here to return to the Submission Index
Submission to the National
Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from
United Nations Youth Association
Submission on Education
1 - Guide for Young People
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
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.
ON EDUCATION AND IMMIGRATION DETENTION
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. 
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. 
Relating to the Status of Refugees
the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees  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
on the Rights of the Child
The Convention on
the Rights of the Child  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
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 . 
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'.  A lack of schooling directly contributes
to and creates forms of disadvantage and social stratification. 
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
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'. 
Asylum seeker attendance at local schools  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
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
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
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'.  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. 
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
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
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." 
It is against these
principles that the education of asylum seekers must also conform and
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. 
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.
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. 
- 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
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
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.
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.
Department, Australia's First Report under Article 44 of the Convention
on the Rights of the Child, December 1995, accessed at www.law.gov.au/publication/CROCReports/welcome.htm
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.
on Refugees and Exiles, Position on Refugee Children, November
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,
UNHCR, 'Refugee Children
and Adolescents' in UNHCR Global Report, 1999.
Convention on the
Status of Refugees 1951
Convention on the
Rights of the Child 1989
Women and Children
in Immigration Detention, accessed at www.immi.gov.au/detention/women.htm,
26 April 2002
and Detention - Information Paper, accessed www.immi.gov.au/illegals/uad/05.htm
26 April 2002
STATEMENTS OF YOUNG PEOPLE
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
'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.
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
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
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
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
How would I react
if I or my loved ones were in the same desperate situation?
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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.
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
barbed wire she saw nothing to
give her the comfort that a home
brought to my childhood.
And though she
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".
lead the nations
Endless, pointless wars are fought,
While innocent people's lives are wasted
Shysters waste "precious' time in court.
with brutal force
Interrogation leaves spirits bruised,
Guns are not the only weapons
When men and women are abused.
The dove, exhausted,
More and more slowly she flaps her wings,
"Is there anywhere she can land
To hopefully end sad happenings".
In Port Hedland
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
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.
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.
are signed petitions and letters from School Groups. They are typed below
with the names and ages provided where available.
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
from St Ursula's (actual signatures - hard copy is available upon request)
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
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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
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.
into Australian society:
This will not only
help the people obtaining citizenship but help improve the light in which
some detainees view Australia.
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:
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'
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.
Rory Kjillen, Ashley Cooper, Liam Carden, Thomas Kenny, Timothy Lawson,
Matthew Thompson, James Loakes, Mark Jones, Benjamin Mulcahy, Joshua Jensen,
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 (http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/children_detention/index.html),
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
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 email@example.com,
fax me at 02 9954 0671 or call me on 0414 820 662.
I look forward to
hearing from you!
Human Rights Coordinator
UNITED NATIONS YOUTH ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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
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.
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). (http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/children_detention/index.html)
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 _ http://www.smh.com.au/news/0112/15/review/review2.html).
ChilOut _ Children
Out of Detention is a parents group opposed to the mandatory detention
of children in Australian detention centres (www.chilout.org).
Australia -- Defending Childrens Human Rights -- Facts on Children in
UNICEF - Questions
Parents Ask about the Convention on the Rights of the Child (www.unicef.org/crc/parentsfaq.htm).
UNHCR _ Refugee
Children: Their World at a Glance (www.unhcr.ch/children/index.html).
of Australia (www.refugeecouncil.org.au).
ENQUIRY TERMS OF REFERENCE
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.
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
- the conditions
under which children are detained;
- health, including
mental health, development and disability;
- guardianship issues;
- security practices
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.
" a standard of living adequate for physical, mental, spiritual,
moral and social development.
The Convention is
available at http://www.unicef.org/crc/fulltext.htm. The Commission will
consider human rights instruments other than the Convention as they are
Making a submission
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.
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.
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
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.