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Submission to National Inquiry

into Children in Immigration Detention from

the Queensland Teachers'

Union



Queensland Teachers

Union Policy States:

"The QTU

condemns the current Federal Government policy and practices which deny

refugees access to a range of government support services.

The QTU beleives

that refugee detention centres should be immediately closed down and

replaced with the placement of all refugees in appropriate communities."

Current

Position

Currently all refugees/asylum

seekers attempting to enter Australia without government sanction are

placed in detention centres. Prior to late 2001 these centres were in

Australia with several centres(Woomera, Port Headland) being in isolated,

inhospitable locations. Currently detention centres are being used in

Nairu and on Manus Island. These centres form part of the "Pacific

Basin Solution" and will continue to be used for future arrivals.

Detainees in these centre face inappropriately long periods while their

applications are processed and a determination made on their status.

This being the case

it can be argued that this arbitrary detention of children over an extended

period is in contravention of the rights of children under the "Convention

on the rights of the Child" 1989 where the children in detention

have the right to "not be deprived of their liberty unlawfully or

arbitrarily, with detention only in conformity with the law, as a measure

of last resort and for the shortest appropriate time."

While such detention

for children accompanied by adult family members is traumatic, the detention

of unaccompanied children is indefensible.

While the QTU's position

is that detention centres should be closed, the Union recognises that,

under current government policy, this will not occur in the foreseeable

future. This being the case, the QTU believes -

1. No unaccompanied

child should be placed in detention centres. Such Children should be

placed with supportive, culturally aware carers if they are unable to

be placed with families of the same ethnic background.

2. Greater support

and encouragement needs to be given to programs that place families

(including adult males, not just mothers and children) in appropriate

communities outside detention centres. Reports indicate that such a

program associated with Woomera Centre is only partially successful

as adult, male family members are excluded from placement in community,

family situations.

Convention

on the Rights of the Child (1989)

As previously indicated

it can be argued that this convention has been breached by the arbitrary

detention of children. It can also be argued that under the convention,

the following rights of children in detention are not met -

1. Protection from

all forms of physical or mental violence. They also have the right to

recover and be rehabilitated from neglect, exploitation, abuse, torture

or ill treatment or armed conflicts.

In view of the

recent "unrest" at Woomera and Port Headland Centres, the

children in those centres were not protected from all forms of physical

or mental violence. Indeed the effects of any counselling and rehabilitation

programs for the children would have been negated if the media reports

of

the events and conditions in these centre (during the periods of "unrest")

are accurate.

2. To rest and play

The very placement

of camps in isolated areas precludes conditions and amenities that a

reasonable person would consider prerequisites for children to enjoy

appropriate rest and play.

3. Family life

The very nature

of detention centres circumvents the practise of normal family life.

4. Be treated with

humanity and respect for their inherent dignity and in a manner which

takes into account their age.

This is particularly

so in the case of unaccompanied children.

5. Privacy

The standards of

privacy we expect and enjoy in our everyday life are far superior to the

limited privacy experienced by all housed in detention centres.

Education

The QTU believes

that children in detention centres should receive educational programs

- no less favourable than those delivered to children in the wider Australian

community. The QTU adopts a socially critical orientation toward schooling

i.e education must develop the power of critical thinking, not just in

individuals but also in group processes; education must engage social

issues and give students experience in working on them - experience in

critical reflection, social negotiation and the organisation of action.

Specifically, the school curriculum in both content and process should

develop democratic values, cooperative decision making, critical awareness,

ability to relate theory to practise and problem solving ability.

The QTU believes

that in providing quality education to children in detention which encompasses

the above principals, the Federal Government must -

1. Provide sufficient

financial resources so that any schools established in detention centres-

(a) are housed

in adequate facilities;

(b) are staffed by qualified, culturally aware teachers;

(c) are staffed with culturally aware support personnel, including staff

who have a knowledge of the children they are working with;

(d) Are able to access professional counsellors who are able to

communicate with the children in their first language.

2. Where schooling

is provided in facilities outside detention centres, the Federal Government

should ensure funding is available to meet the provisions in 1(a) - (d)

above. Personnel should also be made available to ensure the integration

of refugee children into established "outside" facilities proceeds

smoothly and with appropriate sensitivity.

3. Because of the

importance of the English language in Australia, provisions for the support

in learning English as a second language should be made for all children.

In conclusion, the

QTU believes -

(a) Refugee dentention

centres should be immediately closed.

(b) Should the closure of detention centres not occur, the Federal Government

should ensure that all the rights of the children under the "Convention

on the Rights of the Child(1989)" are protected.

(c) These rights can only be protected when Governments of "Good

will" establish adequately funded programs that cater for the emotional,

physical and intellectual well being of the children in detention.

(d) Educational facilities, designed and staffed to cater for all development

needs of the children in these centre be established as a matter of

urgency.

Dudley

Cowan

Acting Assistant Secretary

15 March 2002

Last

Updated 9 January 2003.