Submission to National Inquiry
into Children in Immigration Detention from
the Queensland Teachers'
Union Policy States:
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."
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,
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
the events and conditions in these centre (during the periods of "unrest")
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.
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.
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
Acting Assistant Secretary
15 March 2002
Updated 9 January 2003.