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Commission Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

This statement was provided by Tom Mann to the National Inquiry into

Children in Immigration Detention


I, Tom Mann, of

[address removed], teacher, do solemnly and sincerely declare as follows:


1. I have been

awarded a Bachelor of Science from Aberdeen University, and a Masters

of Agricultural Science, Doctorate of Philosophy and Diploma of Education

from the University of Adelaide. I received my TESOL (Teaching English

to Speakers of Other Languages) qualification at the Adelaide TAFE


2. I have taught agriculture at the Roseworthy Campus of the University

of Adelaide from 1974 to 1994. I have also taught for two years at

secondary school level and lectured part-time for a year at the Adelaide

TAFE Institute.

3. Following

an article appearing in Adelaide's daily Advertiser newspaper, I applied

for a teaching position at the Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing

Centre ('the Centre'). I was interviewed by two employees of Australasian

Correctional Management ('ACM').

4. ACM offered

me a six week contract of employment as a teacher at the Centre. That

contract began on 30 September 2000.


5. After my arrival

at the Centre I attended an induction program spread over three days.

The induction program covered the basic requirements of living at

the Centre, including security, reporting, emergency training and

how to conduct oneself in the Centre.

6. During the

six week contract period there were two other teachers contracted

at the Centre. One of the other teachers was newly appointed, on the

same six-week contract timeframe as myself, and the third teacher

already had about three months experience teaching at the Centre by

the time I arrived. Both of the other teachers were female. During

this period there were between thirty and forty children at the Centre.

7. The three

teachers were completely responsible for the educational needs of

the children. Apart from the provision of basic teaching facilities,

such as tables, chairs, cabinets and whiteboards, and financial assistance

for the purchase of teaching aids and materials, at no stage did we

receive any assistance from either ACM, the Department of Immigration,

Multicultural Affairs and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA), or federal or

state education departments with regard to the kind of syllabus or

educational program. The eventual syllabus was completely devised

by the three teachers using whatever resources we could obtain. ACM

wanted to know about our program but they were reactive not proactive

in its development.

8. Maths and

English formed the main subjects of the educational program for the

children. In addition to these two main areas of study, the children

were also taught science and the environment, music, art and craft,

dance, and some physical education. We also included some time in

the program for games such as snakes and ladders and chess. The children

often suggested they would like to make something.

9. The children

were divided into three different classes in three separate class

rooms: mixed classes of ages five to sevens, eight to twelves and

teenagers (13-17). This division was arranged by the teachers, not

by ACM; it was the most convenient given the number of teachers and

classrooms available.

10. Assisting

the three contracted teachers were detainee teachers who were helpful

in translating some terms into Farsi and Arabic as necessary.

11. The classrooms

were about three and a half metres wide, and about twelve metres in

length. The classrooms were 'transportable' modules with a moderate

level of air-conditioning.

12. Classes ran

from nine until midday in the morning, and from two until three thirty

in the afternoon. At about three thirty or four o'clock in the afternoon

we began to teach the adult asylum-seekers.

13. I returned

to Adelaide at the expiration of my six month contract and eventually

rang the Centre to see if there were more vacancies for teachers.

ACM later contacted me and notified me that they were taking teachers

on six month and twelve month contracts. I agreed to take a six month

contract as I didn't think I could last for an entire twelve months.


14. My six-month

contract to teach at the Centre began on 5 March 2001. The conditions

during this contract were completely different from my earlier six

week contract.

15. The number

of children in the Centre had risen sharply since my earlier contract,

and by mid-July 2001 there were more than three hundred children in

the Centre. From March 2001 until the end of May 2001 there was only

one other teacher being a male from Queensland. As I had been there

the longest, I took over responsibility for the general running of

the educational program including the library, kindergarten, computer

centres, assistance to detainee teachers and daily recording required

by ACM and DIMIA. These duties were in addition to a five to six-hour

contact per day of teaching. The detainee teachers were paid one dollar

per hour for time spent teaching and we assisted them on a Friday

morning training and information program to support them in their

teaching efforts (at the expense of teaching the children during that


16. At the time

I arrived for the six-month contract period, the classrooms were the

same as for my earlier contract period. There were three classrooms

in the Main Compound in addition to a library, computer centre (11

computers) and a kindergarten for the younger children. The classroom

dimensions were clearly unsuitable for large numbers of students.

17. In each of

the new compounds, Mike and November, there was an educational centre,

incorporating an educational room for about twenty-five children,

and a computer centre with eight computers (operational in June 2001).

Classroom space in these compounds was insufficient to cater for both

adult and children's programs. As a result we often conducted classes

in the mess. There were no proper educational facilities for Oscar

and India compounds.

18. By mid-July

2001, the sheer number of students (more than 300 children) necessitated

that we split the classes further as it was impossible to fit all

the children into the classrooms at the one time. Classes were split

so that one group of children was taught from nine until ten in the

morning, and another group taught from ten until eleven in the morning.

When I was teaching during my earlier six week contract, the children

were exposed to between four and six contact hours of teaching per

day, but by the middle of July 2001 the children were only receiving

between one and two hours of contact teaching per day. The adults

were taught in the afternoon with a contact of one hour per day for

English for the various groups of beginners, advanced, women and men.

19. There were

not enough resources to make full separation of the students along

age, gender or ability lines which is unlike the usual process of

separating classes on the basis of different abilities and different

country backgrounds.

20. My days were

full teaching so I had no time to spend marking any material for the

students as each night I had to prepare for the next day and also

prepare materials for the detainee teachers.

21. During this

six month period, most of the teachers were on a six week or three

month contracts which meant a high rotation of teaching staff with

teachers departing and arriving on a regular basis. Not all of the

teachers had TESOL experience. There were also a lot of children arriving

and departing the Centre so classes were constantly disrupted by new

students or departing ones. In addition, movement of children from

one compound to another frequently occurred (due to DIMIA's method

of separation of detainees according to the stage of processing);

this caused problems in managing the teaching program for a specific

group of children. In addition, it was unsettling for the children.

22. Most of the

classes were instructed in English but with the help of detainee teachers

who could interpret into Farsi and Arabic. Some of the detainee teachers

took their own classes.

23. About eighty-five

percent of the children attended classes. A female ACM employee and

a male employee tried to encourage unaccompanied minors, mostly aged

13-17, to attend classes but eventually the employees became dispirited

and continued on with only their normal duties. There was no other

encouragement from ACM staff, apart from occasional attempts by the

teaching staff for unaccompanied minors to attend classes.

24. There were

no individual assessments for children when they arrived at the Centre.

There was a suggestion by [name removed], who was the manager of the

Centre at the time, that as children were educated at the Centre they

could be graded and certified. This was never put into practice because

of lack of teaching staff and resources-everything was always ad hoc

and undefined.

25. There were

no certificates or any formal recognition for the students that they

had attended class. We were not initially informed when children were

leaving the compound so we were not able to present them with any

record of their education or say goodbye to them. Later, we were given

lists of people who were to be released the following day.

26. The first

we knew of any of the children was when they turned up for class.

We would keep a roll which was our only record of the children's names.

We were not supplied with any information by ACM on any of the children

(apart from the nominal roll information which we could access for

name, date of birth, nationality and language).

27. There was

no full program for children with disabilities.

28. Some of the

teenage children became visibly depressed the longer they stayed at

the Centre. These children stopped coming to class or if they did

attend their mood had deteriorated so they no longer showed any enthusiasm

for learning. Motivation declined noticeably the longer the students

were there: especially amongst the Afghani boys who withdrew from

the teaching environment.

29. I personally

referred four or five students, both boys and girls, to see a psychologist

during my six month contract. Sometimes my referrals were formal,

and other times they were informal. Some of the students returned

to class after seeing the psychologist but would later drift away


30. One of the

three psychologists was not able to continue after three months of

the twelve-month contract. They were not in a position to deal adequately

with problems concerning children as they were overloaded with dysfunctional

cases of adults as well as being hampered by other constraints.

31. We were required

to report to ACM when any of the children were hit. Two or three detainee

teachers were suspended fairly promptly after allegations of hitting

children. The biggest problem was not the physical abuse but the overall

emotional abuse which occurred because of the traumatic environment

in which the children were placed. Emotional abuse, while defined

in the FAYS document relating to child abuse, was far more elusive

to identify at an individual level. Reports were only made for physical


32. The thought

that teenage students could take an external TAFE course was considered

by ACM to be out of all realms of possibility. While I was there the

Catholic Church offered us the use of a primary school but ACM management

denied us this. There were plenty of possibilities for the children

to be taught in Woomera, but ACM denied this request on the basis

of security and logistics.

33. As the children's

parents' psychological condition deteriorated, I observed that their

children would also go downhill and stop attending classes. The current

educational climate for children in the Centre will be a cause of

long-term concern for the children unless the program is changed to

be community-based.


34. If the environment

was improved dramatically at the Centre, longer contracts for teachers

(between six and twelve months) would serve in the children's interests.

Under the current conditions, however, three months is enough to expect

any teacher to last.

35. It is in

the children's interests for their education to be structured and

formalised and for them to have outside contact with other children.

At present individual needs are not being met and this needs to be


36. There are

potentially worthwhile opportunities for improving the quality of

education offered to detainees, but the detention environment and

the length of time spent in detention, affecting both parents/guardians

and children, will diminish these. A holistic approach of providing

families or cohesive groups with educational services, to children

and adults, as well as taking care of their well-being would assist

greatly. This, coupled with an improved overall environment and a

maximum time spent in detention, suggesting three months from experience

and irrespective of the outcome of their cases, would go along way

in facilitating educational improvements as well as lessening the

amount of emotional child abuse, the main perpetrator of which, I

believe, is the Government through DIMIA.

I make this solemn

declaration by virtue of the Statutory Declarations Act 1959 as amended

and subject to the penalties provided by that Act for the making of

false statements in statutory declarations, conscientiously believing

the statements contained in this declaration to be true in every particular.

This statement was signed on 2 July 2002.



Updated 10 October 2002.