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
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
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.
SIX MONTH CONTRACT
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
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
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
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
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.