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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

Centre for Multicultural Youth

Issues (CMYI)

1. Introduction;

2. Refugee

Settlement Context: Refugee and Newly arrived young people in Victoria;

3. Core

Issues Impacting on Refugee and Newly arrived young people in the pre-and

post-detention context;

4. Conclusion.



"The child,

for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should

grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and


Preamble, UN Convention

on the Rights of the Child.

"The social

and mental well-being of all refugees, but particularly of refugee children,

can be most effectively assured by the quick re-establishment of normal

community life".

UNHCR Guidelines

on Protection and Care (1994), ch. 2.

This document represents

the submission made by the Centre for Multicultural Youth Issues (CMYI)

to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. As a peak body liaising

with the government and non-government sectors, in partnership with refugee

and newly arrived young people, the organisation welcomes the opportunity

to contribute to this important inquiry.

It should also be

noted however, that the organisation's program and advocacy activities

focus primarily on working with refugee and newly arrived young people,

their families and their communities during the settlement process and

beyond. At this point in time, CMYI does not work directly with asylum

seekers while in detention. Rather, it is in the post-release situation

that refugees come into contact with our service. It is on this basis

that CMYI makes the present submission to the Inquiry.

The observations

recorded in this submission represent the views of both the staff and

management of the organisation and are based on more than 12 years experience

of working with refugee and newly arrived young people, their families

and their communities living in the state of Victoria.

The CMYI submission

is divided into four parts:

1. Introduction;

2. Refugee Settlement

Context: Refugee and Newly arrived young people in Victoria;

3. Core Issues

Impacting on Refugee and Newly arrived young people in the pre-and post-detention


4. Conclusion.

1.1 Terms of Reference


the experience and focus of the organisation in working with refugee and

newly arrived young people, the CMYI submission will address two of the

Terms of Reference published for the Inquiry. The Terms of Reference most

relevant to the CMYI submission are:

  • Term of

    Reference 4:

    The impact of detention on the well-being and healthy development

    of children including their long-term development;

  • Term of

    Reference 6:

    The additional measures and safeguards which may be required to protect

    the human rights and best interests of child asylum seekers and refugees

    residing in the community after a period of detention.

It should also be

noted that while the HREOC National Inquiry into Children in Immigration

Detention defines a child as any person under the age of 18, the primary

age range for the target group of young people CMYI works with is 12 to


1.2 The Organisation: Centre

for Multicultural Youth Issues (CMYI)

The Centre for

Multicultural Youth Issues (CMYI) is a statewide community based organisation

that aims to strengthen and build innovative partnerships between young

people, support services and the community to enhance life opportunities

for young people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds

living in Victoria. The centre has a priority focus on young people from

refugee and newly arrived communities.

The communities,

which CMYI works with, reflect the current and historical focus of the

DIMIA Humanitarian Program intake. Key groups include refugees

and newly arrived migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Horn of Africa

(Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia), Sudan, Burma, Former Yugoslavia, Cambodia

and Vietnam.

CMYI represents a

range of individuals and organisations from CLD communities, government

and non-government organisations with a commitment to improving the social

and personal status of young people from CLD backgrounds.

Originally established

in 1988, CMYI operates within an inclusive framework involving youth agencies,

migrant and refugee communities, government and non-government organisations.

Key service areas include:

  • Support to

    the Sector: support provided to youth groups/organisations, newly

    arrived migrant and refugee communities and service providers;

  • Liaison with

    Government and NGO's:

    communicating with government and non-government sectors on trends and

    issues impacting on CLD young people;

  • Policy Development:

    contributing to state and federal government policies on newly arrived

    migrant and refugee young people;

  • Cross Cultural


    developing cross cultural resources for the government and non-government


  • Managing Programs:

    managing and providing innovative programs targeting newly arrived migrant

    and refugee young people;

  • Research:

    undertaking research on multicultural youth issues;

  • Information


    undertaking community education and sector support on cross cultural

    issues affecting young people from newly arrived migrant and refugee


1.3 Relevant CMYI Programs

While CMYI undertakes

advocacy and consultation work in partnership with refugee and newly arrived

young people, their families and their communities, it is primarily through

CMYI's Program activities, that refugees formerly held in detention come

into contact with our organisation as clients, community contacts or liaisons.

Employing five client service staff, the two principal Program activities


Refugee Youth

Pathways Program

This program provides

information and support services to 'at risk' refugee and newly arrived

young people aged 15 to 21 in the Northern, Western and South-Eastern

regions of metropolitan Melbourne. The program is designed to enable young

people to access pathways to education, training and employment opportunities.

Reconnect Young

Refugee's Program

This program provides

an early intervention service for refugee young people aged 12 to 18 who

have recently left home or are at risk of homelessness. Combining service

provision with community development strategies, the program aims to improve

the level of engagement of young people with family, work, education,

training and the community. The program incorporates action research with

family centred approaches and culturally appropriate service delivery.

The program is based in the Northern and South-Eastern regions of metropolitan


2. Refugee

and Newly Arrived Young people in Victoria


section which follows provides some contextual information about the refugee

young people with which the organisation works.

2.1 CLD Young People in Victoria:

Demographic Overview


population of Victoria consists of more than 25% of people from a CLD

background. Young people between 16 and 24 years of age constitute almost

one third of the total settler intake under Australia' s Humanitarian

Migration Program since 1996. Victoria settles almost one third of Australia's

humanitarian youth settler arrivals. The top source countries for humanitarian

youth arrivals in Victoria in 2000 were the Former Yugoslavia, Somalia,

Iraq, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Cambodia, Croatia, Eritrea and Afghanistan.

From the period 1996 - 1999 there was an increase in Victorian humanitarian

youth settler arrivals, from 2, 079 in 1996 - 1998 up to 1,300 new arrivals

in 1999. (DIMA Settlement Database 2001).

According to the

1996 Census, 9% of Australians aged between 12 and 25 were born in a non-English

speaking country. More than 15% of young Australians reported speaking

a language other than English at home. The main source of countries for

young people born overseas and living in Victoria are Vietnam, UK, New

Zealand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia (including East Timor). The

main languages other than English that young Victorians spoke at home

were Italian, Greek, Chinese languages, Vietnamese, Arabic and Macedonian.

While these figures provide a useful snapshot there are some deficiencies

in that data on country of birth does not accurately reflect cultural

identity. Another area of concern is the failure to account for first

generation CLD young people.

There have been also

been recent significant shifts in migration patterns to Victoria. While

the late 1980's and early 1990's was characterised by large numbers of

humanitarian youth arrivals from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, including

a significant proportion of unaccompanied minors, the 1990's were characterised

by a shift in the migration program to settling more migrants from Europe

and Africa. As migration patterns shift and change, specific issues arise

according to the needs of the particular group of newly arrived young

people. Common social policy issues remain constant however for government

and service agencies seeking to enhance the life opportunities of newly

arrived and refugee young people. These include the issues of homelessness,

education, social health, employment and training.

2.2 Difference, Values and


The years from age

12 to 25 are a significant period in a young person's development and

progression towards adult life incorporating greater independence and

responsibilities at a time of dramatic emotional and physical change.

For CLD young people, particularly those with a refugee background or

who are newly arrived, the impact of these changes is even more significant.

Issues of particular relevance for CLD young people include breakdown

of family unit as a result of war and conflict, displacement from home

country and culture, and inter-generational conflict arising from refugee

experience and life in a country with often markedly different (Western)


3. Core Issues

Impacting on Refugee young people

"Parties shall

respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to

each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind,

irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's

race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national,

ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status".

United Nations

Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 2.1

The primary focus

of the following section is to highlight key issues impacting on refugee

young people prior to arrival in Australia and in the post-detention release

situation. Again, this information should be regarded as contextual, the

main aim of which is to place issues associated with settlement in Australia

and the impacts of the current mandatory detention regime within the same


3.1 Impacts on Education and


There are a number

of issues (historical and contemporary), which arise for refugee young

people in the context of education and schooling. The impact is greater

for refugee young people released from Australian detention centres as

a result of lack or limited access to federally funded education and settlement

services. These include:

  • disrupted learning

    or little previous education as a result of years spent in flight and

    transition (i.e., refugee camps);

  • disrupted learning

    following periods in Australian detention centres;

  • lack of access

    to federally funded education system after completing high school. Refugee

    Minors (those under the age of 18 years) are eligible for schooling

    until they reach the age of 18

  • lack of time in

    language centres following release from detention or in the resettlement

    process resulting in low level of English language proficiency;

  • lack of supported

    transition from English Language Centres to mainstream schools;

  • schools struggling

    to respond to the specific issues associated with refugee and newly

    arrived young people;

  • traumatic refugee

    experience (particularly for those who have also experienced mandatory

    detention) contribute to a sense of alienation in resettlement and issues

    around discipline and behaviour in school;

  • age differentials

    between young people from refugee backgrounds as compared to Australian-born

    young people due to a lack of language proficiency and the impact of

    disrupted education;

  • high expectations

    on the part of the young person to support families and study at the

    same time

  • completing VCE

    (Year 12) without adequate support available;

  • lack of understanding

    among parents in relation to available alternatives to VCE;

  • language issues;
  • isolation and

    disconnectedness in mainstream schools.

3.2 Impacts on Training and


There are a number

of issues relating to training and employment which impact on refugee

young people specially those released from Australian detention centres

that are not eligible for federally funded Training and employment programs.

These include:

  • lack of options/pathways

    for young people from refugee backgrounds particularly in relation to

    support for young people in gaining part time work to support the family;

  • conflict between

    young people and their parents and carers in relation to decisions about

    whether to stay at school or find work;

  • inability to

    find employment due to the status of Visa (Temporary)

  • lack of experience

    in the Australian work system and discrimination among some employers

    who do not recognise overseas experience;

  • lack of flexibility

    on the part of training providers;

  • stress on the

    part of young people and their families about employment.

3.3 Impact on Social Cohesion

and Community Connections.

There are also implications,

in the context of the outcomes of detention and resettlement, for refugee

young people and their ability to make social and community connections

within a new (and sometimes hostile) society. Issues include:

  • impact of identity

    and cultural isolation/shock on the connection of young people with

    community and the form of this connection;

  • lack of opportunities

    for refugee young people to get involved;

  • lack of access

    to information to getting involved with the local community;

  • activities in

    cultural communities end to be focused on adults. Very few young people

    get involved for this reason, and tend to relate more with peers/school


  • inability to

    be reunited with parents / family members. Refugee young people on Temporary

    Protection Visa (TPV) are not allowed to sponsor anyone.

  • inability to

    visit family / relatives overseas. TPV holders cannot return to if they

    leave Australia for any reason.

4. Conclusion

It is hoped that

CMYI's submission to the HREOC National Inquiry into Children in Immigration

Detention provides a useful insight into the issues and needs of refugee

and newly arrived young people settling in Victoria in the context of

both refugee flight and post-detention release.

For further information

or inquiries about CMYI or the Inquiry submission please contact:

Carmel Guerra


Centre for Multicultural Youth Issues

Ph: (03) 9349 3466

Fax: (03) 9349 3766


Appendix 1

Below is a list of

key organisations with which CMYI undertakes partnership roles. These


  • Asylum Seekers

    Resource Centre

  • Australian Red

    Cross - Asylum Seekers Assistance Scheme and Tracing and Refugee Services

  • Hotham Mission

    - Asylum Seekers Project

  • Melbourne Citymission
  • Melbourne Juvenile

    Justice Centre

  • Melbourne University
  • Migrant Resource

    Centre North West Region

  • North Richmond

    Community Health Centre

  • Royal Melbourne

    Institute of Technology (RMIT) Youth Work Students

  • Springvale Community

    Aid Advice Bureau

  • The Melbourne

    Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Network (RASHN)

  • Victorian Foundation

    for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (VFST)

  • Western Young

    People's Independent Network (WYPIN


Updated 9 January 2003.