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Commission Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention


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Submission to National Inquiry

into Children in Immigration Detention from

South Australian Department

of Education, Training and Employment

May 2002


This submission makes

brief comment on the education of children in detention. It provides a

more complete picture of the education services offered to these children

by the Department of Education, Training and Employment in South Australia

(hereafter the department) after they have been processed as refugees

and released into the community. Note is also made of a group of children

who have been sent to Adelaide as detainees in a place of alternative

detention and also of recent discussions on the issue of children in detention

being enrolled at Woomera Area School. The overall number of children

in department schools is provided, as is the costing for each of these

children in the New Arrivals Program (NAP), into which all released children

are enrolled for the first year of education in South Australia. Case

studies are included to capture the human element central to the submission.


Currently in Detention

The Convention

on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) provides that all asylum

seeker children, including those who have had their applications for refugee

status rejected, are entitled to the same educational opportunities as

all other children in Australia. The Convention obliges State parties

to afford similar treatment to nationals and asylum seekers with respect

to all stages of education.

The Convention suggests

that all children, including asylum seekers, have 'an inalienable right

to education aimed to strengthen the child's capacity to enjoy the full

range of human rights and to promote a culture which is infused by appropriate

human rights values.' Education must be 'child centred, child friendly

and empowering'. Such statements within the Convention clearly resonate

with the aims of all schools and sites across the department.

The provision of

education inside the Woomera detention centre has been treated as the

responsibility of Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) within guidelines

provided solely by the Commonwealth Department of Immigration, Multicultural

and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA). These guidelines provide no formal process

or mechanism for contact to be established between the department and

ACM or DIMIA. As a result minimal contact has taken place between ACM

and the department regarding the provision of education services for child

asylum seekers.

The department's

understanding of education practices within detention is based on anecdotal

evidence provided by children now enrolled in the New Arrivals Program

(NAP) and their teachers, as well as general observations and comments

made by NAP schools as to the overall psychological wellbeing of a number

of these children. From such evidence it is clear that the reality for

children in detention is different from the aims enunciated in the Convention's

mission statements.

Clearly, services

provided by the department are not matched within the detention situation.

The breadth of curriculum offerings, the range of educational pathways,

the extent of support services provided to children in need requires extensive

resource allocation which is not evident in detention. This is reinforced

by documentation on the DIMIA website entitled 'Facilities at Detention

Centres' which indicates that the level of education provision in detention

is lower than if the child were enrolled in a department school (see Attachment

1). The department has developed within its teaching force and support

services a range of highly specialised expertise and skills that is utilised

when dealing with newly arrived children and families. It is not feasible

to expect that such experience and expertise could be paralleled in the

short time span of educating children in detention in South Australia.

It would be highly unlikely that an education service offered in the community

could be matched by any similar service provided in detention. Detention

changes the environment in which the education process is taking place,

which inevitably impacts on the quality of the service.

It is understood

that there is no Commonwealth funding available to support vocational

education and training initiatives for senior secondary children in detention

and that little information is available to detainees and/or their carers

with regards to opportunities for vocational education and training. If

the child detainees were enrolled in their local school, they would have

access to information and the opportunity to participate in activities

that would facilitate their transition to vocational education and training

and employment.

At a more concrete

level of human resources it is understood that only 1 of 5 teachers currently

employed within the Woomera detention centre is registered to teach in

South Australia (see Attachment 1). The registration process is closely

adhered to by the department, and the Teachers Registration Board is an

independent body which provides a degree of quality control on the recognition

of teacher qualifications in South Australia. It runs police checks, for

example, on all applicants for registration. Also at the level of recruitment

there is no evidence of teachers being drawn from the pool of contract

teachers in South Australia. It is not known if the experience of the

teaching staff matches the needs of the particular group of learners.

It is evident that only one of the teaching staff is a specialist ESL

teacher (see Attachment 1).

As a consequence

of limited communication and consultation processes being established

or encouraged, it has not been possible for the department to gather important

information which would be used to ensure a smooth transition from detention

to state education facilities for each child. A constructive relationship

between the key stakeholders would enable:

  • the provision

    of support and advice on the South Australian Curriculum, Standards

    and Accountability (SACSA) Framework, the mandated curriculum used in

    department schools, when designing teaching and learning programs.

  • the provision

    of detailed information on the specific needs, educational history and

    learning expectations of each child, and on student assessment and achievement

    reporting processes.

  • sharing of good

    practice and expertise between educators.

  • a consistent and

    continued learning and teaching program between the Woomera education

    facility in the detention centre and the schools the children are enrolled

    in when they are released.

To date there has

been little information made available to the department regarding the

provision of education to children in the Woomera detention centre.

The South Australian

Office of DIMIA has been the official channel through which issues about

the children in detention and those released have been brought to the

attention of ACM and also the Commonwealth Government. The department

has been represented on a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) Interagency

Group since July 2000. This group, convened by the Department of Human

Services (DHS), includes membership from the South Australian Office of

DIMIA and has been the forum in which the concerns and activities of a

wide range of government and non-government agencies have been brought

to the attention of DIMIA at the state level, and through the state body

to the Commonwealth Government.

DETE is also represented

on COSMIC, the Commonwealth State Migration Committee. Whilst the terms

of reference for this committee relate primarily to migration and settlement

matters, issues and concerns held by the department as well as other government

agencies about children in detention have also been tabled and discussed.


Released from Detention

Former child detainees,

now enrolled in the New Arrivals Program (NAP), speak of a school day

in detention which comprises classes of one to two hours in total. The

focus of these lessons is on English and information technology, specifically

computing skills. There is a strong sense that the lessons are voluntary,

especially for secondary aged learners. Thus, the term "curriculum"

is used with reservation when considering the educational experiences

of children in detention. Again, this is confirmed in the DIMIA document

' Facilities at Detention Centres' (Attachment 1). In fact, this document

appears to indicate that all education is non-compulsory. Certainly the

teachers in the NAP do not assume any past experience with the SACSA Framework.

As no educational history accompanies the children when they come to enrol

in the NAP, teachers need to piece together each child's experiences and

achievements into the learning program.

Children released

from the Woomera detention centre enrol in department schools with no

accompanying educational documentation. All of the children enrol in the

NAP which caters to the full range of learners from Reception to Year

12. Thus, children enrol in the Junior Primary unit, one of the five Primary

units, or the Secondary New Arrivals Program school.

Since May 2000, approximately

250 child asylum seekers have been enrolled in the NAP. The broad aim

of the NAP is to provide intensive English language support within a caring

environment. The language of the mainstream curriculum is learnt as well

as the culture of schooling in South Australia in as short a time as possible.

The students exit from the NAP and enrol in mainstream schools usually

after one year. Of course, this timeframe has some flexibility. Where

students are progressing particularly quickly it may be possible to exit

earlier, and where there are diagnosed learning difficulties the time

in NAP may be extended.

The NAP is a well

resourced part of the total ESL Program in South Australia. Staffing guidelines

in the NAP provide for relatively generous allocations of teachers to

provide the intensive teaching and support at this initial point of schooling.

Teachers in the NAP are qualified and experienced ESL teachers. Bilingual

support is offered via Bilingual School Service Officers, whose role it

is to support teachers and learners in the classroom. Community Liaison

Officers are in place to provide valuable links between 'at risk' communities

and the education system, an ESL Guidance Officer is at hand in support

of students with learning difficulties, and a budget to provide interpreters

and translators for communication between home and school is also available.

The Preschool Bilingual

Program, which supports preschool services to provide for the access and

participation of children and families from culturally and linguistically

diverse backgrounds who have very limited English, has also offered support

to approximately 22 preschool aged children enrolled in department preschools

after their release from detention. Many of these children progress into

department schools. The Preschool Bilingual Program provides children

with support in their mother tongue language while their English language

skills develop.

In total there is

a concerted effort within the department to ensure positive and intensive

educational experiences at the initial point of schooling or in the preschool

setting with a view to full participation in schooling and the community.

Children in detention

began to be released into the South Australian community in April/May

2000. It is now almost two years since the first children were enrolled

in the NAP. Since that time and up until 15 March 2002, approximately

250 children have been enrolled across the NAP. Approximately 70 of these

learners are classified as Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors (UHMs). Not

all of these children have remained in the system and progressed from

the NAP into mainstream educational settings. However, approximately 200

of the 250 have remained in the system and have remained in the NAP or

will remain in the NAP for the prescribed twelve months. It is understood

that the other 50 students have entered TAFE, employment within the wider

community, attended mainstream high schools or moved interstate. There

is no instrument to track individual student destinations once they leave


Some of the issues

encountered by the New Arrivals Program are as follows:

  • It is difficult

    to ascertain how long the children have been in detention.

  • It is difficult

    to determine an accurate date of birth. The date given is very often

    the 1st of January in a year. Anecdotally, some of the New Arrivals

    Program units have reported that they suspect children to be in some

    cases older and in other cases younger than the date of birth provided

    at enrolment.

  • The lack of information

    flow between ACM and the department leads to a lack of information about

    released children with special needs. This may lead to inappropriate

    placement of learners and further delay in the provision of services.

  • The impact of

    the changes to the Migration Act has led to a sense of futility amongst

    some children, especially older children. They have reported a feeling

    of hopelessness in their situation at the thought of further temporary

    visa entitlement or resettlement to their home country.

  • The uncertainty

    about the future has led to a range of behaviour management issues particularly

    amongst the Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors, that is the older children

    now attending the NAP. Teachers have reported a number of instances

    of refusal to participate in learning activities.

  • Unaccompanied

    Humanitarian Minors may be living alone and isolated from any community

    support or involvement.


The cost to the State

of providing this initial education is considerable (see Attachment 2).

At the Reception to Year 7 level it is estimated that the cost per child

is $7,500 per annum and at the secondary level this increases to $8,000

per annum. For newly arrived children with permanent visas this cost to

the State Government is offset by the Commonwealth New Arrivals Grant

(CNAG) of $3,990. This is a once off grant provided by the Commonwealth

for the initial English language support of new arrivals. It is not available

to any category of temporary resident of which Temporary Protection Visa

(TPV) holders are a subset. In the case of the TPVs, the South Australian

Government bears the total cost of the education of these children.

With respect to the

provision of preschool services, the State Government funds the Preschool

Bilingual Program. The Commonwealth Government has made no funding provision

available. This has resulted in a further increase in the number of children

being placed on the waiting list to receive preschool bilingual support.

As an interim measure, the department will fund a further two officers

to join the program from May 2002 on a short-term basis to provide language

and cultural support to children released from Woomera.

The cost to the State

is calculated at more that $1.5m. This expenditure has not been offset

by any support from the Commonwealth Government.


in Alternative Detention

In February 2002,

a group of 14 Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors were sent to Adelaide

from Woomera without any processing for refugee status having taken place.

These children have been placed in foster homes which have been designated

as alternative places of detention, with guardians who have been designated

'directed persons' under the Migration Act. Family and Youth Services

(FAYS) as part of the Department of Human Services have responsibility

for this group. They are now enrolled in the Adelaide Secondary School

of English, the department's secondary NAP centre. An agreement between

SA and DIMIA is being pursued that will see the school being declared

an alternative place of detention and possibly teachers as 'directed persons'

under the Act. An agreement is currently being negotiated between the

Department of Human Services and DIMIA to, among other things, seek full

cost recovery for educational services provided to children in alternative



with Woomera Area School

In August 2001, two

Commonwealth DIMIA personnel met with department officers to discuss the

establishment of links between ACM and the Woomera Area School. It was

suggested that a project be trialed in which detained mothers and young

children would be moved out of the detention centre and housed in the

community. The trial would also see the children enrol at the school.

The department's position at that meeting was (and remains) that all costs

associated with any pilot enrolment program would need to be met by the


In February 2002,

the matter of children in detention enrolling in Woomera Area School was

raised by ACM with the school directly. Some initial discussions have

taken place between ACM staff and the principal of the school with the

suggestion that a trial enrolment of a small number of young children

take place.

The Woomera Area

School Governing Council met on the evening of 9 April 2002 to consider

a proposal from ACM to trial integration of children from the Woomera

Detention Centre in the Woomera Area School. The Governing Council deferred

any discussion of it due to the short notice for its consideration - some

members had only seen it just prior to the meeting.

The department's

District Superintendent for the Far North region explained to the meeting

that the proposal put undue pressure on the school and any request of

the kind being presented should be made at government-to-government level

consistent with the discussion that had been held in August 2001. In response,

the Chief Education Officer stated that proposals of the kind detailed

by ACM had been put locally in Victoria and Derby. The District Superintendent

was not able to have this confirmed independently at the meeting and reiterated

the necessity of operating at a Ministerial/Government level for such


The Governing Council

agreed to defer any discussion of the proposal until 7 May. There was

a strong view expressed that any consideration of the proposal ought to

be on a community basis. The Chief Education Officer stated that ACM would

be publishing the proposal in the local community newsletter. The District

Superintendent advised the principal to inform the school community in

the school's final newsletter for term 1 of the exact status of the proposal

from the government's and the department's perspective.

A range of issues

is still to be resolved before any trial could proceed including:

  • the amount of

    resources to be provided by ACM

  • the quantity of

    ESL support required to make the learning experience meaningful for

    the children

  • current information

    about the state of health of the children

  • the need for a

    focus on cultural inclusivity

  • the school as

    an alternative place of detention and school personnel as 'directed

    persons' under the Migration Act.

The department's

position is that all costs associated with the trial should be met by

the Federal Government and that no implementation will commence without

a firm and formal Federal Government commitment to meeting all the costs.



is nearly two years since children were first released from detention

and entered the education system in South Australia. These children have

experienced serious hardship, which has impacted on their psychological

and educational well being. They have very real histories with deep emotional

scars. Full recovery from such experiences will be very long term in extreme


This department has

made a commitment to provide full educational services to these children

and there are many joyful stories of children settling in to school life

and flourishing in their new surroundings. The demands placed on personnel

in the New Arrivals Program have been met with a level of expertise and

professionalism equal to the task. The New Arrivals Program has more than

25 years of experience in supporting migrants and refugees from the latest

'trouble spot' or war zone. The children released from Woomera are welcomed

in our schools and provided with the best educational services available

to all learners.

It is important to

note that these services place a great demand on the resources of the

South Australian Government. Currently the State Government provides all

of these services without support from the Commonwealth Government. It

is recommended in the strongest manner that, at the very least, the Commonwealth

provide the New Arrivals grant to these children. This would indicate

a welcome commitment on behalf of the Commonwealth to the education of

these children.

Case Study



story has been written by a teacher within the NAP relating the experiences

conveyed to the teacher by one child in her class. It is included in the

submission to demonstrate the extreme nature of the disruption faced by

some children and also some of the challenges they bring with them to

our department schools. It is of M, a 7 year old in a Junior Primary setting.

M's father was politically

active in Iraq. He was executed publicly. A video was made of his execution

and sent to the family. The family escaped to Iran where they decided

that M's 21-year-old brother and M would try to get to Australia. They

flew to Indonesia and took a boat from there. It was planned that after

their arrival in Australia M's mother and sister would follow the same

route to Australia. Of the people on board M was the only child among

an all-male group. The journey was difficult and took four months to accomplish.

On arrival in Australia they were taken directly to Woomera and were in

the forefront of riots taking place at the time. M was one of the children

filmed wielding sticks, while his brother was jailed for his involvement.

M was fostered (according to A) to a nurse working in Woomera at the time.

Eventually A was released and they received their TPV status. They arrived

in Adelaide and sought the help of the Coalition for Justice for Refugees.

This school was contacted by the Co-ordinator for the Coalition for Justice

for Refugees and the school enrolled the child.

Life was difficult

for both M and A. As a 21 year old male A struggled with the role of guardian

he had taken on. M became used to a life with A's male friends. M was

often left alone at home to take care of himself and to deal with household

chores eg. cooking.

Even though M had

some schooling in Woomera, there was considerable adjustment for him to

attend the NAP. The NAP Guidance Officer was consulted. M was traumatised

and used to making decisions for himself or being told what to do by A.

A was genuinely concerned about his brother's welfare and trying to come

to terms with his responsibilities as a guardian. M wanted to run away

and on a couple of occasions he ran onto the road outside the school.

The first priority was to keep M safe and the other children safe. He

vented his anger by hurting other children. He was intelligent, manipulative

and always wanting to 'make deals'. Consistency and follow through were

important, but most important was the development of a trusting relationship

with his teachers. In addition considerable meetings around M's behaviour

to discuss issues as they arose resulted in M taking more responsibility

for his own actions. He had an ability to learn quickly and his English

language developed quickly.

During M's time at

the school he also spent some time being cared for by a foster parent.

This was a useful adjustment period for both M and A. A spent some of

this time working in Mildura. Phone calls with his mother were vital.

There was discussion between M, A, mother and DIMIA as to whether M would

be deported to Iran to be with her. After hearing of M and A's plight

their mother did not want to attempt the trip to Australia especially

with the possibility of being detained in Woomera. A decision was made

for M to remain here with A.

Case Study


The following comments

have been made by a Year 7 NAP teacher.

Of the four TPV students

in my class two Afghani boys manifest behaviours that have concerned me.

A's mother spoke to me early in the year regarding her own concerns about

his worrying about everything and becoming frequently and easily upset.

She was very distressed and felt helpless in her efforts to reassure him.

He is an observant and intelligent boy who has taken all the uncertainties

of his family's future on board. This intensity and stress flows through

to school where he is extremely conscientious but easily upset. In an

informal setting he expresses insecurity and fear for his future and his

family. In a more formal context he is more guarded and doesn't readily

express his fears. B is A's friend. They met when his boat sank and his

family was picked up by A's boat. B has times when he is very withdrawn.

He also has nightmares and difficulty sleeping. He feels a great weight

resting on him and often has stomach aches and headaches. As with A he

only discloses his fears and worries in informal contexts and likes to

appear to be strong and in control.


Case Study


The following comments

are made by another Year 7 teacher in a different Primary NAP location.

In 2001, I had three

Year 7 TPV students in my class. They were highly motivated students who

were thorough in all aspects of their work, and worked quickly and quietly.

One of these students, a girl from Afghanistan, had only attended 'underground'

school as an education was not permitted. She continues to excel. Another

girl, from Iraq, had the confidence to join the school choir and speak

on stage at an assembly. The 3rd student, a boy from Afghanistan, appeared

reserved and a little fearful, yet still was able to present a discussion

on life under the Taliban at a whole school assembly. There are normal

differences between these three children, as you would find anywhere in

the world.



Education costs for permanent

and temporary protection visa holders for whom English is a second language

The following details

the approximate cost of education for students for whom English is a second

language. These students receive year level per capita funding and can

access ESL support services depending on level of need. All costs are

per capita.




Protection Visa Holder


of education




to State




to State


New Arrivals




on year level.


year level per capita funding + ESL funding


grant of $3990


- $3511




to NAP Centres


10 year olds and students with complexity of travel


students in the general support program


- $5455


on ESL category


year level per capita + ESL support allocation


for General Recurrent Grants


- $5455 less General Recurrent Grants


for General Recurrent Grants


- $5455 less General Recurrent Grants


- $1791




$235 of ESL component from SAISO Programme


- $1556 for ESL component


of ESL component from SAISO Programme


- $1556 for ESL component


& interpreting services




TPV Students with

a Disability

In addition to

ESL support services, TPV students access disability services. Current

costs to the end of Term 1 2002 have been detailed

1 Sensory Impairment

(Hearing) R-2 - $19,029

1 Mainstream A -


1 Special School

- metro R-2 - $7,927

1 Special School

-metro R-2 - $7,927


Updated 9 January 2003.