Skip to main content

Commission Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention


here to return to the Submission Index

Submission to the National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from

United Nations Youth Association

of Australia


The United Nations

Youth Association of Australia welcomes the opportunity to contribute

to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Inquiry into Children

in Immigration Detention. The issue of immigration detention for children

has been coming under increased scrutiny in the past eight months. As

far as it affects our international standing, the standards by which we

treat children and our policies regarding refugees, it is a matter of

great importance, which must be rigorously discussed in the public arena.

UNYA welcomes the initiative of HREOC to investigate and facilitate this

discussion through the inquiry.

UNYA is a non-governmental

organisation with a national membership of over 1000 young people under

25 years of age. UNYA is dedicated to providing a voice for youth, particularly

on global issues, and has been actively educating young people about the

UN and international issues within Australia for over 40 years. Thus,

we are ideally placed to provide a youth perspective on children in immigration

detention. Our expertise in this area comes not only from our interest

in and knowledge of policy and international affairs but also our engagement,

as young people, with the broader questions of community education and

children's rights.

UNYA's submission

has two parts. In one we address section 3 of the terms of reference in

relation to the adequate provision of education in immigration detention.

The second part of our submission is made up of statements from young

people in Australia. When the inquiry was announced UNYA decided to encourage

young people to take part in this process. We felt that it was important

that an inquiry on how we treat children within our borders included youth

voices on this issue. The statements included below are responses to a

guide for young people to make submissions, which UNYA distributed through

various youth networks at the beginning of 2002 (attached in appendix

1). The young people who have participated vary widely in age but their

feelings about this issue are broadly similar. The main attitudes reflected

in our collection of youth submissions are concern, shame and condemnation

of our policy of immigration detention for child asylum seekers.



Australia's International


Australia's obligations

to refugee children derive from two main sources - the Convention Relating

to the Status of Refugees 1951 (hereafter 'the Convention) and the Convention

on the Rights of the Child 1989 (hereafter CROC). The United Nations High

Commission on Refugees' (UNHCR) in its Guidelines on Refugee Children

1994, recognises that CROC must be the foundation of UNHCR's protection

and assistance activities for children and adolescents. [1]

This matrix of rights for refugee children means that they have the full

rights of children and of refugees. In many cases, as pointed out by the

European Council on Refugees and Exiles, their rights as children will

supersede their rights as asylum seekers as they will have the same rights

to education and care as all children despite their displacement. [2]

The Convention

Relating to the Status of Refugees

Australia ratified

the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees [1951] in 1954 and has

also ratified the Optional Protocol. The Convention contains some core

obligations and then a guide to the rights of refugees under the jurisdiction

of state parties. The core provisions of the Convention are non-refoulement

[Article 33] and the obligation to process unauthorised arrivals. This

obligation is framed as a prohibition on the punishment of unauthorised

arrivals so long as they came directly from a country where their life

or freedom was threatened and presented themselves immediately to authorities,

showing good cause for their entry [Article 31]. UNYA would contend that

the arbitrary and prolonged detention of child asylum seekers who have

fulfilled these criteria breach the Convention.

Beyond these articles

come those that read like a human rights treaty and provide the rights

based framework for refugees. One of the strongest provisions of this

part of the treaty relates to the right to education. The particular significance

of the right to primary education under the Refugee Convention is that

the standard is that of a national of the relevant state. Most of the

provisions of the Convention allow asylum seekers to be treated in the

same way as other non-nationals in Australia but on the issue of education

asylum seekers have to have the same access to primary education as citizens

[Article 22].

The Convention

on the Rights of the Child

The Convention on

the Rights of the Child [1989] sets out the rights of children as they

relate to both protection and participation. The central criterion of

CROC is that decisions be taken in the "best interests of the child".

Article 2 provides that all rights shall be upheld for all children within

a state party's jurisdiction without discrimination and Article 22 specifies

that refugee children must receive all the rights within the Convention.

Articles 28 and 29 set out the right to education. When read in conjunction

with the rest of the treaty we see that these rights must be accorded

equally to refugees without discrimination by the state party within whose

borders they are.


The primacy of the

right to education, as evidenced in its place within the Convention and

CROC, is indicative of its developmental weight and importance. The capacity

to access education and information is central to a child's ability to

develop as an individual. In the case of refugee children, whose lives

have been disrupted already, this is especially true. UNHCR's Global Report

1999 stated

Access to education

is a fundamental human right of all refugee children. Support for refugee

education is a vital way to rehabilitate children and young people traumatised

by war . [3]

In a general sense

schooling carries with it certain opportunities and advantages. It creates

access to culture, provides skills necessary for engagement with the labour

market and facilitates the acquisition of other forms of 'cultural and

social capital'. [4] A lack of schooling directly contributes

to and creates forms of disadvantage and social stratification. [5]

Legally and morally

an asylum seeker child has the same rights to education as children of

the same age in the country where they seek asylum. As far as UNYA is

concerned, education for asylum seeker children should meet the following

seven criteria:

1. Education during

the period of claim assessment

UNYA believes that

education is a primary right of children and should not be disrupted any

further by a need to assess claims. The continuance of education can minimise

the disruption and trauma caused by displacement and by the need to assess

the claims of asylum seeker children. In assessment systems, which include

detention as a central feature, continuing education is particularly important.

2. Education within

the Australian schools system, in local schools where possible

UNYA considers that

in many cases, although repatriation is desirable, it remains impossible.

For children it is imperative that receiving countries provide some stability

to lay the basis for settlement. As their lives have been significantly

disrupted at an early age, the importance of providing stability and certainly

is paramount. Schooling and education is significant as a stabiliser for

children who have experienced trauma and violence, indeed it has been

said that 'the absence of schooling intensifies the impacts of a crisis

and denies children one of their primary social environments'. [6]

Asylum seeker attendance at local schools [7] is important for stability

and the standard of education as well as providing a basis for long term

resettlement. If this cannot be done on a permanent basis, inclusion of

asylum seekers for parts of the curriculum or extra-curricular activities

such as drama or sport would have beneficial affects for the asylum seekers

education and development, as well as giving them an important psychological

release from incarceration.

3. Education that

provides English as a Second Language (ESL) education as well as the possibility

for additional education in his/her mother tongue in order to preserve

cultural identity

Education for young

asylum seekers must strike a delicate balance between the preservation

of their original language and culture and their education in the language

and culture of their receiving country to lay the foundations for protection

or settlement. These two processes must be included for education to be


Within detention

the families and communities must be engaged in a process of education,

which instructs in the children's mother tongues and education about their

history and culture. On the other side teachers, who have the same expertise

as those working in state educational systems and who are also trained

in English as a Second Language instruction must be employed to teach

a flexible program that ensures literacy and numeracy and tries to facilitate

personal development for the diverse group of children within detention.

4. Education that

is relevant in being sensitive to the special needs of traumatised students

Refugee children

are often suffering from depression and other resultant mental illnesses

from their experiences of trauma. The long-term effects of trauma can

be significant in restricting development of children and leading to 'anxiety,

depression, problems with anger management, impulsive sexuality, self-harming

and excessive risk taking later in life'. [8] Environments

or activities that can increase resilience against such adverse affects

include development of insight into distress and life skills, being exposed

to positive role models, feeling linked into a community and having opportunities

to experience success and to develop optimism about the future. [9]

Education or schooling is able to provide some of this resilience - by

providing education in their mother tongue and about their culture, by

providing opportunity for success through education and by enforcing optimism

about the future and the many possibilities that education can open up

to them.

In order to do this

education must include sensitive approaches to issues of trauma and conflict,

as well as the capacity to respond to children's trauma in a culturally

sensitive way (perhaps through consultation with their family or community

within the detention centre).

More than anything

the schooling needs to be permanent, consistent and ongoing. A consistent

education is imperative for providing some stability for children who

are displaced or incarcerated.

5. Education that

includes activities to aid in the learning process, such as art, drama

and sport

Outside the classroom

learning has been shown to be very effective and is able to provide a

release of energy and depression. Furthermore schooling and these activities

provide a major basis for the socialisation of children. Through such

activities children learn how to interact and appropriate ways of communicating

and acting. A great benefit of these activities is that they build confidence

and in this way can provide hope for the future.

6. Education that

accords with the principles underlying education in Australia

The national council

of all Government Ministers of Education drew up a list of the common

national goals for education called the Hobart Declaration on Schooling

in Australia in 1989. These were broad ranging principles and were also

geared to reinforce some of the principles from CROC. The principles outlined


"* To provide

an excellent education for all young people, being one which develops

their talents and capacities to full potential, and is relevant to the

social, cultural and economic needs of the nation.

* To enable

all students to achieve high standards of learning and to develop self-confidence,

optimism, high self-esteem, respect for others, and achievement of personal


* To promote

equality of educational opportunities, and to provide for groups with

special learning requirements." [10]

It is against these

principles that the education of asylum seekers must also conform and

be assessed.

Under these principles

not only should asylum seeker children receive the same standard of education

as other young people within Australia but they should also be provided

with the special educational needs that are outlined above, under the

principle of providing for groups with special learning requirements.

7. Education in

which parents are encouraged to participate

It is important both

for parents and children that the process of education is a family and

community one. For parents and children who are displaced, this is particularly

important in providing a sense of stability and hope for the future. It

allows parents to play a positive role in their children's lives despite

their displacement and trauma and provides a positive role model for the


For this to be implemented

UNYA considers it best that families be placed within the community. [11]

Within community release, families are able to provide some stability

to their children and engage in an educational process without the distracting

and detrimental effects of incarceration on the capacity of children to

learn and engage with educational material.

Education under

the current system of detention

There are significant

differences between this conception of education and that currently being

instituted in detention. These include:

  • Evidence from

    teachers (such as seen on ABC's Foreign Correspondent) that there is

    a lack of syllabus, accountability, resources and replacement of teachers.


  • HREOC's 1998 Report

    Those who've come across the seas showed an institutional and

    policy failure to provide adequate education and in many instances to

    not provide any educational facilities. Those that were provided did

    not provide adequate first language education, ESL, access to local

    schools or education at a minimum Australian standard. [13]

  • Evidence in the

    Joint Standing Committee on Migration report Not the Hilton - Immigration

    Detention Centres: Inspection Report, September 2000, which demonstrates

    that not all centres have education for all children on a Monday-Friday

    basis, that education was not comprehensive (most of the classes referred

    to in the report were English classes for adults and there was not much

    detail in terms of education for children that addressed their educational

    needs). [14]

Barriers to adequate

education in detention

There are significant

barriers to these educational ideals being instituted in a situation of

immigration detention. The psychological effect of incarceration on children,

who have already experienced trauma, leads to self-harm, depression and

an inability to engage in the learning process. The actual fact of incarceration

makes adequate education virtually impossible. This is why UNYA must conclude

that the education facilities of immigration detention in Australia are

inadequate to fulfill not only international but domestic standards, but

also that immigration detention for children is itself inadequate; because

it is unable to facilitate an environment in which children can develop.

We have tried to

discuss our conceptions of what education for asylum seeker children should

include within the context of general principles and the specific contexts

of detention or community release. Although UNYA believes that educational

aims and individual development can best be achieved through community

release, and indeed that detention hampers both these projects, we have

also tried to include recommendations for best practice for education

in detention.


and Recommendations

Some broad conclusions

must be drawn from the discussion above. Firstly, education is an inviolable

right of children and is central to their individual development. Education

must further meet certain standards, set both at an international and

a domestic level. Education is a right that is acknowledged to be universal.

As it provides essential cultural, social and vocational knowledge, the

denial of education leads to disadvantage and injustice. The vulnerability

of children makes it particularly important that they not be discriminated

against in the provision of education, as this will have significant effects

on their current wellbeing and their future prospects.

Secondly, there are

specific educational needs of children who have been traumatised and displaced

that need to be addressed. Their education must put them in good stead

to be able to participate in two different societies and cultures. Furthermore

their education must counter the damaging affects of displacement, trauma

and harm. Thus it must be culturally sensitive and open, focused on building

up resilience and broad in providing skills for participation and communication.

Thirdly, incarceration

has damaging affects on children and is an environment in which it is

very difficult for educational rights to be fulfilled and the particular

challenges of education for displaced children to be met.

This leads UNYA

to two recommendations.

1. Immigration detention

must be a last option for children and must not be arbitrary or long-term.

It is imperative that children are not left in limbo, which prevents them

pursuing their education or development. Such a practice is dangerous;

potentially leading to greater harm and trauma. UNYA supports a shift

in policy towards family community release after preliminary background

checks whilst claims are being assessed. This both recognises the importance

of the family and also the benefits of community release for advancing

the education and development of children. We consider this to be the

best way of upholding children's' human rights and acting in line with

Australia's educational principles and international commitments.

2. If children are

to be kept in Immigration Detention, there must be a seachange in the

ideology and implementation of education at IDCs. Educational facilities

must be ongoing, provide Monday-Friday schooling for children, cater for

the educational needs of all children under 18, have a curriculum that

is tailored to the needs of a diverse and traumatised community of young

people, facilitate parental and community involvement in education in

their mother tongues and relating to their own cultures, establish standards

of English literacy and numeracy and organise activities to develop the

social skills and confidence of young asylum seekers. Where possible and

with parental permission UNYA supports the inclusion of asylum seekers

into local schools, if not for the whole week, then for certain classes

and portions of the curriculum, or for activities such as drama or sport.

We believe that asylum

seekers in Immigration Detention Centres in Australia are being denied

the education they have a right to. More fundamentally we believe that

the process of incarceration though immigration detention is damaging

to these children and precludes the possibility of adequate and positive

education aiding them to develop as individuals.


Attorney General's

Department, Australia's First Report under Article 44 of the Convention

on the Rights of the Child, December 1995, accessed at


Anita Chauvin, 'The

Impact of Trauma on the Developing Brains of Young People; the Risk and

Protective Facts which Lessen of Increase Resilience; and the Implicatios

of Placing Asylum Seekers in Detention Centres: Creating Pain', in The

Refugee Convention: "Where to from here" International Conference

Programme, 6-9 December 2001.

Pam Christie and

Ravinder Sidhu, 'Responding to Globalisation: Refugees and the challenges

facing Australian schools' in The Refugee Convention: "Where to

from here" International Conference Programme, 6-9 December 2001.

European Council

on Refugees and Exiles, Position on Refugee Children, November


Foreign Correspondent

Report on Immigration Detention, ABC, Sydney, 10 April 2001.

Joint Standing Committee

on Migration, Not the Hilton - Immigration Detention Centres: Inspection

Report, September 2000.

HREOC, Those who've

come across the seas, May 1998.

Save the Children

UK, Education in Emergencies - Save the Children Policy Paper,

October 2001.

UNHCR, 'Refugee Children

and Adolescents' in UNHCR Global Report, 1999.

UN Documents:

Convention on the

Status of Refugees 1951

Convention on the

Rights of the Child 1989

DIMIA Documents:

Women and Children

in Immigration Detention, accessed at,

26 April 2002

Unauthorised Arrivals

and Detention - Information Paper, accessed

26 April 2002




After the announcement,

in November 2001, of the HREOC National Inquiry into Children in Immigration

Detention, Susan Harris of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid produced

a kit to help teachers discuss the issue with their classes. UNYA decided,

in consultation with Susan Harris, that it would be a good idea to use

the kit as the basis for a guide to making submissions for young people.

Due to the subject matter and HREOC's own statement that it particularly

welcomed submissions from young people, UNYA's belief was that it was

important to try and facilitate the submission of views from young people.

Below is the fruits

of that work. The individual statements of some young people who wanted

to express their views to the Commission on the issue of children in immigration

detention. Others were not willing or able to put theirs down on paper

but we received great feedback from parents, teachers and young people

about the benefit of having a structure and some guidance on how to discuss

these important but sensitive issues. The individuals who have sent some

thoughts vary widely in age - from primary school to university students.

UNYA was greatly

helped in this endeavour by Barbara Ashby of Amnesty International In

Queensland who embraced the material and the idea and distributed it far

and wide with fantastic results. Great thanks also go to Susan Harris

for the original idea and Tori Milner, National Vice-President of UNYA

for her work in the submission process.

A copy of the guide

is attached in Appendix 1.

Instead of trying

to synthesis the thoughts or ideas expressed in the individual ideas we

wanted to let them speak for themselves. Here they are:

Lisa Denney -


As a member of the

United Nations Youth Association, and more generally as a young person

in Australian society, I am deeply concerned and disappointed at the detention

of children and youths seeking asylum in Australia. In broader terms,

we are the only developed country that detains asylum seekers when they

arrive on our shores from various developing countries. The fact that

we are so ready to do this to children is astonishing given our apparent

concern for children in our own community (as seen with various sexual

assault claims within the Church). By detaining children we are subjecting

them to live in conditions that we would consider appalling for our own

children. They are coming from homes where they have witnessed war, famine

and suffered under brutal political regimes but instead of offering sanctuary

we are confining them to a mere prison.

Inside it, they are

exposed to a psychology that most adults in Australia do not have to witness.

They see grow ups attempting to harm themselves, rioting and suffering

mental breakdowns. Surely we concede that this has some detrimental impact

on the children who observe this?

If we are to enforce

mandatory detention for children seeking asylum, at the very least it

should be in a protected environment where they are able to continue (or

for some, begin) their education. There should be adequate health services

and counseling - adequate, that is, to Australian standards. There should

most definitely be interaction with the local Australian community. What

better way to promote tolerance in our own community than by meeting people

who's lives have been so less fortunate than our own? Youth groups and

organisations, churches and schools would be more than willing to host

activities where children in detention can enjoy the interaction with

other children and feel that perhaps, they are accepted and that they

are have not done anything wrong.

Quite simply, we

should live up to the human rights record that we like to believe we have,

but in reality, don't. I am hopeful that this inquiry will result in changes

to the current system so that children who are seeking asylum in Australia

may do so in the comfort of a system that upholds morals and basic child

and human rights. They very fact that our current system scares them should

be indication enough that we are not on the right track.

Chris Rawlins,

UNYA NSW Vice-President

I have some friends

that have committed misdemeanours as juveniles and have had to confront

the justice system as a result. It is my experience that invariably, there

is an intrinsic degree of leniency and tolerance of young offenders in

the hope that offences will not be repeated. Many people in our community

shy away from punitive measures against minors as a disciplinary tool

- evidenced by the nature of our juvenile justice system and such trivial

examples as the move away from corporal punishment in schools. This seems

to me to be the correct approach. Why then do we see young children in

detention in refugee camps? Young children that are escaping persecution

are only doing so following their parents. Children are treated differently

not only within our domestic system of law but also within the international

community. The detention of asylum seekers in Australia should follow

the same pattern. There is an entirely separate debate about whether asylum

seekers should be placed in detention; surely the intolerable nature of

children in detention is a fait accompli.

Alyson Kelly,

UNYA Victoria Education President

Children in detention

fundamentally contravenes the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ignoring

the psychological damage that incarceration can cause the absence of basic

education acts as an enormous impediment to the future development of

these children upon resettlement/intergration. In no other country of

the world are children incarcerated for the periods of time that occurs

in Australia especially with the absence of an appropriate or adequate


Auskar Surbakti,

18, First year university

If the Government

claims that we (Australia) actually NEEDS establishments such as detention

centres for the 'efficient' process of refugee applications, then the

least that can be provided is specialised care and attention for children

among these asylum-seekers. Children especially are vulnerable and susceptible

to the horrid conditions of these centres, which will undoubtedly have

a damning impact on them in the future. Ideally we need children to be

housed out of these centres, but in the meantime, we must improve the

existing conditions, for both all, especially children.

James Woods, President

UNYA Victoria

The detention of

children is undeniably one of the most inhumane approaches to the management

of displaced persons. Incarceration of minors is already acknowledged

by Australian society and law as morally reprehensible and the practice

of incarceration without a criminal act having take place, no set period

of incarceration being established and no legal safeguards for these children,

many of which are unaccompanied, being in place - there is no excuse.

Kate Longhurst,

National Peace and Disarmament Policy Co-ordinator (UNYA)

The HREOC should

be commended for its inquiry into children in detention, as it is one

of the most pressing issues facing Australia and Australians today. The

practice of mandatorily detaining children who are seeking refugee status

legitimately (whether with family members or without) is reprehensible.

In a legalistic sense, in committing such children to detention, Australia

is contravening its international obligations. In an ethical sense, such

incarceration should be viewed as inhumane and alternatives shoudl be

sought as soon as possible. The current practice reflects negatively on

Australia's international reputation as well as psychologically (and perhaps

physically) harming children for life.

Ellie Pietsch,

3rd Year Commerce/Arts Monash University

I vehemently disagree

with the Australian Governments mandatory detention of displaced peoples

within Australia. The injustice of this is highlighted through the plight

of children incarcerated in these centers, marginalised and psychologically

and physically hampered from developing naturally. The morally reprehensible

actions of detaining children in situations where they receive little

or no assistance after the atrocities which they have survived must be


Varun Ghosh, UNYA


"Detention centres,

even at the best of times and conditions are inappropriate for housing

children. The confinement of young people has extremely negative effects

on their physical and mental health no matter how good conditions are.

That said the conditions in Australian Detention Centres are worse than

poor and therefore even more harmful for children. The placement of detention

centres, the abuse from guards (both verbal and physical), the absence

of proper schooling, the presence of malnutrition, and the campaign against

these people by the government of Australia all has a dehumanising effect

on children at a stage when they are most vulnerable and their confinement

in detention centres seriously jeopardises their long term future."-

Peter Ward, UNYA

National Treasurer

Detention centres

are anything but suitable for children and families.

Children who have

gone through traumatic events in their own countries and now being forced

to put up with traumatic events in this country. These children need our

compassion and our help - we are only further endangering their psychological

and physical conditions by locking them up, even though they haven't committed

a crime, in atrocious conditions.

Asylum seekers, particularly

children, should be looked after in the community. They should be given

security. They should be provided with care, education, and - where required

- counseling. No child is 'more equal' than any other - we have to treat

these children in the same way we would treat our own.

The government, both

sides of politics, need to take a compassionate stand. They need to recognise

that the human rights of these defenceless people - adults and children

- are being routinely violated. The government must take a lead on the

issue, must work towards a humanitarian solution, rather than indulge

in populist self-serving policies aimed at securing re-election.

Anna Byrne, UNYA


I wanted to write

and offer what support I can in condemning the Government for its refusal

to recognise the innate cruelty in mandatory detention of both children

and their families. Although my knowledge of pediatric psychology is limited,

it is my understanding that the preservation of a child's mental health

and psychological well-being requires two things: lots of love and as

much protection from trauma and harm as is possible. As is evidenced by

cases of domestic violence and abuse, the latter is not always possible

in today's society. However, there are many recorded cases of children

suffering far less harm than they would otherwise be caused in such circumstances

as a result of a constant supply of love, perhaps from an abused but protective

mother, and the provision of a safe, comforting and secure environment

in which to recover.

It horrifies me to

think that the Government is, in fact, denying these children both of

these vital necessities for childhood development. This is evident not

only in the mere fact that they are detaining young children in an institutional

environment that it totally incongruous with normal and healthy childhood

development (even orphanages in Australia aren't that bad anymore) and

not providing them with sufficient education, but also in their response

to the issue of child mental health when it DOES arise. I think the best

illustration of this is found in the story of a young boy found in Peter

Mares' book, 'Borderline' who was suffering extreme shock from both residence

in the centre and having witnessed other adult inmates maim themselves

in protest at the conditions. The Government's proposed solution was to

farm him out to the community, on his own, and remove him from his family,

the last strand of stability left in the boy's life. Of course, there

was a huge media stink about it, whereupon the Government manipulated

the situation by revealing huge numbers of private details about the family

in order to prejudice public opinion. Several months later, when the furore

had died down, the child was actually moved into the community with his

siblings and mother, but the father, to whom the child was devoted, was

kept in custody.

I'm distressed that

the Howard-Ruddock cohort is eager to disregard the volatile nature of

children's psychological health and needs, simply because it accords with

their hard-line refugee policy. For a nation that prides itself on a tradition

of mateship and protection of others, we should be ashamed that our Government

is engaging in a policy that, in the long term, is certain to cause possibly

irreparable emotional and psychological damage and scarring to young children

who have already experienced far too much pain and anguish.

Tori Milner, UNYA

National Vice-President

One of the most privileged

things about being a young person in an age of technological advancement,

in a climate of 'globalization' is an enhanced sense of 'community'. Arising

from increased communication and interaction are feelings of connection

across borders, access to a pastiche of cultures that enriches our lives

and a sense of solidarity in shared goals. All of these are the privileges

of an increasingly smaller world. Coming with these privileges are the



as a young person to recognise the plight of our peers overseas. Obligations

to recognise the hypocrisy of a cultural ethos touting a fair go, a compassionate

nature, and suggesting that we should 'rejoice for we are young and free'

but then locking up young people in pain who arrive on our shores.

For young people

a sense of community is essential in socialisation and development. One

wonders what sort of community can be engendered when there is a desperate

lack of access to technology. Lack of access to education. Lack of access

to one' peers, and in its place only a desperate view through the desert

to a society devoid of compassion. The answer can only be a further dissolution

of individual identity.

These appear to be

the only conclusions when viewing Australia's position of asylum seekers

arriving at our shores. It results in young people, like myself being

proud to be part of a global community, but ashamed to call Australia

my home.

Urashni Gunaratnam,

Somerville House School, Brisbane

I think that even

the idea of children in detention centres is alarming, let alone the fact

that it is actually happening, which makes it so much more disturbing.

Childhood is the

all-important stage of life, where ones' character is shaped. If children

and teens are forced to live like this, what sort of impact will it have

on their adult lives?

Living in Detention

and being isolated from the rest of the world and society can have devastating

effects on a person's life. It makes people unaware of anything else except

the brutality and isolation that they are experiencing. They will never

get to experience all of the things that children are meant to. They may

never get to interact with people their own age, never get to have fun

and play games.

These poor children

have done nothing wrong, and they are being punished.

I cannot believe

that this is happening! It is very scary to know that these children are

not being educated and to find out about the kind of treatment they are


If these children

are not allowed into society and are not given the opportunity to socialise

with other people and children, it will have a detrimental effect on their

whole lives. Where is the logic, or more importantly, the humanity, in

allowing these innocent children to be locked up like this. They should

be released, and be shown a new way of life, something that everyone deserves,

and not be shut away and be living such a cloistered life.

Please consider this.

Emily Kiff, Somerville

House School, Brisbane

I am really disturbed

and alarmed that young children are kept, against their will, in detention

centres. They haven't done anything wrong, The only thing that they have

done is want to live in a peaceful and safe country of Australia. Away

from their war torn country where they don't know if they will wake up

the next day. For many of them they have lost their parents and any family

they might have. They have come to our country, without a family. Looking

for a family and warmth that Australia holds. All they want is a good

life that Australia offers.

Jenny Huang, Somerville

House, Brisbane

'I am getting sick

of the holidays, there's nothing to do.' How often do we hear that statement

being muttered by teenagers like us. A poor comparison to the teenagers

being held at the detention centres in Australia, but demonstrates the

same point. These youngsters are barred in to a confined space, plagued

by the idleness that exist in the bleak detention centres. No education,

no entertainment, nothing to do - no hope. Young minds are active, eager

to learn, eager to belong. Months wasted in detention centres, which in

many aspects are more like prisons, alienates the child and they often

feel unloved and abandoned in a strange country. The long-term effect

is that they will eventually lose their self-esteem and any willingness

to learn and fit into a society as they are too afraid to interact with

people, being alienated for so long. We are wasting a precious resource

in this country. The youngs hold the keys to the future of this world.

Australia needs to broaden its perspectives to a world scale and help

our the children in the detention centres.

Annabel Leahy,

Somerville School Brisbane

I think that the

psychological suffering and prolonged isolation in detention centres has

a devastating effect not only on adults but also a further, magnified

effect on children, especially adolescents.

As adolescents mature

they are heavily influenced as to how they should act once they become

adults . If they are shown how adults have been acting over this situation

they begin to follow suit and copy others examples.

If they are exposed

to people who are trying to take their own lives to prove a point, how

do they know what is right or wrong? They can't differentiate between

the two options, considering the people they love are trying to take their

own lives, but foreign people such as detention workers are, at the same

time, convincing them to stop "playing up".

Not only is this

environment a very depressing one, but also a very unhealthy one. Everyone

needs love, encouragement and warmth, but without those essentials, people

become frustrated, anxious and desperate to get out of the situation.

It is because of these extremes that people are willing to sacrifice themselves

to prove a point.

If Australia is unwilling

to accept these refugees, we should be ashamed to call ourselves Aussies.

People associate Australia with Multiculturalism and a laid back nature.

If we do not possess these qualities how can we (without guilt) call ourselves

'accepting Australians'.

Beatrice Smith,

Somerville House

I feel that the situation

of children being held in detention centres across Australia is an issue

that needs urgent attention.

In Australia, both

the state and federal governments pay particular attention to the education

and well being of children and young adults, however this concern is not

given towards the 1103 (2001 figure) children who are currently held in

confinement in centres around Australia. Many of these have fled their

home countries as a last resort to escape the violence or danger that

had threatened or destroyed their safety and in many cases their homes.

They have undertaken

a long and treacherous journey often uncertain of their destination to

finally reach Australia, which they may have thought would be a place

where they may be able to start a new life in the security of an accepting


Many have discovered

the hard way that this is far from the truth. Subject to violent horrors

within the detention centres, this is not the environment that any child

should be brought up in. It is the responsibility of the Australian government

to provide these children and their families with the opportunity to try

to make a new start in Australia. The waiting list for a visa is not an

acceptable excuse for the conditions that these children are being submitted

to. It is also the responsibility of the Australian public to continue

to oppose the treatment of these children and not to let this matter go


Victoria Macdonell,

Somerville House

Suffer the children:

A 15 year old perspective on Detention Centres in Australia.

How can I presume

to know how the children living and growing up in the Detention Centres

feel? In my rich and privileged life, I have known almost nothing of pain,

loneliness or suffering, yet these children have to feel it, be part of

it every single day of their lives. What do I know? What do any of us


What I "do"

know is that this is a travesty and injustice. That's what everyone else

says, my limited scope of imagination can't even begin to conceive just

how terrible it would be as a young adult, to grow up behind closed walls,

to play in my pathetic barbed wire playground and watch the diseases of

the body and mind flourish before my very eyes. I can't imagine, because

I don't want to imagine it. I don't want to use my imagination to conjure

up something so horrible and disgusting. I guess I am like many Australians.

The saddest thing

for me is, that these children will never have the perspective on this

that I do. They will grow up in a country that they think has abandoned

them, a country that they think has left them to rot, and cares nothing

about them. In all truth, maybe we don't care. Because if we did, this

wouldn't have begun in the first place.

They don't deserve

this. Not even the most decrepit of criminals deserves the conditions

some of these children have to go through. They are children. So am I.

What separates us - the place our blood comes from? We have the ultimate

will to live. The walls separate us. Flimsy legislation on crumpled pieces

of paper separate us. We are no different. Then why are we treated so


Rory Killen, Marist

College Ashgrove, Amnesty International Student Team

I'm a seventeen year

old boy who attends school almost every day of the week at a grade 12

level, I look forward to my future with optimism and certainty, and I

enjoy the full freedoms that a modern democratic country gives to a person

under eighteen. I have many close friends whom I have known since I was

young. I have a large and supportive family. My life is comfortable and

unmarked by any tragedy.

I know of a boy from

Afghanistan. He, like me, is seventeen. Unlike me, however, he is forced

to learn at a third grade standard because he cannot speak English at

any fluency above this level.

He is the only member

of his family in Australia, the rest are facing famine and poverty in

Afghanistan. His freedoms are limited. Due to the language barrier, he

finds it quite difficult to find friends outside of his ethnic group.

In three years, when his temporary protection visa expires, his future

is uncertain.

He has no one to

turn to and no future to look forward to.

Will he be sent home

to face poverty and the end of any adequate education? Will he be allowed

to remain? Will the government refuse to acknowledge his tragic life as

having refugee status and pretend his home is a safe place to live?

I cannot imagine

his life. I have never been away from home for more than a few weeks at

a time and even then I was always just a telephone call away.

What are my thoughts

about children, like this boy, who are kept in the detention centres?

I think of myself

in that situation. I think of how my parents would react to it. These

"illegals" are people with faces, families and histories just

like mine.

How would I react

if I or my loved ones were in the same desperate situation?

Matthew Clifford,

Marist College Ashgrove, Amnesty International Student Group

I attend a school

with great community pride and spirit. My school endeavors to encourage

the students to new heights. In any academic or physical arena the staff

are overly supportive and helpful in creating, strengthening and enhancing

our knowledge base and abilities in a wide range of ideas. The goal of

our school, as in all schools, is to give the students a great start in

their life. In Australian society our life is our career. Our future is

a job. A job gives us financial security and a firm standing on where

our lives should lead. The education of youth is imperative in today's

society as it forms our life, our future. The children in Detention Centres

around Australia are severely disadvantaged. They do not receive adequate

schooling. Their lives, the future of these children are already unknown.

They have no knowledge of where they will end up. When they do get out

of the Detention Centres, wherever they go, they will be behind the eight

ball and not have a chance. The education of youth in Detention Centres

is imperative.

Surely there is a

lack of sense and care for the lives of the children being held in the

Detention Centres? They are already at a loss for direction. Their lives

are uncertain. In today's society they are being withheld from the necessities

that shall take them through this life. This injustice should be put to

an end.

Becky Ashby, Brisbane

Girls Grammar School, Amnesty International Student Team

I am a 14 yr old

Brisbane school student and here is my submission about my opinions on

the detaining of children in Australia.

'I was sleeping quietly

with my two children. Around 2 am seven men broke the door down and my

husband woke me up. I was so terrified . I can never forget what I felt

at that moment. We were taken somewhere, leaving my little children alone.

The last time I saw my husband was the night we were arrested together.

We were put in the same prison but I was not allowed to see him. Two months

later I heard from a friend of his that he had been killed in prison.

I was treated very badly in prison. I couldn't eat or drink and I was

beaten every day. The guards forced me to dance and sing for them……someone

helped me to escape. ( A young Zairian woman explains how she was unjustly


When large groups

of people have been forced to abandon their homes, it is easy to forget

that each one is unique .Each individual has childhood memories, family

and friends, a life story with its share of joys and pain. Each still

nurtures hopes and dreams.

All too often, they

are treated not as human beings with individual rights, but as an irritating

fragment of a troublesome mass. Immigration officials treat them as criminals

not victims, and politicians scapegoat them to divert attention from their

own failures.

With domestic violence,

the perpetrator maintains control by blaming the victim, and we seem to

apply the same logic to our treatment of asylum seekers.

Many problems are

caused by the government imposing a prison-like regime on people who are,

for the most part, victims of extremely traumatic experiences in their

homelands and often on their way here.

Children and young

people who become refugees are especially vulnerable. Small children frequently

do not understand why their parents have made them leave home. Some have

witnessed horrific events and can be very scared and emotionally scarred.

They may have lost not only their homes, but also their relatives, friends,

toys, school - in fact everything that is precious to them. Young people

are often separated from their friends and family at a very important

stage in their development.

These children should

not be detained. We are only imprisoning people who have escaped political

imprisonment, tormenting people who have fled torture, and punishing people

who have already been cruelly punished.

There have been many

cases of young asylum seekers suffering severe mental stress from being

locked up. For example a six year old Iranian boy was diagnosed with acute

post-traumatic stress disorder after spending 17 months inside Villawood

Detention Centre. He does not speak and refuses to eat or drink since

seeing a detainee attempt to kill himself by slashing his wrists several

months ago.

At another camp,

in Woomera, another child witnessed people setting fire to themselves

and camp guards using batons to stop a riot. He was described to have

been 'dying of grief' and psychologist Zachary Steel reported that 'Almost

everybody within the detention environment is resenting symptoms of clinical

depression……repetitive behaviour, things you see in people who

have been profoundly institutionalised".

I also know teenagers,

here in Brisbane, (both older and younger) who have been detained for

a year or longer, and all of them have been negatively affected by it.

One 16 year old Afghani

boy I met still carries a pack of cards around with him everywhere, rearing

to let them go, after he was put into a room with 3 other boys and left

there for many months with only the pack of cards.

There have been many

reported cases of both verbal and mental abuse by guards in the centres.

Young impressionable minds are told repeatedly that "No-one in Australia

wants them" and "everybody hates them" Children have also

been isolated and separated from their families. This has been associated

with feelings of insecurity, fatigue, depression fear and anxiety, and

also with sleep and eating disorders. Many young people have also reported

a complete lack of will to survive.

Our Government tries

to justify detention by saying the applicant arrived without proper papers

. But most refugees can only escape their countries by travelling without

documents or with false papers. The UN Refugee Convention states that

refugees escaping danger should not be penalized for entering a country


Refugees are NOT

criminals! They should not be locked up (especially the children)

And if it is, as

some may say, that the real issue is Australia's reputation. Then surely

if we treat people who seek refuge with respect, that reputation will

take care of itself!

Andrea McLeod,

Mt St Michael's College, Amnesty International Student Team

The detention of

asylum-seeking. Children for simply wanting to live free and safe is one

of the most morally disgusting practices that has happened in Australia

in years.

As Australia is a

signatory nation to the Rights of the Child, it can be expected that Australia

would comply with these Rights. However, since 'sending a message to people

smugglers and illegal immigrants' is often quoted as one of the reasons

for harsh detention laws, it can hardly be said that the best interests

of the detained children are being honoured.

Over the last year

or so, I have met quite a few boys and girls, both my age and younger,

who were held as asylum seekers in detention centres - some for over a

year. Every single one of them has been affected in some way, it still

hurts them emotionally to remember or talk about their experiences inside

the detention centres. I have been told by some of my friends who have

been released from detention centres that guards said to them," Nobody

wants you here, if you're given asylum, then everyone will hate you and

want to kill you".

Such statements should

NEVER be said to children or to adults, but especially not to children.

Such behaviour on the part of the guards is vicious, uncompassionate and


When did Australia

lose its compassion and attitude of "fair go"? Why does the

Australian Government show such an uncaring attitude about detained child

asylum seekers who experience trauma and stress and think of killing themselves.

The fact is that children are locked up in hellholes in the middle of

nowhere without access to proper education or proper medical treatment,

and in a place where they may witness beatings by guards and suicides

of adult detainees. That this could be tolerated, much less endorsed,

by the Australian Government and other Australian citizens, disgusts me.

For children to grow

up in the harsh, unforgiving environment of detention centres is not healthy,

particularly when so many people who are released from the detention centres

say conditions there are worse than prison. As a teenager, I am sure that

if I faced such conditions, I would be depressed, confused, even suicidal.

I am speaking from my own perspective as someone who ahs not experienced

torture or trauma or the death of loved ones, so how would teenagers or

children who have experienced those things feel?

There is no justification

for children being in detention centres which are demoralising and destructive

to esteem, hope and development. I do not believe that children should

be separated from their parents. Asylum seeking children should be released

into Australian society with at least their primary carer, lest the children

experience anxiety at separation and suffer further emotional damage.

Therefore it is not

a question of 'if' children should be released from detention, but a question

of 'how soon', before more damage is done to children who have fled to

Australia in the hope of a better life promising individual human rights

and freedom.

Liz Mills, Mt

ST Michaels College, Amnesty International Student Team

Refugees by definition

are people who flee human rights violations - if there were no human rights

violations there would be no refugees. These people deserve our compassion.

The young people

currently detained in Australian Detention Centres do not deserve a life

of suffering. As students we lead free, happy lives and we have the ability

and opportunity that education has given us. Young refugees do not have

proper education, health services and the right to freedom, which we take

for granted when we are so fortunate to go to the movies or to have coffee

with a friend.

Yet so many of us

are oblivious to what it would be like for young people our own age in

distressing conditions, such as a Detention Centre. This is because it

is so far from our own reality, and we don't even realise it is happening

here, in our own country. As young people we feel accountable and guilty

for the young people, so similar to ourselves Why should we be the lucky

ones born outside the fence?

The government lies

and people listen. The media portrays a negative viewpoint, and people

listen. We are here campaigning for the freedom of refugees and sometimes

it feels like no-one is listening.

Granted there are

many people today willing to help, who comprehend the situation, but unless

we unite together, we are only a small group trying to make a difference.

As young people with

a full understanding of the situation, we are the future - for tomorrow.

We will be the ones who have to live with the current government's actions.

After some time,

young refugees may be released from the detention centres, and unfortunately,

it does not end there for them. The ongoing effects of experiencing such

trauma at a young age often results in refugees having mental health issues

later in life.


Jasmine McCormack,

Brisbane State High School, Amnesty Student Team

I am a 16 year old

school student. I study, I work and I go out with my friends. Every second

I do these things I take them for granted. As I complain about going to

school in the mornings, about studying in the afternoons, I am able to

completely forget that there are children my own age and much younger

that would give anything to put themselves in my position. They would

give anything to have an education, a part-time job. They would give anything

to walk outside the jagged, sharp barbed wire fence that we as Australians

find necessary to keep them behind. But what they do and what they say

isn't enough. As they plead for our humanitarian aid we walk past without

flinching. Why? Are we afraid of these helpless children who we keep locked

away, deprived of their fundamental rights, or do we simply not care?

Despite my unrecognised

status as a student and my overlooked age, I am aware that there are sever

problems that need addressing. Out government policies are discriminatory

and racist towards children fleeing persecution. We selfishly think only

about what effects Australian society will suffer through the immigration

of these refugees and our solution is to imprison them. I feel anger towards

the government who enforces this cruelty and also the majority of the

population who support it. I am well aware of the problems in our country,

and as a student who no longer takes her life for granted and wants to

assist in helping these people, maybe I am more aware than the adults

and the so called role models of this society. Australia is a country

that can be proud of many things, but detaining innocent children isn't

one of them.


by Cara-Ann Simpson

When she looked

through the

barbed wire she saw nothing to

give her the comfort that a home

brought to my childhood.

And though she

could talk

with beautiful sweet music

no-one knew her language,

no-one knew her sorrow.

When I looked around


my comforts I see her

small sweet face playing

on my cushioned mind.

But when I walk


my educated field of freedom

I wonder if perhaps she has

the luxury of wisdom.

So the little girl


another in her desperation,

and together they silenced

themselves through the only

literal terms they knew.

And while the public


some ill-fitting desperate I

heard some whispers in my fight

for truth and I knew.

And my sweet cherubic


will carry her scars long

and she will remember

but may her spirit grow strong,

for she is just like you, or me.

The Dove Of Hope

by Becky Ashby

The dove of hope

flies on and on.

Over vast oceans and deserts of sand,

Tired and weary; she searches; "Perhaps

Tomorrow they'll let me land".

When masterminds

lead the nations

Endless, pointless wars are fought,

While innocent people's lives are wasted

Shysters waste "precious' time in court.

Bodies battered

with brutal force

Interrogation leaves spirits bruised,

Guns are not the only weapons

When men and women are abused.

The dove, exhausted,

circles lower

More and more slowly she flaps her wings,

"Is there anywhere she can land

To hopefully end sad happenings".

In Port Hedland

Detention Centre

A child's face alights with a smile,

This little bird brings a message of hope

To make her wait worthwhile

When they are released

from detention these children are still affected. I have heard the despair

in TPV teenagers voices when they have lost years of education, are now

working very hard in high school and are told to their faces that they

are not entitled to go to university and so can forget about being doctors

etc. (in this case it was his fathers' profession)

Another child I know,

in Primary school here, recently asked her parents to send her body back

to Iraq when she died!

For the rest of the

students this treatment has created a possibility of the divisibility

of human rights!

The social justice

and ethical implications of children being detained arbitrarily, and then

not to be given the same human rights as the rest of the student population

needs addressing urgently.

Wendy Gore, St

Ursula's College, Toowoomba Amnesty member

No child should be

forbidden the right to have a happy childhood. I am moved when I hear

that childen are not allowed to have a happy and safe place to enjoy their


"Youth are

our future"

Chrissy Luxton

No-one has the right

to take childhood away from a child. To laugh often and much is part of

what being a child is. How can they experience this if they are denied

the opportunity to be themselves.

Geoff Parkes,

Belmore, NSW

My name is Geoff

Parkes, I am an author and a reviewer for both Australian and international

websites, as well as the author of a monthly column on life in Australia

for an American based online magazine.

I wish to urge the

Commissioner to recognize that young people in detention centres should

be released into the community immediately. They have done nothing wrong,

nor have they been convicted of a crime, and as such their continuing

detention breaches Australia's obligations under the United Nations treaties

to which we are obliged, by law, to follow.

It is a gross blemish

on Australia's human rights record to continue to imprison these children

in substandard detention centres where they are exposed to occurrences

that no child in a democratic country should ever have to see. Our national

anthem says We have boundless plains to share.

Our laws state that

we are obliged to assist these children. It is time we did so.

The following

are signed petitions and letters from School Groups. They are typed below

with the names and ages provided where available.


St Ursula's

Dear Sir/Madam

Our Pastoral Care

Group has discussed the issue of immigrant children in detention centres.

We believe these children should not be kept in detention centres. They

have done no wrong and are innocent victims of a world situation that

should be rectified. We believe these children suffer from incarceration

in detention centres and some experience ongoing trauma and personality

changes even after release. We add our voices to all those who agree that

the issue of children in detention should be resolved with compassion

and justice.

Yours faithfully

11 signatures

from St Ursula's (actual signatures - hard copy is available upon request)


St Ursula's

We, the undersigned,

have discussed this issue in our Pastoral Care Group and wish to make

the following comments.

We believe all children

have the right to grow up free from suffering and should have access to

the same opportunities for development eg. sport, education, health, social


We believe it is

wrong for children to be treated as criminals and put behind bars, when

they are not responsible for their situation. They have done no wrong

but they are being caged like animals in a zoo. How can they be happy

being closed off and far from their natural environment?

Has Australia wound

the clock back to convict days when people were sentenced to years in

prison for stealing a loaf of bread to survive? All these people are doing

is trying to survive.

The current treatment

of these children will leave them scarred for life with the memory of

a childhood spent behind bars. Handing out dollars and sending them home

to a country in ruins will not repair the psychological damage done by

years in detention.

We call on the government

to find a more humane response to refugees and their children.

Mary Langler -

teacher and five 16 year olds ( Marsha Jimwereiu, Kate Vallely and Natarsha

Smerdon), two 15 year olds (Kathryn Huey and Taleya Robinson), two 14

year olds (Kristy Dobson and Emma Jackson), three 13 year olds (Ellen

Graham, Felicity Miller and Ashleig Polzim) and one 12 year old (Karina



We are students

in Mrs Sullivan and Mrs Butterworth's Pastoral Care Group at St Ursula's

College Toowoomba.

We do not agree with

the inhumane living conditions that the children held in detention centres,

such as Woomera, are faced with.

The fact that these

children can be separated from their families, exposed to hatred and are

having the right to a normal childhood taken away from them is appalling.

It is conditions

such as these that have already and will continue to emotionally damage

these children for life.

13 signatures

- Emily Purse, Claire Ivey, Helena Poran, Amanda Steger, Kate Murphy,

Nicola Smith, Holly Haigh, Courtney Wilde, Cara Fox, Emma Kuhn and C.

Huban with Teachers R. Sullivan and J. M. Butterworth.


St Ursula's College


We, the undersigned

would like to express a concern at the detention of children asylum seekers

in Australia. We believe that it should not come to the drastic actions

such as protest and the sewing of lips in order for their condition to

be considered.

Other countries around

the world are placed in a similar situation to Australia, often faced

with processing numerous more people than our government, yet these countries

have found humane ways of dealing with the situations. We are concerned

that the Australian Government insists on holding these asylum seekers

in detention for so long when other countries have shown the benefits

of allowing these people to live within communities until their requests

are processed. This would no doubt, reduce the large financial burden

that detention centres place on the Australian population, but more importantly,

allow these people to maintain their dignity.

One concern many

people have is about a greater intake of immigrants to this country being

a burden on the economy, including an increase in unemployment. If we

are correct, we believe the opposite to be true. Australia can support

an increase in population and only thrive, as many more jobs will be created.

Finally, we are concerned

about the separation of children from their parents and other family members.

A family environment provides care and love which, we believe, would be

more important to these children being faced with living in detention.

16 Signatures:

- Siobhan McCarthy, Rebecca Casey, Emma Nicoll, Brenda Harth, Alison Gillmore,

Cassie Gill, Jordyn Wilson, Kate Howard, Jacinta Keen, Sam Callagran,

Beau Mionett, Erin Petzler, Alice Hill, Kate Clark, Lex Dawson and Teacher.


Marist College

Ashgrove - Amnesty International Group Submission

The asylum seekers

being withheld in detention centres are being denied many human rights

standards. This situation that has arrived has been treated poorly and

there are many issues that need to be dealt with immediately.

It was felt that

many submissions being handed in may focus on the ills and inhumane treatment

and living situations of the detainees. In that light this group submission

is to collative ideas and beliefs that the detainees should be taken through

with the first couple of weeks in this country.

We see that, the

asylum seekers entering this country, whether obtaining citizenship or

not, should know how the country works and what Australia is all aobut.

An introduction

into Australian society:

This will not only

help the people obtaining citizenship but help improve the light in which

some detainees view Australia.

Whilst detainees

are from countries all over the world, culturally wise our country is

very different. A main focus will be to introduce our society and our

similarities and differences from their society. This can be done by:

1) A visual


This shall include:

The geographical

nature of the country

A broad overlook of the people in Australia

The different cultures in society

Special sites and insight into people

2) In a lighthearted

nature some 'Aussie Sayings'

Promoting traditional

Australian greetings to be used

This shall aid the people to feel more welcome and accepting of Australian


3) Interviews with

Australians that are from the same country that the asylum seekers identify


This shall help

a bond grow and acceptance of Australia

It shall give them insight as to what Australia is like and to what

they can expect

4) A 'field trip

into a town or city

Once again as

we feel it is important so they accept us and feel welcomed to this


Basics like currency and language can be picked upped by the asylum



We feel that showing

the asylum seekers that we do care for their well being and letting them

know that if they gain citizenship then for them to realise that they

are welcomed into society.

Matthew Clifford,

Rory Kjillen, Ashley Cooper, Liam Carden, Thomas Kenny, Timothy Lawson,

Matthew Thompson, James Loakes, Mark Jones, Benjamin Mulcahy, Joshua Jensen,

Gregory Cocks.


1 - UNYA's Guide to Submissions for Young People

I am writing to you

from the United Nations Youth Association (UNYA), a national youth organisation

with over 1000 members across Australia, to bring your attention to the

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC)'s National Inquiry

into children in immigration detention.

Last year there were

1103 children held in Australian immigration detention centres, out of

a total of 8401 people overall.

The National Inquiry

is open to submissions from any organisation or individual. Furthermore

HREOC has stated that they particularly encourage submissions from young


If you have any views

on this issue the National Inquiry is an excellent way to have them heard!

Attached to this

page is a copy of the National Inquiry guidelines also found at (,

including the terms of reference. I encourage you to read them and respond.

Your response doesn't have to contain facts or figures or be legalistic

but can be based on looking at some of the areas covered in the terms

of reference (eg education, health) and responding based on your own attitudes

towards what these services mean to young people and how these services

can best be provided to young people who arrive as asylum seekers or refugees

or to those in immigration detention. If you would prefer to express yourself

creatively you can do your submission as a drawing, poem or story.

If you do not wish

to make an individual submission UNYA would love to include some short

statements from young people in our submission. Additionally we want to

collect statements from young people on how they feel and what they think

about children in detention (as well as the broader issues relating to

refugees) in order to provide a youth perspective in community discussions

on this issue. If, at any point, we wished to use your statement we would

seek permission.

As young people,

we are well placed to empathise with the needs and wishes of children

and other young people, even in situations vastly different to our own.

Furthermore it is our right to contribute to a debate concerning their

welfare and treatment in Australia.

Below are some questions

and answers relating to the Inquiry (adapted from some written by Susan

Harris, Australian Council for Overseas Aid) and the terms of reference

themselves. The deadline for submissions to HREOC is 3 May. If you want

to send it through UNYA email or fax it to me by April 26.

If you have any questions

or would like to forward a statement to UNYA please email me at,

fax me at 02 9954 0671 or call me on 0414 820 662.

I look forward to

hearing from you!

May Miller-Dawkins

Human Rights Coordinator




What is the aim

of the National Inquiry into Children in immigration detention?

The inquiry will

investigate the "adequacy and appropriateness of Australia_ s treatment

of child asylum seekers and other children who are, or have been held

in detention."

Why is the National

Inquiry into children in immigration detention important to Australian

young people such as myself?

The inquiry is relevant

to Australian young people for three main reasons.

Firstly, it is an

issue that relates specifically to children and young people but more

broadly is relevant to all Australians.

Secondly, the process

of making a submission to the inquiry allows young people to voice their

opinions on the issue of children in immigration detention and participate

in the democratic process.

Thirdly, Australian

young people may empathise with the children in immigration detention

who are less fortunate than themselves. Australian students are the same

or near to the same age as the children in detention and may be able to

compare their situation with those of the children in detention.

How might I start

making a submission into the National Inquiry?

Obviously this is

not the only way to make a submission but if you don't know where to start

it might help!

1. Firstly it may

be useful to spend some time identifying who children in immigration detention

are, why they are there and why it is important to contribute to the inquiry.

To do so you can have a look at these websites to start off:


    - the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, which is the

    body responsible for ensuring that human rights are upheld in Australia.


    - the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees - the UN agency which

    is responsible for the protection of refugees internationally


    - the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs which is the

    Australian Government Department responsible for refugees.

2. Secondly, refer

to the terms of reference of the inquiry (see attached sheet). (

The terms of reference are provided by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity

Commission (HREOC) as a framework to address the issue of the adequacy

and appropriateness of Australia_ treatment of asylum seekers. Although

the terms of reference are divided into specific areas, they can be understood

from a student_ s perspective.

3. Look at some of

the extra resources, do your own research or just write down what you



Some case studies

and background information can be found in a feature article from the

Sydney Morning Herald (December 15 2001 _

ChilOut _ Children

Out of Detention is a parents group opposed to the mandatory detention

of children in Australian detention centres (

Amnesty International

Australia -- Defending Childrens Human Rights -- Facts on Children in

Detention (

UNICEF - Questions

Parents Ask about the Convention on the Rights of the Child (

UNHCR _ Refugee

Children: Their World at a Glance (

Refugee Council

of Australia (


The Human Rights

Commissioner, Dr Sev Ozdowski, will conduct an Inquiry into children in

immigration detention on behalf of the Commission. He will be assisted

by an inquiry team that will be announced at a later date.

The Commissioner

will inquire into the adequacy and appropriateness of Australia's treatment

of child asylum seekers and other children who are, or have been, held

in immigration detention, including:

1. The provisions

made by Australia to implement its international human rights obligations

regarding child asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors.

2. The mandatory

detention of child asylum seekers and other children arriving in Australia

without visas, and alternatives to their detention.

3. The adequacy and

effectiveness of the policies, agreements, laws, rules and practices governing

children in immigration detention or child asylum seekers and refugees

residing in the community after a period of detention, with particular

reference to:

  • the conditions

    under which children are detained;

  • health, including

    mental health, development and disability;

  • education;
  • culture;
  • guardianship issues;


  • security practices

    in detention.

4. The impact of

detention on the well-being and healthy development of children, including

their long-term development.

5. The additional

measures and safeguards which may be required in detention facilities

to protect the human rights and best interests of all detained children.

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.


includes any person under the age of 18.

Reasons for the Inquiry

The Human Rights

and Equal Opportunity Commission is responsible for protecting and promoting

human rights, including:

  • promoting an understanding

    and acceptance of human rights in Australia;

  • undertaking research

    to promote human rights;

  • examining laws

    relating to human rights; and

  • advising the federal

    Attorney-General on laws and actions that are required to comply with

    our international human rights obligations.

The Commission also

inquires into complaints of breaches of human rights under the Human Rights

and Equal Opportunity Act 1986 (Cth). In the past reporting year, the

Commission has received an increase in the number of complaints about

human rights breaches involving children in immigration detention.

One area of Commission

responsibility is the rights of children under the Convention on the Rights

of the Child (1989). Australia agreed to be bound by the Convention in

December 1990. The Australian government has also included the Convention

in the human rights responsibilities of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity


Key principles of

the Convention are:

" The right

to survival and development.

" The best interests of the child as a primary consideration in all

actions concerning children.

" The right of all children to express their views freely on all

matters affecting them.

" Respect for the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents

and families to provide direction to a child in the exercise of their


" The right of all children to enjoy all the rights of the Convention

without discrimination of any kind.

The Convention applies

to every child in Australia regardless of nationality or immigration status

and regardless of how the child arrived in Australia.

Under the Convention,

children in detention have the right to:

" family life,

and to be with their parents unless separation is in their best interests.

" the highest attainable standard of health.

" protection from all forms of physical or mental violence, sexual

abuse and exploitation. They also have the right to recover and be rehabilitated

from neglect, exploitation, abuse, torture or ill-treatment, or armed


" to practise their culture, language and religion.

" to rest and play.

" to primary education, and different forms of secondary education

should be available and accessible to every child.

" appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance as an asylum

seeker or refugee.

" 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 period of time.

" be treated with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity

and in a manner which takes into account their age.

" access to legal assistance and the right to challenge their detention.

" not be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading

treatment or punishment.

" privacy.

" a standard of living adequate for physical, mental, spiritual,

moral and social development.

The Convention is

available at The Commission will

consider human rights instruments other than the Convention as they are


Making a submission

Individuals, community

groups and government bodies are invited to make submissions on one or

more of the terms of reference. Submissions from children and young people

are particularly welcome. The Commission requests that submissions be

based on the experience or expertise of individuals and organisations.

While submissions

do not have to be in any particular format, they must fit within the terms

of reference. The Guide to Making a Submission to the Inquiry into Children

in Immigration Detention suggests a structure for submissions to follow.

Electronic submission

by email is encouraged. Submissions may be published on the Commission

web site. If submissions are marked confidential (in whole or in part)

the confidential material will not be included on the web site.

The closing date

for submissions is 3 May 2002.


The Commission will

conduct its inquiry through research, submissions, public hearings and

consultation. Further details of public hearing dates will be announced

in 2002.

Written submissions

should be sent to one of the following addresses:

  • By mail:

    National Inquiry into children in immigration detention

    Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

    GPO Box 5218, Sydney, NSW 1042

  • By email:
  • By fax:

    02 9284 9849

Closing date for

submissions is 3 May 2002.


UNHCR, 'Refugee Children and Adolescents' in UNHCR Global Report,

1999, p. 390


European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Position on Refugee Children,

November 1996, p. 1.


UNHCR, op cit, 1999, p. 390


Pam Christie and Ravinder Sidhu, 'Responding to Globalisation: Refugees

and the challenges facing Australian schools' in The Refugee Convention:

"Where to from here" International Conference Programme,

6-9 December 2001, p. 74


Christie and Sidhu, op cit, 2001, p. 74.


Save the Children UK, Education in Emergencies - Save the Children

Policy Paper, October 2001, p. 4


Save the Children UK, op cit, p. 8


Anita Chauvin, 'The Impact of Trauma on the Developing Brains of Young

People; the Risk and Protective Facts which Lessen or Increase Resilience;

and the Implications of Placing Asylum Seekers in Detention Centres: Creating

Pain', in The Refugee Convention: "Where to from here" International

Conference Programme, 6-9 December 2001, p.85


Chauvin, op cit, 2001, p. 86


Attorney General's Department, Australia's First Report under Article

44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, December 1995, accessed



For instance as under the Alternative Detention Model in HREOC's 1998

report Those who've come across the seas.


Correspondent Report on Immigration Detention, ABC, Sydney, 10 April 2001.


HREOC, Those who've come across the seas, May 1998.


Joint Standing Committee on Migration report Not the Hilton - Immigration

Detention Centres: Inspection Report, September 2000


Updated 9 January 2003.