of students counsellors

liaise with parents or caregivers, where appropriate.

Child Protection

Government schools

have a responsibility to protect young people in their care from sexual,

physical and emotional abuse and neglect, and from improper conduct of

a sexual nature. The Department of Education and Training has a number

of procedures and training programs in place to ensure the safety of all

children at school. In the classroom child protection education is taught

as part of the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education key

learning area.

Drug Education

Drug education is

an integral part of the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education

key learning area. Drug education aims to provide students with the relevant

information and skills necessary to make informed lifestyle choices relating

to drug use.

Refugee Resettlement


To meet the needs

of refugee students and students who have experienced trauma, loss and

fear prior to their arrival in Australia, the Department of Education

and Training provides a range of services. These services include courses

for teachers where teacher awareness about the impact torture and trauma

may have on student learning and behaviour is discussed and appropriate

strategies for teaching these students are provided. The Department, in

conjunction with the Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture

and Trauma Survivors, also trains facilitators to conduct Families in

Cultural Transition courses for families.

The Department also

closely cooperates with other government and non-government agencies such

as the Department of Community Services, NSW Refugee Health Service, Service

for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS),

ANGLICARE and the Migrant Resource Centre Association Inc in order to

provide support to schools to meet the needs of refugee students and their

families within the school community.

Interpreting and

translation services

Interpreter services

are also available free of charge to assist in the communication between

school, parents and the community. Reporting of student progress is assisted

through the use of interpreters.

The Department also

provides translations of key educational documents in relevant languages

other than English.

District support


There are 40 district

offices throughout the state. A district superintendent is based at each

office. District office staff form a multidisciplinary team that provides

a range of quality school focused services to meet the needs of students

and teachers in the area.

Villawood IDC is

located in the Fairfield district. Multicultural education programs and

services in the Fairfield district are supported by consultants and Community

Information Officers in the local district office. Two Multicultural /

ESL consultants provide professional support to schools in implementing

ESL, anti-racism and multicultural education programs. Two Community Information

Officers (CIOs) (NESB) support schools in communicating and strengthening

links with their parents and community members from language backgrounds

other than English. Such services would be available to parents of children

from detention centres.

Adolescent needs:

post compulsory education

The Convention defines

a child as a person under the age of 18 years of age and although it is

not compulsory for students in New South Wales to attend school after

the age of 15, most students choose to do so. Post-compulsory aged students

are encouraged to continue their education in the senior years through

a range of educational and vocational options which prepare them for the

award of the Higher School Certificate (HSC) at the end of Year 12 and

the workplace and further study.

In Villawood IDC,

young people between 15 and 17 years of age only have the choice of attending

the general education classes for younger children or adults. There are

no specific programs for those between childhood and adulthood. Adolescents

are a particularly vulnerable group in the sense that they are no longer

children and not yet adults.

These young people

in detention are particularly at risk because they suffer the stresses

and insecurity of being both adolescents and asylum seekers and the fact

of detention means that their chance of making an effective transition

to new opportunities has been gravely disrupted. Information from DIMIA

has indicated that most people in detention centres are released into

the community on three year temporary protection visas. Without continuous

education, training and community support they may lack the capacity to

participate in the social and economic life of their community.

As the Report from

the Prime Minister's Youth Pathways Action Plan Taskforce of 2001 notes,

'Failure to (participate in the community) condemns some young people

to life on the margins. It diminishes their quality of life and deprives

the community of their contribution. (p.8)' The resulting social and economic

costs for the community can be high.

This report recognises

the need for stronger links between young people's experiences in school

and in the wider world, including the world of work. The report thus echoes

the emphasis in Article 28 of the Convention on the need for different

forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education.

Access to schools

for young people in Villawood will provide such opportunities. Students

in Year 10 in NSW schools can undertake vocational School to Work Programs

and Career and Work Education. A major focus of the Higher School Certificate

(HSC) program in Years 11 and 12 is the opportunity for all students to

study vocational education and training (VET) industry curriculum framework

courses which have been developed to provide students with the skills

required by industry and with nationally recognised qualifications. The

industry curriculum framework courses are based on competency standards

defined by industry.

General education

courses for post compulsory aged students are also available across many

subjects including English, Mathematics, Science and Computer Studies.

HSC courses include an English course specifically designed for students

whose first language is not English, and who have recently arrived in

Australia. Additional literacy support is provided for students with low

levels of literacy through the Fundamentals of English course.

4. Temporary

Protection Visa Holders enrolled in government schools.

In New South Wales

child temporary protection visa (TPV) holders are able to enrol in government

schools. Between October 1999 and May 2002 a total of 398 children holding

temporary protection visas were enrolled in NSW government schools. 171

students were enrolled in primary schools, 21 in secondary schools and

206 attended Intensive English Centres.

Students holding

TPVs are able to access all programs and services in the same way as Australian

citizens and permanent residents.

All TPVs who have

enrolled in government schools have required English as a Second language

support. The New South Wales government has met this cost as the Commonwealth

has refused to provide funding to the state to meet the costs of providing

English as a Second Language support to these students.

The Department has

also ensured TPV holder students and their families are able to draw on

the services and expertise of the Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation

of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS). In particular, TPV students

and their parents have been encouraged to participate in Families in

Cultural Transition (FICT) courses.

5. Cost

of educating child asylum seekers and students on temporary protection


Under the Immigration

Detention Standards the contractor is required to provide social and education

programs appropriate to the child's age and abilities. Education is not

compulsory. No educational standards are stipulated in either the Immigration

Detention Standards or the contractual arrangements with Australasian

Correctional Services (ACS).

The current cost

of educating a child in detention is factored into contractual arrangements

with Australasian Correctional Services (ACS). No data is available on

the actual funds provided to ACS or actual costs incurred.

While Western Australia

is the only state to enrol children in detention in local schools all

states and territories allow children holding temporary protection visas

to enrol and access the full range of curriculum and educational programs,

including English as a Second Language tuition.

No state has entered

into any agreement or memorandum of understanding with the Commonwealth

Government concerning the type of educational provision that children

in detention who enrol in a local government school may be able to access.

In the one case where a child in detention attended a New South Wales

government school the Department of Education and Training met all costs

associated with the education of the student. This included providing

the school with additional ESL and counselling support.

The Director-General

of the New South Wales Department of Education and Training has recently

written to the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural

and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) indicating his belief that NSW government

schools would provide the best education for children in detention. DIMIA

officers have indicated a willingness to commence discussions on this


Should the Commonwealth

agree to the enrolment of children in detention in local schools, such

arrangements should be detailed in a memorandum of understanding which

clearly articulates the educational standards to be met, roles and responsibilities

of relevant parties and costs to be borne.

In relation to child

temporary protection visa holders the Commonwealth should clearly accept

its responsibility to provide states with the English as a Second Language

New Arrivals per capita grant of $3,997 to meet the intensive English

needs of these students. It should be noted that this figure does not

reflect the actual cost of service delivery.

New South Wales in

cooperation with other states and territories is working through the Ministerial

Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs to review

the current funding formula for the English as a Second Language New

Arrivals programme to ensure the per capita amount provided actually

reflects the cost of provision.

6. Support

for children and families who have been released from detention

Children and their

families who have been in detention are often in fear of authority and

schools and teachers have to work hard to establish a positive relationship

and regain their trust.

DIMIA provides very

little information concerning the previous history of children and their

families when they are released from detention. Schools need to establish

the educational background of children in order to determine appropriate

programs for them.

School staff work

hard to ensure that the physical and mental health as well as safety of

children released from detention is addressed immediately on enrolment

in school. Schools establish links with doctors, dentists, the NSW Refugee

Health Service and the Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of

Torture and Trauma Survivors and the Transcultural Mental Health Service

in order to ensure that students' physical and psychological well being

is being addressed. In many cases, families have been severely traumatised

by their experiences, so children may not be receiving effective parenting.

Families in Cultural Transition (FICT) courses are designed to address

this issue.

7. Recommendations

The New South Wales

Department of Education and Training strongly recommends:

1. That children

in detention be allowed to enrol in government schools.

2. That the Commonwealth

Government provide funding support to state and territory education

systems for the English as a Second Language education of those students.

3. That the Commonwealth

Government provide additional support to children and their families

released into the community to assist their adjustment to life in Australia,

and that this should include parenting support, health and counselling





Possible government

schools in the local Villawood area




Hill North PS


Guildford PS


North PS








Hill HS


HS (part selective)




English Centres


Hill IEC (located across the road from Villawood IDC)




schools with pre-schools


Guildford PS




East PS




Roger B Wilkins


The Cabinet Office

New South Wales

GPO Box 5341

SYDNEY NSW 2001 DGL 02/704

Dear Mr Wilkins

I refer to your letter

of 5 March 2002 concerning the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration

Detention. Enclosed please find the New South Wales Department of

Education and Training submission to the inquiry.

The submission addresses

the inquiry area of education. It proposes that children and young people

detained in immigration detention centres would benefit from attending

local public schools. I would appreciate receiving a copy of the New South

Wales submission to the Inquiry once available.

Enquiries regarding

this matter should be directed to Ms Hanya Stefaniuk, Manager, Multicultural

Programs on 9244 5412.

Yours sincerely

Ken Boston



May 2002


Updated 22 October 2002.