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Submission to National Inquiry

into Children in Immigration Detention from

the Ethnic Childcare, Family

and Community Services Co-operative Ltd


General

Comments

Effects

on the Australian Community

Withholding

of services in the community

Leardership

available through the multicultural policy

Principle

statement

HREOC

inquiry welcome

Scenarios

and specific examples and information in this submission

Refugee

rights and the rights of the child

Health

and nutrition

Prevention,

treatment and accommodation of disabilities

Psychological

and social well-being

Education

Culture

and identity

Legal

issues

Detention

and the alternatives


We commend HREOC

for instituting this Inquiry and thank them for giving us the opportunity

to make input on an issue which is of grave concern to the Co-operative

which, for 23 years has been advocating for the rights and needs of immigrant

children and their families in a diverse multicultural society.

The philosophy underpinning

the Ethnic Childcare, Family and Community Services Co-operative is social

justice, with particular emphasis on Multiculturalism and access and equity

in Children's, Aged and Disability Services. The Co-operative is committed

to ensure that every person under the jurisdiction of the government of

Australia and who is from a non-English Speaking background be provided

with the opportunity to participate and receive services that are relevant,

sensitive and appropriate to his or her linguistic, cultural and religious

needs.

GENERAL

COMMENTS

We deplore and condemn

the Australian government's treatment of asylum seekers with its policy

of mandatory detention and non-reviewable detention of most unauthorised

arrivals, which is in breach of its international human rights obligations,

contravenes many international treaties to which it is signatory and has

challenged our values as a democratic, humanitarian, multicultural society

and the ideal of "a fair go for all".

Children are the

future citizens of the world and are the most precious resource of any

country. They are dependent on adults for their survival and development

physically, emotionally, psychologically and socially. They, with the

aged and infirm are the most vulnerable members of the community. Therefore,

laws and legislation are enacted by countries, individually and at an

international level, collectively, for their care and protection. The

Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) which Australia signed in

1990, is a comprehensive treaty covering all areas of a child's life and

all children regardless of their immigration status are entitled to the

full enjoyment of the rights as outlined in the Convention.

Australia with the

mandatory detention and treatment of children of asylum seekers in detention

centres contravenes many articles of the Convention on the Rights of the

Child and these are Articles: 2, 3(1), 5, 6, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18,

19, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 37 and 39. The body of the submission

refers to these articles and the way they are contravened by the government,

presents the Co-operative's position and proposes recommendations to address

the situation.

Australia is breaching

the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) and its 1967

Protocol (The Refugee Convention) and the UNHCR Guidelines for Refugee

Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care (1999) chapter 7, which states:

" Minors

who are asylum seekers should not be detained. Because detention can

be very harmful to refugee children, it must be 'used as a measure of

last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time'".

The UNHCR Guidelines

consider unaccompanied minors as a vulnerable group and provide an outline

for alternative care arrangements for unaccompanied and accompanied children

to be:

  • In the care of

    family members who already have residency in the country

  • Be placed in residential

    homes for children

  • Placed in foster

    care

  • The state authorities

    to provide supervision, and guardianship

Children of asylum

seekers and refugees who are in detention centres should be accorded the

same rights as ALL Australian children and be protected by the same regulations,

laws, Acts which apply to Australian children. Denial of these rights

is a breach of these laws and regulations and those who breach these laws

are to be dealt with according to these laws.

It is not a new event

in Australia, that of asylum seekers who come from countries where armed

conflict has been the norm and who ended up in our shores looking for

a peaceful place to bring up their children and make it their home. What

has changed is our treatment of them under the privatised detention centres.

Since privatisation

of the management of our detention centres to Australasian Correctional

Management, we have seen the processing of these people and the abusive

and neglectful incidents and situations that have now arisen from ACM's

operational methodology. The Co-operative is very concerned about the

unwillingness of DIMIA and ACM to engage the well established and capable

government services, departments and agencies and community organisations

that could support the rights of children in detention.

The Co-operative

has noted the vilification of 'boat people' as they attempt to arrive

in Australia to make their lawful claims and the way that the media has

run the story with little to no access to the claimants themselves, a

virtual 'blanket ban' on interviews with the asylum seekers or media scrutiny

of the activities in the centres, maintained by DIMIA and ACM. The Co-operative

now believes that the treatment of detainees in Australian detention centres

who have legitimate claims for asylum pending, contravenes international

Conventions which Australia is a signatory to, namely the Convention on

Refugees, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Human Rights

Charter. The shameful treatment of asylum seekers, especially those on

the Tampa and the families who were vilified for 'throwing their children

overboard', has cast Australia both internationally and locally as racist

and inhumane.

The hasty changes

that are currently being made to our immigration laws in order to imposed

harsh measures against these people, the government's desire and the opposition's

agreement to make an example of this group of 'boat people' at this particular

time in our history in order to deter more coming to our shores and for

political gain has created an uninformed, distorted public debate of hate

and racial tensions in the community. This is costing taxpayers millions

of dollars to keep refugees and asylum seekers in detention for months

and in a significant number, years rather than weeks. The longer-term

impact of the federal government's 'Pacific Solution' to keep more and

more off our shores has damaged Australia's social fabric in ways that

many of us may not even be aware of yet. The internal political effects

on neighbouring governments (e.g. Papua New Guinea, Nauru) now 'warehousing'

thousands of adults and children (some of whom have one parent on shore

in Australia) is now being reported by the local media, concern from the

Co-operative has also contributed to the terms of reference of this submission

as families remain separated indefinitely.

The refugee situation

is a worldwide phenomenon, and there will be more and more people displaced

by armed conflict, repressive regimes and globalisation. Therefore, this

situation cannot be resolved by one country imposing harsh laws to keep

them out, rather it has to be resolved by dialogue, not wars, through

structures such as the United Nations which has been set up to bring all

nations together to find peaceful, collective solutions to the world's

problems.

EFFECTS

ON THE AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITY

The tragic events

of 11 September 2001 and the measures being taken against the asylum seekers

by the Commonwealth government have had repercussions here in Australia,

where Australians from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds that

make up our multicultural society, have been subjected to racial and discriminatory

attacks by people who are prejudiced and influenced by the irresponsible,

sensational handling of the events in America by the media. 1. Were Australia

to support the resolution of conflict by peaceful dialogue, negotiation

and conciliation by the different parties through the United Nations,

this may also serve to respond to the growing number of refugees and asylum

seekers in a meaningful way, at the source.

Whether they are

Australian citizens, permanent residents, Temporary Protection Visa Holders

or asylum seekers, we believe that everyone is entitled to equal human

rights in Australia no matter what their origin. It is totally unacceptable

to the Co-operative for any children, women, men, people with disabilities

or older persons, no matter what background, to be attacked physically

and/or verbally because of their religious, racial or other backgrounds

or because they dress or 'look different', by individuals in the community,

government departments or through the media. Placing unsubstantiated 'blame'

for what is happening in other parts of the world and holding groups or

individuals responsible here because of their ethnicity, religious beliefs

or cultural practices, including dress, unethical and un-Australian.

Much stronger ethical

and moral leadership is now needed as a matter of urgency.

The common core of

our Multicultural Policy which is based on the principles of the belief

in peace, justice, equality and compassion and respect for human life

could continue be built upon by both state and federal government agencies.

Several months ago they did bring together religious and community leaders

from ethnic communities to talk about the conflicts in the community about

these issues, communicate with each other and form the links to learn

from each other and demystify their religious doctrines. Much more work,

however is needed.

Leadership and compassion

'from the top down' is also important to encourage people in the Australian

community to continue to come together to learn from each other. Ignorance

is a breeding ground for the growth of more fear, irrational behaviours

and the proliferation of racist centred popular media driven debates and

reactions.3

WITHHOLDING

OF SERVICES IN THE COMMUNITY:

HARDSHIP EXPERIENCED BY CHILDREN AND FAMILIES ON TPV'S AND THOSE ON THE

TWO YEAR WAITING PERIOD TO ACCESS SERVICES

Of serious concern

is the health and welfare of the children and families with Temporary

Protection Visas (TPVs). The lack of settlement services currently being

provided to them and their threatened forced repatriation is evident,

as the first group of Temporary Protection Visas will expire in May 2002,

this month.

Of particular distress

to the Co-operative is the reluctance of the New South Wales government

to provide subsidized funding for all settlement services in this state

for TPVs, where those services are not being funded by DIMIA. In the case

of NSW according to The Refugee Council of Australia, Executive Officer,

Margaret Piper, there are around 44% of six to seven thousand TPVs in

New South Wales currently.

In every other state

or territory with significant numbers of TPV holders (e.g. Queensland

and Victoria and South Australia), state governments have provided supplementary

funding to community sector to help the services who would usually provide

settlement services to refugees and asylum seekers and their children.

The Co-operative is concerned about the physical, mental and health risk

to those children as their parents discover that they are no longer eligible

to ever claim permanent residence in Australia because of the new legislation.

There are also thousands

of children of newly arrived 'Skilled Immigration' and 'Family Reunion'

migrants who still have to wait for two years to access certain services

and benefits which are enjoyed by all Australians are discriminatory and

detrimental to the interests of the child and its family.

According to research

by the Welfare Rights Centre, ACOSS, the Brotherhood of St. Laurence and

case studies from community services who endeavour to assist these families,

the families and children are disadvantaged, are treated as second class

citizens, some live in extreme poverty, they do not have proper health

care, do not have access to child care and other family support services,

cannot access federal employment and state training programs, and have

no income security to ensure a quality of life for their children while

they attempt to fill labour had market gaps to which we had invited them

to migrate to fill here in Australia. It is little wonder that these groups

are mainly staying around the city areas, in this state at least, where

their own ethnic communities support them as best they can.

The Co-operative's

position is that all persons living under Australia's jurisdiction, irrespective

of their visa status, following their release into the community must

have access to all services and benefits equally. The social consequences

(seen and unseen) far out weigh the financial costs. The severe and inhumane

restrictions which are the 'descriptors' that separate the Temporary Protection

Visa which is being issued to those lawful refugees and asylum seekers,

who have proven their claim, must be repealed immediately. The two-year

waiting period services for newly arrived migrants should also be abolished.

The social impact of both is extensive.

LEADERSHIP

AVAILABLE THROUGH THE MULTICULTURAL POLICY

The role of a community

organisation such as the Cooperative is vital in facilitating understanding.

We have been doing this since our inception in 1979, but now more than

ever; Australia's Multicultural Policy with its rights and responsibilities

is both precious and invaluable. This policy espouses the principles of

human rights, social justice, equality of opportunity and the rights,

freedoms and obligations of people in our diverse pluralist society to

practice their culture, language, religion and to participate fully in

the society we all share and that this value is what makes us Australian.

Australia's multiculturalism

played a large role in the procuring, staging and successfully completing

the historical event of the century, the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000.

Multicultural Policy could see us through these difficult times regarding

the treatment of asylum seekers and the general fear in the community

if we only apply it in times of service and social justice as well as

celebration.

PRINCIPLE

STATEMENT

All children and

their families need to be released immediately from all immigration detention

centres into based community care.

We call for an immediate

parliamentary inquiry into Australian Immigration Centres (with national

and international monitors, as a cultural and social audit) be called

into the relationship between DIMIA and ACM, the use and miss-use of funds

in relation to accountability and the lack of transparency on accountability

to the Australian public and concerned interest groups both in Australia

and international.

We unequivocally

state that all children asylum seekers (and their parents and/or carers)

on Australia's soil or within our federal or states governments' jurisdiction

are being further traumatised, injured, neglected, while we deny their

civil and human rights under international conventions by mandatory detention

for unacceptable amounts of time.

HREOC

INQUIRY WELCOME

The announcement

by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission of the Inquiry in

Children in Detention is welcomed and we anticipate this will lead to

the development of different strategies to afford us all the will to behave

in a more humane way towards those fleeing to our shores. Resolution of

the present situation in immigration detention centres and the broader

issues of the unsatisfactory and unnecessary hardship and suffering that

is being perpetrated on children of asylum seekers and who are currently

under Australia's jurisdiction must be an absolute priority now. The persecution

of children whoever their parents, and whatever their circumstance can

never be allowed to become 'tolerable'.

Through our membership

of international organisations such as UNICEF, OMEP, DCI, IFWC, HREOC,

the Co-operative is able to make contributions by working with these bodies

to safeguard the rights of children of the world. The Cooperative was

nominated by UNICEF as a Non-Government Organisation to send a representative

to the United Nations General Assembly on the Special Session for Children

which has been rescheduled for 7 to 10 May, 2002 in the UN Headquarters

in New York and the Co-operative will be represented. It is our aspiration

that some positive outcomes will result from this significant meeting.

In light of the worldwide situation, the rights and interests of children

are greatly at risk. In our world now in 'war mode' the priority is given

to defence spending and the financial resources are relocated from 'essential

services' to finance the war effort, wherever you live.

There have been many

economic, health and medical and political changes and historical events

that have occurred around the world that have challenged and 'put to the

test' our values as Australians, that is as a democratic, humanitarian,

multicultural and pluralist society. What does our ideal of a 'fair go

for all' mean now in light of the way detainees are treated in detention?

The Ethnic Childcare,

Family and Community Services Co-operative Ltd is well placed to provide

legitimate and meaningful comment to the Inquiry and welcomes this opportunity.

The Co-operative acknowledges that:

Treaties that

have been ratified by Australia, such as the Convention on the Rights

of the Child, are binding on Australia in international law. The implementation

of treaty rights of people in Australia are monitored by United Nations

treaty bodies, such as the Committee on the Rights of the Child or the

Human Rights Committee.

The fact that

Australia has ratified a treaty does not automatically incorporate it

into Australian domestic law. Only when treaty provisions are incorporated

into Australian law do they create enforceable rights in Australia.

However, courts should interpret a law to be consistent with the provisions

of a treaty that Australia has ratified.

Other

international documents and instruments such as United Nations Rules,

General Comments by treaty bodies, United Nations High Commissioner

for Refugees guidelines, United Nations General Assembly Declarations

and publications by United Nations agencies are not binding on Australia

as a matter of international law. They are, however, persuasive in interpreting

treaties and contain goals and aspirations reflecting a consensus of

world opinion.

Background

Papers, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Inquiry into Children

in Detention 2002

The Co-operative's

work is driven by our commitment to the rights and responsibilities inherent

in the Multicultural policy in Australia. In line with the Commonwealth

Government Access and Equity Policy, the Co-operative endeavours to ensure

that services are equitable and accessible to all people living in our

community. It is from this position that the Co-operative presents this

submission regarding children in detention centres in Australia.

SCENARIOS

AND SPECIFIC EXAMPLES AND INFORMATION IN THIS SUBMISSION

The ECCF&CS Co-operative

has discussed the conditions in one particular detention centre in Australia

with a former detainee (who shall be referred to as 'the adviser' throughout

the submission where relevant). The adviser has a relevant professional

background (health/welfare) and has generously provided the instances

and specific examples that appear throughout this submission, and are

marked as such.

They refer to a particular

time and place, which have not been provided in this document but which

can be verified upon request. In order to protect that person and the

specific examples and information provided to us. The actual centre and

the identity of both the former detainee and individual children and their

parents have been omitted intentionally.

Each area of the

Inquiry has been addressed.

The ECCF&CS Co-operative

supports and embraces the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and

therefore has framed this submission with recommendations in relation

to that convention and related refugee conventions that are recognised

worldwide.

1. REFUGEE

RIGHTS AND THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD

The Convention on

the Rights of the Child states:

In all actions

concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social

welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative

bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

Article

3(1), Convention on the Rights of the Child

1A) THE CO-OPERATIVE'S

POSITION

As the Cooperative's

major aim is to advance the rights of children and their families, we

have been concerned with the well being of some approximately 600 hundred

children and their families who are currently in mandatory detention at

centres in Australia. Some are unaccompanied minors and all are considered

by the Co-operative to be 'at risk' of abuse, assault and neglect.

The rights of children

in detention centres are being violated by the government, who is breaching

a number of the Articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It is internationally recognised and accepted that children, women, the

frail and aged must be given priority in conflict and at-risk situations

and be protected from harm. We as a country are in breach of our duty

of care to the children of asylum seekers and the matter is extremely

serious and damaging to everyone concerned, but paramount to innocent

babies and children.

In the case of children,

no matter who they are, where they come from, they should be accorded

the same rights as all Australian children, whose rights are enshrined

in the Child Care and Protection Act, Children's Services legislation,

Education and Health legislation of the Commonwealth and the states. Prolonged

detention and exposure to violent, harsh, unstable, unstimulating environments

have detrimental effects on the psychological, physical and emotional,

social and intellectual development of these children and leads to mental

health, social and other problems in the future.

These children are

deprived of their right to an identity, a safe and secure environment,

a happy childhood, an education, to play, to live within a family and

their community, and have freedom to practice their language, culture

and religion.

No government or

authority can deny them these basic human rights.

1B) RECOMMENDATION:

1.1 Mandatory

detention of the children of asylum seekers and their treatment and conditions

prevailing in the detention centres in Australia contravenes Article 3

(1) of the CRC as the principle of "best interest of the child"

is not considered in decision making, in provision of essential services,

resources for their development and well being.

1.2 The policy

of mandatory detention of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia should

be abolished.

1.3 That asylum

seeker families and/or carers with dependent children be prioritised for

assessment and that all children and their families/carer givers be released

into the community immediately following the most basic health and character

checks, without further mandatory detention of any kind, as a mater of

urgency.

2.

HEALTH AND NUTRITION

In regards to health

and nutrition, The UN Convention and the World Health Organisation says:

States Parties

recognise the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable

standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and

rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that

no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care

services.

Article

24, Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The States Parties

to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to the enjoyment

of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Article

12, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Health is a

state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely

the absence of disease or infirmity.

World

Health Organisation definition of "health" in the Preamble

to the Constitution of the World Health Organisation.

2A) THE CO-OPERATIVE'S

POSITION

The Co-operative

believes says that every child, regardless of nationality or immigration

status and regardless of how the child arrived in Australia deserves the

highest standard of health and rehabilitation. Every child has the right

to attain his or her maximum physical and mental health regardless of

legal status. Where children in detention centres are of poor health and

nutritional status as a result of their incarceration in the centre, Australia

is in direct breach of the convention.

Culturally, linguistically

and developmentally appropriate health care needs to be provided in order

for babies and children to grow and develop naturally. Nutritionally balanced,

culturally appropriate and hygienically safe food needs to have been made

available at all times. Consideration in providing culturally and religiously

appropriate foods for children, which has the support of their parents,

is fundamental to the child's sense of safety and well being for children

and small babies to grow.

All families should

be encouraged and supported to prepare culturally and religiously appropriate

food for their family themselves. Privacy and a nurturing environment

where families can maintain their special relationships, particularly

around meal times is very important to young children and babies in relation

to their sense of belonging and community.

Appropriate housing,

that nurtures the family structure and it's relations, where parents providing

food and drinks to their children and babies are essential to provide

a sense of nurturing to each child, being able to affect their child's

environment, to control it in at least some way, for small children. The

environment characterised in the media coverage and reports from former

detainees and staff, which is undermining the role of parents in the eyes

of their children or worse attacking, injuring or threatening parents

in front of their children is very dangerous to the mental health of children.

It has been proven to be akin to assaulting the children themselves and

constitutes a form of child abuse syndrome, a post traumatic stress syndrome

similar to that experienced by children from domestic violence.7

It needs to be mentioned

that the children who are the subject of this inquiry may have already

been deprived of healthy food for long periods of time in their countries

of origin and during their journey to Australia.

ADVISER TESTIMONIAL

There is a generally

poor standard of nutritional value in the food (e.g. rice and soup a

lot). The type of food and the preparation of it is inappropriate food

for young children. For example, there is no provision of food pureed

or cut into small pieces for babies and younger children.

Each 'detainee'

is allowed to drink only one cup of milk per day. This includes babies

and children. The adviser said that s-he observed a high level of anaemia

amongst the children (in the detention centre) which s-he attributes

to a diet that is lacking in protein.

The adviser

observed that the diet is not nutritionally balanced especially for

children and babies. This was an on-going situation during the said

period. For example, only one egg per week was provided to detainees.

There was only one piece of fruit allowed for detainees per day. This

included children, who only ever got exactly the same diet and meals

as the adults. The nutritional needs of babies and children were not

considered in any way.

Monitoring of

nutritional value of the food being provided and health services offered

There was no

monitoring of children or babies what so ever. Only where the health

of the baby or child was brought to the health professionals' attention

by the parent was any child of baby ever examined by a medical professional

there was no paediatric doctor ever observed in (name of centre) during

that period. No specialist paediatric doctors were ever sighted in the

centre.

During the time

in which these examples are located, there were one thousand, four hundred

and seventeen detainees at the Centre. The clinic was attended by four

general practitioners each day from 9.00 am to 1.00 PM each day only.

There were no

dental services provided on site at the Centre at that time. Any real

emergency required the detainee to be taken outside to the township

to get dental care or any kind.

No early child

hood teachers were ever seen or consulted to provide early learning

activities and encourage age appropriate early childhood development

for the babies, toddlers and young children in the centre.

No sport and

recreation officers were ever provided by ACM to organise activities

for children to encourage their development in fine and gross motor

skills for example or to encourage learning and development through

play.

No food or drinks

are available to the detainees to give children on request from their

parents outside the designated meal times.

There was a

lack of consistency of health care staff for children and babies. It

was observed that medical and health staff did not last long at the

centre. Staff turnover was very high with the average length of time

that any nursing staff staying at the centre as six weeks.

In one particular

instance, one doctor lasted only one month. When the adviser asked him

why he was leaving he said that he had prescribed medication for a child.

ACM had refused to purchase the medication for the child. He said he

could not stay working at the centre because of this.

Three Babies

born in Detention

During the time

at the centre, the adviser said s-he recalled three babies being born.

Women were taken to the hospital in the township of (name of centre)

to give birth. ACM did not permit any of the three women to be accompanied

by their husbands/partners or any other friend/detainee (including another

woman) as a support person for the birth.

Following the

return to the (name of the centre), the babies were never taken again

to paediatric checks at the hospital baby health clinic in the township.

No health checks were made of the babies unless requested by the parents

and this was by doctors in the clinic only.

There were no

cots, prams or strollers provided and although all three women came

back with a small bundle of baby goods and clothing, this did not last

long since newborn babies grow so quickly. After that, the second hand,

ill fitting clothing was the only source of clothing, even for young

babies under one year of age.

No specific,

actual baby food is prepared or provided to the detainees for their

babies or young children and toddlers.

Health Screening

of Children

Upon arrival each

child's health status should be assessed and ongoing monitoring for any

deficiencies, disabilities or chronic illnesses that may have derived

from lack of access to health services in the country of origin or may

have occurred during the travel period to Australia.

Individualised health

care and nutrition programs should be available to all child asylum seekers

in order to ensure that every child receives preventative as well as remedial

health care immediately upon arriving in Australia. Since a majority of

the children shall be released into the community, it is logical to provide

this level of intervention sooner rather than later.

Specific Health

Services for pregnant Women in Detention

Culturally and linguistically

appropriate pre-natal and post-natal care should be available for pregnant

women. Easy access to specialist mental health (counselling) should be

available.

Culturally and linguistically

appropriate pre and post-natal education for mothers, and encouragement

to breastfeed their babies for up to one year. Of course all of these

services and advocacy groups exist in the community in Australia and are

therefore readily available. Where the mother is having difficulties in

breastfeeding early assistance from cross-culturally trained health professionals,

a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding counsellor should be provided,

as would be the case if she were to be living in the community.

Health and Nutrition

Standards in Australia

In order to access

the highest standard of health in Australia, which is their right, children

and babies must be provided with the opportunity that appropriate space,

equipment and education that encourages and facilitates physical activity

and sport.

  • Health care professionals

    in Australia are cross-culturally trained in all areas of health care

  • Professional

    health and welfare interpreter services could be readily accessible

  • Access to early

    childhood services after birth, infants and children after the age of

    five years with support from their own ethnic/religious communities

Health and Nutrition-

effects of the Temporary Protection Visa category, Post Detention

It is again important

to note that following the release of children whose families/carers have

successfully proven their claim for asylum (but who have spent seven days

in a so called safe country) are then faced with the lack of access to

specialist settlement services. The DIMIA has created a visa type, the

Temporary Protection Visa Holders through the recently rushed through

legislation, that denies children asylum seekers and humanitarian entrants

and their families and carers (for a second time in Australia) the support

that a strengthened family unit can give a child. The structures of families

are already fragile after their time in detention, many have experienced

the death of a parent or close family member. The use of denial of service

is in humane and dangerously stressful to families with children and babies.

Parents with TPVs

have an inadequate level of services that will enable them to settle in

Australia or even function on a daily basis. The services being denied

include no access to the usual free five hundred and ten hours of English

classes, no access to Job Network employment services and the specialist

settlement services such as housing advocacy, independent legal counsel

through legal aid (their lawyers are appointed by DIMIA). Even specialist

trauma and torture counselling is being denied these families.

2B) RECOMMENDATION:

2.1 That children

asylum seekers and their parents and carer givers be afforded the same

level of access to health services, dietary and food that are available

to all other children in Australia -effective immediately.

3.

PREVENTION, TREATMENT AND ACCOMMODATION OF DISABILITIES

The UN Convention

says:

States Parties

recognise that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy

a full and decent life, in conditions that ensure dignity, promote self-reliance

and facilitate the child's active participation in the community.

Article

23 (1), Convention on the Rights of the Child.

States Parties

recognize the right of the disabled child to special care and shall

encourage and ensure the extension, subject to available resources,

to the eligible child and those responsible for his or her care, of

assistance for which application is made and which is appropriate to

the child's condition and to the circumstances of the parents or others

caring for the child.

Article

23 (2), Convention on the Rights of the Child

Recognising

the special needs of a disabled child, assistance … shall be designed

to ensure that the disabled child has effective access to and receives

education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services,

preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner

conducive to the child's achieving the fullest possible social integration

and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual

development.

Article

23 (3), Convention on the Rights of the Child

3A) THE CO-OPERATIVE'S

POSITION

If children are kept

in immigration detention centres, there is a need to ensure that every

child has adequate nutrition, exercise, and educational activities such

as drama, singing, painting and fun. This includes children with disabilities.

Children with disabilities often have additional health needs associated

with their disability.

On arrival, there

is a need to ensure the health of all babies and children. Where a child

or baby has a disability, the steps to ensure that his or her health can

development both physically, mental and psychologically must be planned

and delivered through targeted, individual service program plans for that

child with a disability. Early intervention is essential in order to restrict

the impact and severity of any disability on the child's development.

To do this occupational

therapists, physical therapists, early childhood teachers, education officers

and speech therapists from organisations such as STARTTS, The Spastic

Centre of NSW, NSW Community Health can be made available. These services

can devise an individual program for each child with the involvement of

the family, but it would need to be outside the detention centre environment.

If this were done, it would ensure that the child with disabilities has

the same access to a healthy environment that children without disabilities

are also entitled, in Australia under the Convention (on the Rights of

the Child, to which we are a signatory).

There is also a need

for children with disabilities to be released with their parents and siblings

into the community so that the detention environment does not unnecessarily

aggravate any disability. The recent media coverage of the breakdown of

individuals and groups of detainees illustrates frustration due to the

lengthy time asylum seekers have to spend in detention awaiting various

departmental checks or for the completion of their appeal process once

their application has been rejected. In such an environment any existing

disability would be aggravated and lead to the development of more anxiety,

extension of longer periods of short-term attention span and a reduction

in his or her ability to develop, learn and grow to anything like full

potential.

We understand that

the health screening is quite limited, that is to the assessment of tuberculosis,

hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, for example things what are contagious only. The

level of screening would not cover such disabilities as diabetes, cerebral

palsy, Acquired Brain Injury, any intellectual or impairment. We understand

that children are not even mental illness for psychological disability

such depression and severe anxiety. This seems very strange to the Co-operative

because the children are already traumatised and Australia has so many

excellent practitioners in child mental health. Given that youth suicide

is a major health concern in Australia it appears short sighted to allow

these conditions to go unchecked in the hope that these children will

be rejected as refugees and be returned to the country of origin and off

our shores!

Health screening

mechanisms must inform health service planning and delivery for Children

with Disabilities

Comprehensive physical

and psychological assessments and screening are needed in order to inform

the health service planning and delivery in all areas for detainees but

even more so with children with disabilities. This is standard best practice

in all areas of the disability service sector in Australian and is a fundamental

tenant of the Disability Act. The Disability Service Standards also provide

for consumer participation in this planning process, which is also currently

absent from administrative framework of the imprisonment of children in

immigration detention centres in Australia who have disabilities.

The Well Being And

Healthy Development Of Children With Disabilities, Including Their Long-Term

Health Development

In general, it is

agreed amongst experts that a lack of or denial of appropriate and culturally

suitable early identification and appropriate intervention is likely to

lead to:

  • Delayed development

    for child with disabilities

  • Increased and

    continuing poor health for the child with disabilities

  • The development

    of patterns of movement and behaviour that inhibit functional patterns

    for children with disabilities

  • An increase of

    frustration and demonstrated difficult behaviours

  • An increased level

    of worry and uncertainty for parents

Children with disabilities

need early intervention and expert assessment of their conditions and

needs Children with disability are more vulnerable than the average child

to poor nutrition. Hearing and visual defects need to be detected early

to prevent secondary deficits. Failure to recognise their disabilities

can lead to emotional and behaviour difficulties due to unreasonable demands

being placed on them. Like all children, children with disability need

acceptance and love, a stable environment, and realistic nurturing.

Over fifty years

of research on children with many types of disabilities receiving a range

of specialised services in many different settings has produced evidence

that early intervention can:

  • Ameliorate, and

    in some cases, prevent developmental problems

  • Result in fewer

    children being retained in later grades

  • Reduce educational

    costs to school programs; and

  • Improve the quality

    of parent, child, and family relationships

Early intervention

may begin at any time between birth and school age; however, there are

many reasons for it to begin as early as possible. There are three primary

reasons for intervening:

  • To enhance the

    child's development

  • To provide support

    and assistance to the family, and

  • To maximise the

    child's and family's benefit to society

This is what the

immigration detention centres are producing in the case of children with

disabilities. Ethnic Child Care Family & Community Service is a provider

experienced in devising educational and developmental programs for children

with disabilities through their Children's Services Project Officers,

Trainers, Supplementary Workers Team, Casual Ethnic Workers Pool and Multicultural

Respite Service that has led to the improvements in their physical, emotional

and social development.

The federal government's

privatisation of the management of immigration detention centres has excluded

most services, especially those based on a social justice and community

development model from working with the detainees. We therefore, have

no direct experience working with children with disabilities in detention

centres. Even establishing the level of disabilities from DIMIA data,

it is not data that relates to the children who are detention now, but

based of past years.8 The 'prison like' atmosphere and absence of services

in detention centres (but which are freely available in the Australian

continent) will have long term and serious effects for the child with

disability, their family and ethnic community as well as the Australian

community at large.

The affect of the

denial of these intervention services upon children' with disabilities

capacities in all areas of their development and rights as human beings

has been well documented the Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association

(MDAA) in their submission paper to this inquiry.

'Children with

disability have all the needs that ordinary children have and by definition

many of these are unable to be met in the confines of a detention centre.

Children with disability have a number of additional needs that are

particularly compromised by their life in detention…'

Multicultural

Disability Advocacy Association, Submission to Children in Detention

Inquiry 2002

To the best of The

Co-operative's knowledge and consultations with the community, there are

no facilities for children with disabilities in Australian Detention centres.

This is direct contravention of Australia's obligations both internationally

and locally which are legislated in Australia.

The Co-operative

believes that no standards are being adhered to and further that there

is no transparency or accountability to the public regarding the standard

of detention centres. They are being disregarded, ignored and flaunted.

Community based, empowering organisations such as The Co-operative and

MDAA are not invited or permitted to enter immigration detention centres

to assist parents and children with disabilities.

The Co-operative

must judge from the reports from media, which are limited (staff at the

detention centres must sign a 'no talk' clause in their employment contract).

However it appears, children with disabilities are not treated equally

in terms of their suitability to reside in the harsh climatic conditions

in which some centres situated, in one particular case recently aired

on SBS demonstrated. In the case of the young boy with cerebral palsy,

Mohamed who featured in the SBS broadcast, 'Tales from a Suitcase' an

employee of Australian Correctional Management, the head nurse at Woomera

Detention Centre told the child's parents that 'Mohamed can not live here

in Woomera' following his initial assessment. Even after the doctor wrote

to (formerly, DIMIA) from Port Augusta Hospital, the federal government

refused to relocate the family to a more suitable climate for this three-year-old

child. It was not until after the child sustained permanent lung damage

from a second case of 'induced pneumonia' that the family, where relocated

to the Villawood Centre, where the child is now hospitalised in Westmead

Children's Hospital.

Scenario

- Depression (ABC February 2002)

Another example

was the young boy named in the ABC broadcast, Shayan Badraie who had

been in the Villawood Detention Centre had to be transferred to the

Children Hospital to deal with his significant trauma, anxiety and other

physical problems, eg. Lack of nutrition from not eating due to stress

and depression.

The Multicultural

Disability Advocacy Association of NSW is the peak body in NSW for advocacy

services for people from a non-English speaking background (NESB) with

disability and their families and carers. The Co-operative agrees with

MDAA's position that through legislative changes that will ensure that

children with disability are protected in line with the conventions and

obligations Australia is signatory to, we therefore also recommend:

3B) RECOMMENDATIONS:

3.1 The removal of

the exemption of the Migration Act from the Disability Discrimination

Act.

3.2 The incorporation

of international conventions to which Australia is signatory into domestic

law.

3.3 The creation

of a 'Bill of Rights' that is accessible to all people living in Australia.

3.4 That children

with disabilities and their families be further prioritised for immediate

release into the community immediately following the most basic health

and character checks, without further mandatory detention of any kind.

3.5 That Children

with disabilities and their families be given permanent refugee visas

with full access to settlement and disability services since any return

of these asylum seekers or refugees to their place of origin is virtually

impossible.

3.6 The Ethnic Steering/Advisory

Committees in each state and Territory include the Disability Service

Providers from relevant culturally and linguistically diverse communities,

already residing in Australia.

4.

PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL WELL-BEING

Regarding Past traumatic

experiences, the UN convention:

States Parties

shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological

recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of

neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel,

inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such

recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment, which

fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.

Article

39, Convention on the Rights of the Child

States Parties

shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational

measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence,

injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation,

including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s)

or any other person who has the care of the child.

Article

19(2), Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Regarding the right

to rest and leisure, to play and recreation, the convention:

States Parties

recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play

and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and

to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

States Parties

shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully

in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate

and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure

activity.

Article

31, Convention on the Rights of the Child

Regarding Periodic

review of a child's well being, the UN convention says:

States Parties

recognize the right of a child who has been placed by the competent authorities

for the purposes of care, protection or treatment of his or her physical

or mental health, to a periodic review of the treatment provided to the

child and all other circumstances relevant to his or her placement.

Article

25 Convention on the Rights of the Child

Further examination

of the role that immigration detention has played in the lack of well

being and mental and development health we refer the Inquiry to an Australian

based, early childhood educator, Trish Highfield. The article, 'Boarder

Protection Australian Style: A modern form of torture'.

'A six-year-old

child lies across his father's should. His eyes lack purposeful expression

and his skin is pale. This picture is the aftermath of eighteen months

of mandatory immigration detention.

[His] number

is LEE 67. One day[he] stopped talking. As time went by he also stopped

eating and drinking. "At least seven times". He went to hospital,

recovered but became ill again when he returned to the Villawood detention

centre. At the time, there were six hundred and sixty two other children

locked up in immigration detention…..(in Australia)

Child neglect is the logical consequence of the incarceration of children.

The systematic way in which such damage is inflicted means that detained

children are tortured inside the immigration lock-ups…

Several UN documents

attest that the world abhors all forms of torture. It therefore is an

indictment of Australia that its treatment of children fits the definition

of Article 1 of the Convention against torture (CAT):

…"Torture

means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or

mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as

obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing

him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of

having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person,

or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain

or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent

or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official

capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent

or incidental to lawful sanctions."

Highfield, Trish

'Australian Children's Rights News, December 2001, ACT ' 'Boarder Protection

Australian Style: A modern form of torture'.

4A) THE CO-OPERATIVE'S

POSITION

The Co-operative's

position is aligned with that of those expressed by the Australian Section

of Defence for Children International (reference), which was published

in the Newsletter, 'Australian Children's Rights News'. Key points outlined

in the article which affect the mental health and well being of children,

who are being systematically neglected and whose treatment and abuse at

the consent or acquiescence of the Minister and ACM staff can be summarised

in this way:

  • Sleep deprivation

    (being woken with flashlights in the face repeatedly over months and

    sometimes years)

  • Routine random,

    armed patrols of children's living, learning and sleeping areas

  • Re-activation

    of past trauma by the inappropriate and insensitive housing with ethnic

    group members from the homeland persecuting ethnicity or religious group

  • Passive, but relentless

    process of torture by the mechanism of child neglect, by omission of

    care rather than active commission of a duty of care to children in

    immigration detention

  • The mandatory

    character of government policy on detention of asylum seekers, regardless

    of individual circumstance

  • Unhealthy environments

    that re-traumatises children and it's link to intent (on behalf of the

    government)

  • The application

    of clinical 'health and illness' indicators alone and within a context

    of systemic abuse and neglect and the effect of that regime on children

    (cycles or treatment and relapse)

  • The role the media

    can play in intervention in this situation, where the systematic nature

    of the abuse of children in immigration detention can be seen through

    video editing etc

  • The interplay

    between medical treatment and detention centre imperatives (eg. treatment

    without ever getting well)

  • Children being

    aware that batons, riot shields, water canons or gas that causes nosebleed

    can be used on them (as well as their parents and carer givers)

  • Children witnessing

    suicide attempts and acts of self-harm, which transfer into the minds

    of the children

  • Financial penalties

    from DIMIA to ACM for a death in custody, but no incentives for promoting

    well-being outcomes or children or adults in immigration detention

  • The dismantling

    of family structure where tradition patterns of food preparation, eating

    and parental role modeling are replaced by the life of the institution

  • The locked enclosure,

    the relative inaccessibility to advocacy and legal services and the

    practice of calling people by numbers, making the camps an idea environment

    for torture

  • Threat of mandatory

    detention of children breaches the Convention of the Rights of the Child

    (CROC) and that Australia has given a formal undertaking to 'protect

    the child from all forms of physical or mental violence.

ADVISER TESTIMONIAL

All detainees were

referred to as 'detainee.' (a number), this included children and babies.

ACM staff used this regularly in the privacy of detainee's rooms.

There were no televisions

at the period either although it is understood through anecdotal evidence

that televisions were provided later after s-he left.

There were no CD

players or music of any kind. Obviously then, there was no provision of

language other than English music either.

The out door areas

at (name of centre) were not suitable or conducive to outdoor play for

children. The area where children had open access was dry desert type

ground covering. A shade cloth was erected which was approximately five

metres by seven metres. But nothing was ever placed underneath it for

children or toddlers to play with or in) like a sandpit for example).

The clothing provided

to detainee children most often does not fit properly (the former detainee

remembered children walking around with tops and trousers that looked

like adult sizes with the sleeves and legs up). This included any babies

who were anything but what would be considered 'new born'.

Mental Health and

Development - Scenario (observed by adviser)

A four and half year old child (name with held) was continually presented

to health staff in the clinic by his mother who was a single parent. Symptoms

and behaviours she was concerned about included:

  • A return to bed

    wetting following his arrival at the detention centre

  • That he had stopped

    playing with either other children or his mother

  • Marked loss of

    appetite and a general diminishing interest in food of any kind

Naturally his mother

was very worried about him. The medical staff appeared unable to affect

any change to the child's environment that they attributed his behaviours

to. The former detainee over heard conversations with management staff

of ACM about the inappropriate and inadequate conditions in the detention

centre for children and the impact that it was having on children such

as this child.

There were no changes

affected as a result of the efforts of the medical and nursing staff.

The Co-operative

agrees with Highfield (2001), 'that the safety of detained children is

in jeopardy. The institutions of law and medicine have become hijacked

for the purpose of political gains with the result that Australia has

institutionalised inhumanity. Mandatory immigration detention undermines

the well being of children. The detention centre becomes the sole experience,

because they are locked inside. Neglect, as the logical consequence of

mandatory detention, systematically compromises the mental, social, and

development profiles of children and thereby tortures them'

4B) RECOMMENDATIONS:

4.1 Children should

be released from detention immediately, together with their parents.

4.2 That unaccompanied

minors be placed in the care and control of the departments of community

services in each state and territory.

5.

EDUCATION

The UN convention

says:

States Parties agree

that the education of the child shall be directed to:

  • The development

    of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities

    to their fullest potential;

  • The development

    of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles

    enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;

  • The development

    of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity,

    language and values, for the national values of the country in which

    the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate,

    and for civilisations different from his or her own;

  • The preparation

    of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of

    understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes and friendship among

    all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous

    origin;

  • The development

    of respect for the natural environment.

Article

29(1), Convention on the Rights of the Child

Schools in Australia

have recognised the need for parent participation in the education system

in order to raise the learning outcomes for children and young people

at school.

ADVISER TESTIMONIAL

During the said time

(year 2000) there were no teachers provided by Australasian Correctional

Management (ACM) at the (name of centre) at all. There was no educational

program at (name of centre) in any age range (preschool, infants, primary,

high school or vocational). There was no access to the detainee children

or their parents by any state or federal education providers.

Education Accommodation

and Program

During that same period, a few detainees who were overseas trained

teachers from (language) speaking backgrounds were given access to two

small 'caravan like' portable rooms (approximately seven metres by five

metres). These rooms were in the open area, in full sun during the hot

summer. There was no air conditioning in the rooms and conditions were

cramped with around twenty to thirty children in each room.

There were no educational

curriculum documents provided to these teacher/detainees who were paid

approximately fifty dollars per week to provide these 'classes'. There

were no written program or syllabus documents for the teacher/detainees

to refer to. Classes were provided by the teacher/detainees in the mornings

only, for around three hours maximum.

Culture and First

Language maintenance

There were no bilingual books. There were no classes given to any

child in their first language if it was not (language). English language

learning was only 'ad-hoc', as the teachers were not ESL trained.

There was very little

equipment of any kind proved to the children. There were no toys (eg.

dolls, blocks, sporting equipment and children's games such as skipping

ropes or bat and ball kits. The only such equipment ever seen by the detainee

consulted were two small 'soccer style' balls. These two balls were for

the adults and children to share.

There was a sense

of having to 'beg' for everything.

For example, a child

could get a small notebook and a few colour pencils. But each time that

s-he ran out of paper to draw on s-he had to ask the ACM officer for another

notebook.

Most parents kept

their children in their rooms, partly in response to the extreme heat

both outside, common areas and partly to prevent them from possibly seeing

or hearing anything that might effect them badly or distress or get them

'into trouble' with the ACM officers.

Books that were sighted

at (name of centre) were from (name of town) Local Library (they were

stamped). They were mostly old novels etc rather than anything relevant

to the development, settlement or experiences of the detainees or their

children and young people.

There were no children's

books ever seen in (name of centre) Detention Centre.

5A) THE CO-OPERATIVE'S

POSITION

The barriers to education

being perpetrated by the confines of the detention centre environment

and the control that ACM officers have of children, with a marked lack

of respect for the functional role of parents can be characterised thus:

  • Lack of first

    language and English as a Second Language specialist teachers

  • Non-culturally

    appropriate education, which is developmentally appropriate (due to

    lack of educational assessment of any kind)

  • Lack of programs

    and multicultural content in the Australian context (DIMIA estimates

    that approximately 85% of asylum/refugee claims are proven to be legitimate.

    These children will become permanent residents and likely Australian

    citizens)

  • The ongoing effects

    of continued trauma/torture, that will effect the cognitive, behavioural

    and developmental progress of the learner (the trauma of detention following

    the well documented experiences of what child asylum seekers would most

    likely have experienced such as death, torture, malnutrition, injury

    etc)

  • The destruction

    of the role of the family and parents/carer givers in the support system

    of the child as a learner

The Co-operative

advocates a model that identifies, addresses and respects each individual

child's:

  • Right to education

    that reflects a quality and standard consistent with the child asylum

    seeker/refugee needs and past experiences

  • Right to go to

    a school, whatever else is happening (eg. visa claims etc)

  • Right to have

    teaching staff who are able and encouraged to liaise with the parents

    of that child in the detention centre, regarding his or her educational

    progress through a legitimate program to which parents have access

  • Needs to have

    health issues and personal development modules within the educational

    program framework

  • Need to maintain

    his or her cultural identity with a program that acknowledges that ethnicity

    within it

  • First language

    skills and provides opportunities to both maintain his or her first

    language with resources and bilingual teaching staff, while at the same

    time, providing quality English language teaching syllabus (for which

    Australian teachers are particularly highly skilled to do)

  • Designated religion,

    within the Australian context (with lesson plan and information about

    that religion in Australia) and regular opportunities to practice it

    freely

  • Need to make contact

    with and have information about his or her own ethnic communities in

    Australia

Given that the detention

centres are largely located in isolated locations in remote communities

whose ethnic mix is limited, within the current paradigm, the physical

and technological limitations will always negate the educational needs

of children in detention.

5B) RECOMMENDATIONS:

5.1 Recruit ethnic

community leaders from each group, professional interpreters to meeting

with state education departments and teacher body representatives, where

detention centres are located and develop integration plan for all children

in detention centres as a matter of urgency.

5.2 All children

in immigration detention are enrolled in the local school directly outside

the detention centre immediately following.

5.3 All pre-school

aged children to have access to some form of child care and pre-school

preferably outside the centre but if this is not practicable to have these

facilities within the centre with proper equipment and qualified staff.

6. CULTURE

AND IDENTITY

The UN Convention

says:

In those States

in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities … exist, a child

belonging to such a minority … shall not be denied the right, in

community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her

own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use

his or her own language.

Article

30, Convention on the Rights of the Child

And further:

States Parties

undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity,

including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law

without unlawful interference.

Where a child

is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity,

States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with

a view to re-establishing speedily his or her identity.

Article

8, Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The UN Convention

says about the Right to Identity:

States Parties

undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity,

including nationality, name and family relations as recognised by law

without unlawful interference.

Article

8(1), Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The UN Convention

says about the Restoring cultural normalcy:

The social and

mental well being of all refugees, but particularly of refugee children,

can be most effectively assured by the quick re-establishment of normal

community life.

UNHCR

Guidelines on Protection and Care (1994), ch 2.

ADVISER TESTIMONIAL

There was a meal

of a type of 'Arabic style' rice dish that was given to all detainees

(regardless of ethnic background) once each week. This was the only concession

to the notion of 'culturally appropriate or valuing' food or food preparation

the observer ever saw.

'Our culture is

our routine of sleeping, bathing, dressing, eating and getting to work.

It is our household tasks and actions we perform on the job, the way we

buy goods and services, write and post a letter or in fact any task we

choose to perform on a regular basis. It is also the way we greet our

friends greet a stranger, our child rearing practices and the way we consider

what is good or bad or that which is right or wrong.

All these and

many other ways of thinking, feeling and acting are natural and right

that we may wonder how else such things could be done. But millions of

other people throughout the world, each one of these acts would seem incomprehensible,

or even unnatural or wrong. These people would perform many, if not all,

of these acts, but would perform these in a different way that, to them

(as our ways are to us) seem logical, natural and right.

Culture is not

only just the way we do things. It is also about our attitudes, thoughts,

expectations, goals and values. It is about rules in society-the norms

that inform us about what is, and what is not, acceptable in our society.

We each learn these norms through individuals in our lives and structures

in society that introduce us to the complex world of ideas, values, behaviours

and actions.'

From

training material adapted from Brown, IC (1963) Understanding other cultures,

New Jersey, Englewood Cliffs, p11)

Australia's Multicultural

and Access and Equity Policies are core values upon which the provision

of services are planned, developed and delivered in Australia. That there

is no provision of refugee workers, from relevant ethnic, cultural and

linguistic backgrounds in immigration detention centres, undermines in

the community the value of those core values.

History has shown

that this assistance to refugees in detention centres assists them in

their settlement plans directly before and upon release. When Australia's

detention centres were administered directly by the federal government,

rather that a private company, namely Australasian Correctional Management,

access to health, emotional and educational services were more open to

scrutiny by independent social and ethnic communities' audits, public

accountability and the media.

6A) THE CO-OPERATIVE'S

POSITION

There is no coordination

across government departments to ensure an emphasis on restoring cultural

normalcy to children being held in immigration detention. Australasian

Correctional Management is a privately owned company whose special field

of expertise are prison management, not refugee and asylum seeker services.

The federally funded

social and children's services in the community sector in Australia along

with each state and territory government education, health and welfare

services are already well placed to provide:

  • Co-ordination

    of services which are culturally and linguistically appropriate and

    relevant

  • An independent

    overview of government arrangements, including goals and indicators

There are no cultural

programs in detention centres. Local and ethnic communities and community

organisations are not involved in the maintenance of language, religion

and cultural practices in detention centres.

There are also the

particular ethnic communities who are currently being affected outside

the detention centres by the vilification of their ethnicity (by the vilification

of the refugees and asylum seekers eg. 'illegal migrants', 'terrorist's,

' those people who use their own children to get into Australia illegally').

The impact on those communities is yet unmeasured and research is urgently

needed.

The 'family unit'

is completely negated in both the mandatory detention without regard for

individual needs and the separation of parts of families through the assessment

of claims. Evidence of this denial of parents and carer giver's rights

to 'parent' their children can be characterised by these examples:

  • Inability to

    select and/or prepare their own child's food, including baby food

  • The inability

    of parents to respond to their child's request for more food or drinks

    (other than water) outside the designated 'meal times'

  • The ability of

    ACM guards to prevent a child from going to 'education' sessions as

    a punishment, against the wishes of the parents (adviser testimonial)

  • The lack of recognition

    in the 'parent as cultural teacher' in the life of the child in detention

    and to make their individual culture accepted/available to their children

  • The continued

    isolation, including cultural isolation of children in detention and

    their parents/care givers from their wider community and particularly

    their ethnic community

Based on our decades

of experience with Multicultural policy and it's implementation in a pluralist

society in Australia, we know that children and families are best supported

by having services provided either by or in consultation with members

of their own ethnic communities. This facilitates access and equity, edifies

the child's culture and his or her and the families and ethnic community's

right to maintain it and teach it to their children.

This would be common

knowledge to the Minister, and therefore it is difficult to understand

the motives for this denial of adequate care, especially in the case of

babies and children.

The society in Australia

is structured around this practice and our rights and obligations as a

civil society are well regarded both here and internationally. This strategy

is supported also by the federal Access and Equity policy and includes

these groups in order for it to be effective.

  • Doctors, Health

    professionals

  • Educationists
  • Social/Welfare

    workers

  • Community leaders
  • Volunteers/others

The Co-operative

endorses the Federal Multicultural and Access and Equity Policies and

is directed in our work by the philosophies of both.

The Co-operative

advises that where detainees are not immediately released, that calls

be made to establishing Ethnic Advisory Committees in each state and territory

to conduct a 'cultural and social audit' of the provision of services

and practices on the ground in this mandatory incarceration detention

centres immediately. Reviewing the 'Detention Centre' Standards document

(DIMIA web site) could do this. These Committees will provide the guidance

and transparency that DIMIA and ACM need. Committee members bring ideas,

expertise and knowledge of particular service types (eg. disability etc,

education). They know about previous attempts that have been made to create

and increase ethnic access to particular services, what were the barriers

and can support both ACM staff and the detainees.

We have been nationally

and internationally recognised for our work within this framework and

feel well placed to make the following recommendation to the Inquiry:

6B) RECOMMENDATIONS:

6.1 Establish several

Ethnic Access Advisory Committees for each state or territory's detention

centres and conduct and immediate 'Cultural and Social audit' by reviewing

the provisions, service standards and ACM's adherence to the Detention

Centre Standards. The Ethnic Access Advisory Committees shall apply the

standards of Australia's Multicultural and Access and Equity Policies

to those standards.

6.2 That children

be provided with the full service of those highly developed, culturally

and linguistically appropriate services that are available from within

the wider Australian public, social and community sectors both while in

assessment and then immediate release from detention on an ongoing basis,

for as long as possible.

7 LEGAL

ISSUES

The UN convention

regarding the rights of children to legal representation says:

A legal representative

or a guardian …should be appointed immediately to ensure that the

interests of an applicant for refugee status who is a minor are fully

safeguarded.

UNHCR

Guidelines on Protection and Care, chapter 8

Every child deprived

of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and

other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality

of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent,

independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such

action.

Article

37 (d) Convention on the Rights of the Child

Protecting children

from NESB in Australia are:

  • Care and Protection

    Act,

  • Disability Discrimination

    Act,

  • Racial Vilification

    Act

These Acts protect

the Australian people and the children in our care as a society. The Co-operative

is aware that the Migration Act 1958 does not incorporate any of our discrimination;

vilification, anti-racism, child protection or social justice acts either

state or federal.

7A) THE CO-OPERATIVE'S

POSITION

Following discussions

with Public Interest Advocacy Centre staff, Multicultural Disability Advocacy

Association, The Refugee Council of Australia and the Australian Section

of Defence for Children International, we make the following observations.

If Australia's migration

program was planned within the context of a population program, and removed

from the political arena, better outcomes for both Australia and the asylum

seekers and their children would be more likely.

Using the Migration

Act (with legislative amendments in October 2001) to further induce the

Australian public to vilify certain ethnic groups 'by default' is seriously

damaging both the public image of asylum seekers and the ethnic communities

to which they will likely become a member. It is abhorrent to the Co-operative

and we condemn it as such, Especially in the year of an election and well

into the campaign itself. Furthermore, it is extremely provocative, dangerous

and destructive, seemingly beyond the Minister's understanding of the

Australian people and has diminished his office.

7B) RECOMMENDATIONS:

7.1 That Australian

human rights, social justice, legal centres, children's and human services,

educational and charitable peak bodies demand that all state and federal

discrimination, civil rights and anti vilification laws be incorporated

into the Migration Act.

7.2 That the internationally

recognised legal right and corresponding status of refugees and asylum

seekers reaching Australia's shores (by any means possible) be reinstated

as legitimate under the convention as a matter of urgency, through an

'Asylum Seekers Act' in the federal parliament.

7.3 Mount a legal

challenge to repeal the seven pieces of legislation of October 2001 which

included the so called 'non-migration zones, the Temporary Protection

Visa holders claim to apply for permanent settlement in Australia.

7.4 That a 'whole

of government approach' be applied to the discontinuation of the use of

terms such as 'illegal migrant' and 'queue jumper' immediately through

the Anti Vilification Act.

8.

DETENTION AND THE ALTERNATIVES TO DETENTION

The UN convention

says:

The Australian

Immigration mandatory detention law, governing the detention of children

is contravening the Untied Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 37 (b). Therefore, the mandatory detention of children does not

conform to the international human rights standards on children. In the

view of the UNHCR on a report on the detention of asylum seekers in Europe

in 1995 it said, "The detention of asylum seekers is inherently undesirable".

Furthermore the report said that "freedom from arbitrary detention

is a fundamental human right and the use of detention is contrary to norms

and principles of international law ". (24th November 95, UNCHR)

The limits on

detention of a child should be in accordance with the United Nations Convention

on the Rights of the Child Article 37 (b). The Convention on the rights

of the child sets the international standard which states that detention

of children shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the

shortest appropriate time. Therefore, the Australian law should respect

and uphold the Convention on the Rights of the Child by abolishing the

law on mandatory detention with regard to the children of asylum seekers.

HREOC

Background Papers, Inquiry into Children in Detention in Australia 2002

The legitimate concerns

in detaining children and their families, even in the most positive of

environments, which is clearly not the case in Australia, are that children

continue to be further traumatised by the 'institutionalisation' of their

life. What has now been revealed is that worse, children are being systematically

neglected and virtually tortured by the 'lock up' attitude of the federal

government, implemented by ACM. A grave concern is that refugees, especially

children have already suffered in their own country and must be protected

from further harassment. It is inhumane to add detention to their plight.

For children their continuing detention will further hamper their cognitive,

social and emotional development.

Detention can only

legitimately be used in exceptional circumstances where refugees or asylum

seekers have been identified as acting in a dangerous manner either following

their initial claims in Australia or previously in the country of origin.

The claim that asylum

seekers are 'dishonest' who have travelled on false documents or have

destroyed documents in transit must be exposed to the public of Australia

as a flawed perception. In the context of people who are usually escaping

persecution or perceived persecution or threats of torture or death from

the very authorities who would likely issue their travel and identification

documents. They therefore have a very real concern of being discovered

attempting to leave and therefore preventing them from saving their own

lives and that of their children.

8A) THE CO-OPERATIVE'S

POSITION

The Co-operative

does not support the separation of children from their parents and/or

care givers. The family unit must be strengthened and maintained in order

for the child to learn and grow in ways that are balanced and in keeping

with every childhood theory now practiced and referenced in Australia

today including Department of Community Services.

DOCs and state and

Territory Housing Authorities along with the Ethnic Advisory Committees

for housing with considerations given to the child and his or her family's

language, culture and religious needs. When children and their families

are released into the community, it is the strong and vibrant ethnic communities

themselves who can support the 'new arrivals' through the array of well-established

settlement workers and bilingual workers and the services that sponsor

them.

The Minister for

DIMIA has recently stated that providing settlement services to those

people who have 'flaunted our laws' and 'jumped the queue' (and therefore

displacing more needy people) only services to provide the asylum seekers

and is of no benefit to the Australian community.9 The Co-operative says

that the Minister, with respect, is incorrect in his understanding of

the social service practices that maintain the rights to cultural diversity

and how the community is strengthen by them.

Conversely, the Minister's

and his government's actions in denying settlement services to particular

ethnic groups (the TPV holders are predominantly from a few ethnic/language

groups) even by default, is damaging the:

  • Social justice

    ethic in Australia, based around the race and religious beliefs of the

    current trend in asylum seekers to Australia

  • Respect for the

    rule of law in Australia

  • Respect for government

    as a democratic institution

  • Belief in Australian

    as fair and just society, where those in need will get 'fair go'

The Co-operative

is very concerned about the damage to particular ethnic communities. Whilst

the 'Tampa' and 'Children Overboard' scandals both raged through the media,

it's lack of depth of coverage (due to government imposed restrictions),

something was clearly demonstrated to ethnic commentators and social service

providers. And that is the effect and social consequences of vilifying

of the 'boat people's ethnicity. Ethnic communities concerned, knew the

ethnicity of who were on the boats!

A lack of service

will contribute to the malcontent in the community that the Minister would

do well to arrest by reviewing information on the history of the Multicultural

policies which are available from his own portfolio's web site. The Co-operative

believes that he has lost perspective in using maltreatment and deprivation

of service as a deterrent to asylum seekers. It is divisive and destructive

in the community. The Minister might also look at the negative impact

to his own department's 'Living in Harmony' program and also the negative

impact on the skilled migration program.

8B) RECOMMENDATIONS

8.1 That the 'Alternative

Model' by the Refugee Council of Australia be implemented immediately

as a first step in the restoration of the human rights of the asylum seekers

and a return to ethical and humane treatment of some of the most vulnerable

people.

8.2 That children

and their parents and carers be released into the community for processing

their claims for asylum. This will be with the assistance of the Department

of Community Services and peak community organisations like Barnados,

Centacare, St Vincent's De Paul etc. Supported will also be sought from

the established ethnic and multicultural community services sector and

relevant ethnic groups following the appropriate health and security checks

have been undertaken.

8.3 That the tactic

being implemented by DIMIA, under direction of the Minister, of treating

in inhumane ways, asylum seekers and lawful refugees as a 'tool' to deter

further claimants arriving on the Australian migration zones cease immediately.

This includes the withholding of service both inside detention and following

release under the Temporary Protection Visa as well as practices that

neglect the health and welfare of children and their families claiming

asylum in Australia.

9.

THE LEGAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE FRAMEWORK FOR DEALING WITH CHILD ASYLUM SEEKERS

There does not appear

to be a legal framework that recognises the rights of asylum seeker children

who fall under Australia's jurisdiction (see point 7-legal Issues).

The Co-operative

supports the submission regarding the legal issues and administrative

framework submitted by National Youth and Children's Law Centre in regards

the legality of mandatory detention, for such lengthy periods in detention

centres in Australia. Australia is breaching its obligations in this regard.

9A) CO-OPERATIVE'S

POSITION

Guardianship Of

Children In Detention And After Release For Unaccompanied Minors

The Co-operative

is concerned that the Federal Minister for Immigration, Multicultural,

Indigenous and Multicultural Affairs is the current guardian for children

in detention and even unaccompanied minors after they are released. The

Minister appears to have border protection and the power that the Migration

Act gives his ministry to use amendments to the Act through legislation

to keep claimants out. There is a conflict of interest as the Minister

as the guardian has to enforce the immigration laws which affect the status

and interests of the children and their families.

9B) RECOMMENDATIONS

9.1 That care of

and housing of child asylum seekers be handed directly and forthwith to

the departments of community services in each state and territory.

9.2 That all state

and territories' Children's Protection Acts and their accompanying state

government departments apply in their totality the care and protection

obligations to every child under eighteen in all detention facilities

to which Australia has jurisdiction (off and on shore).

9.3 That each state

Guardianship Board be appointed as the guardian of child asylum seekers

immediately.

FULL LIST

RECOMMENDATIONS

1.1 Mandatory detention

of the children of asylum seekers and their treatment and conditions prevailing

in the detention centres in Australia contravenes Article 3 (1) of the

CRC as the principle of "best interest of the child" is not

considered in decision making, in provision of essential services, resources

for their development and well being.

1.2 The policy of

mandatory detention of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia should

be abolished.

1.3 That asylum seeker

families and/or carers with dependent children be prioritised for assessment

and that all children and their families/carer givers be released into

the community immediately following the most basic health and character

checks, without further mandatory detention of any kind, as a mater of

urgency.

2.1 That children

asylum seekers and their parents and carer givers be afforded the same

level of access to health services, dietary and food that are available

to all other children in Australia -effective immediately.

3.1 The removal of

the exemption of the Migration Act from the Disability Discrimination

Act.

3.2 The incorporation

of international conventions to which Australia is signatory into domestic

law.

3.3 The creation

of a 'Bill of Rights' that is accessible to all people living in Australia.

3.4 That children

with disabilities and their families be further prioritised for immediate

release into the community immediately following the most basic health

and character checks, without further mandatory detention of any kind.

3.5 That Children

with disabilities and their families be given permanent refugee visas

with full access to settlement and disability services since any return

of these asylum seekers or refugees to their place of origin is virtually

impossible.

3.6 The Ethnic Steering/Advisory

Committees in each state and Territory include the Disability Service

Providers from relevant culturally and linguistically diverse communities,

already residing in Australia.

4.1 Children should

be released from detention immediately, together with their parents.

4.2 That unaccompanied

minors be placed in the care and control of the departments of community

services in each state and territory.

5.1 Recruit ethnic

community leaders from each group, professional interpreters to meeting

with state education departments and teacher body representatives, where

detention centres are located and develop integration plan for all children

in detention centres as a matter of urgency.

5.2 All children

in immigration detention are enrolled in the local school directly outside

the detention centre immediately following.

5.3 All pre-school

aged children to have access to some form of child care and pre-school

preferably outside the centre but if this is not practicable to have these

facilities within the centre with proper equipment and qualified staff.

6.1 Establish several

Ethnic Access Advisory Committees for each state or territory's detention

centres and conduct and immediate 'Cultural and Social audit' by reviewing

the provisions, service standards and ACM's adherence to the Detention

Centre Standards. The Ethnic Access Advisory Committees shall apply the

standards of Australia's Multicultural and Access and Equity Policies

to those standards.

6.2 That children

be provided with the full service of those highly developed, culturally

and linguistically appropriate services that are available from within

the wider Australian public, social and community sectors both while in

assessment and then immediate release from detention on an ongoing basis,

for as long as possible.

7.1 That Australian

human rights, social justice, legal centres, children's and human services,

educational and charitable peak bodies demand that all state and federal

discrimination, civil rights and anti vilification laws be incorporated

into the Migration Act.

7.2 That the internationally

recognised legal right and corresponding status of refugees and asylum

seekers reaching Australia's shores (by any means possible) be reinstated

as legitimate under the convention as a matter of urgency, through an

'Asylum Seekers Act' in the federal parliament.

7.3 Mount a legal

challenge to repeal the seven pieces of legislation of October 2001 which

included the so called 'non-migration zones, the Temporary Protection

Visa holders claim to apply for permanent settlement in Australia.

7.4 That a 'whole

of government approach' be applied to the discontinuation of the use of

terms such as 'illegal migrant' and 'queue jumper' immediately through

the Anti Vilification Act.

8.1 That the 'Alternative

Model' by the Refugee Council of Australia be implemented immediately

as a first step in the restoration of the human rights of the asylum seekers

and a return to ethical and humane treatment of some of the most vulnerable

people.

8.2 That children

and their parents and carers be released into the community for processing

their claims for asylum. This will be with the assistance of the Department

of Community Services and peak community organisations like Barnados,

Centacare, St Vincent's De Paul etc. Supported will also be sought from

the established ethnic and multicultural community services sector and

relevant ethnic groups following the appropriate health and security checks

have been undertaken.

8.3 That the tactic

being implemented by DIMIA, under direction of the Minister, of treating

in inhumane ways, asylum seekers and lawful refugees as a 'tool' to deter

further claimants arriving on the Australian migration zones cease immediately.

This includes the withholding of service both inside detention and following

release under the Temporary Protection Visa as well as practices that

neglect the health and welfare of children and their families claiming

asylum in Australia.

9.1 That care of

and housing of child asylum seekers be handed directly and forthwith to

the departments of community services in each state and territory.

9.2 That all state

and territories' Children's Protection Acts and their accompanying state

government departments apply in their totality the care and protection

obligations to every child under eighteen in all detention facilities

to which Australia has jurisdiction (off and on shore).

9.3 That each state

Guardianship Board be appointed as the guardian of child asylum seekers

immediately.

CONCLUSION

'Indifference, to

me, is the epitome of evil. The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.

The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite

of life is not death, it's indifference. Because of indifference, one

dies before one actually dies. To be in the window and watching people

being sent to concentration camps or being attacked in the street and

do nothing, that's being dead.' Elie Weisel, post World War 11

In addition, the

Co-operative supports the use of the document, 'Immigration Detention

Standards, Fundamental Principles: NGO Perspective'10, which provides

humane standards based on monitoring of services and practices for immigration

detention centres that are in keeping with the UN Conventions regarding

human rights and the rights of the children.

REFERENCES

Randa Kattan, Executive

Officer, Australian Arabic Communities Council of NSW Inc Annual General

Meeting reported over 350 physical attacks were reported to the Community

Relations Commission for a Multicultural Society in the four weeks following

11 September 2001.

ABC Foreign Correspondent

broadcast a story regrading the impact that the 'Pacific Solution is having

on the Papua New Guinea government and particularly the current Prime

Minister, where a federal election is scheduled for June 2002

It is well documented

that some (certain) commercial radio broadcasters are a voice for the

right wing, racially based debate referred to.

Margaret Piper,

Executive Director, Refugee Council of Australia, at an interagency meeting,

the Arabic Support Workers Network, Bankstown Library Meeting Room, December

2001

The Co-operative

believes that there is a case for ICAC and the UN to work jointly. This

is evidenced by the continued statements by the DIMIA ministers, that

services are being proved to the detainees that, according to the detainees

themselves and professionals who dare to 'talk' after they have left the

employment of ACM, as just not.

The Ethnic Childcare,

Family and Community Services Co-operative is represented by the Executive

Director, Vivi Germonos-Koutsounadis.

http://www.kidshelp.com.au/research/INFOSHEETS/10DomesticViolence.pdf

Information Sheets on the long term effects of Domestic Violence on Children

Multicultural Disability

Advocacy Association Submission to HREOC into Children in Immigration

Detention

Extract from, 'Time`s

Up' a feature story on insight, SBS Television, reporter: Sarah Ferguson

march 28, 2002

'REPORTER: 17 hours

ago, these three men were behind barbed wire at the Woomera Detention

Centre. They`ve been driven overnight to Dandenong in Victoria. Afghan

volunteer Farooq Mirranay is there to greet them. Mohammed, Sultan and

Hakim are refugees from Afghanistan. Farooq asked them about Woomera.

FAROOQ MIRRANAY, AFGHAN VOLUNTEER (Translation): The people who worked

there...how did they behave?

AFGHAN REFUGEE (Translation): It was worse than Pul-e-Charkhi prison in

Kabul. That had one barbed wire fence, this had two.

REPORTER: In the past, genuine refugees like these would have had a real

chance of settling permanently in Australia. Not anymore. Because they

arrived unlawfully by boat, they`ve been given only temporary visas. These

expire in three years, and the chances of remaining here after that are

not high.

FAROOQ MIRRANAY (Speaking to the three refugees): This is my card with

my mobile number. You take this. Take this, my dear brother. If ever God

forbid, you fall ill in the night, ring me. Or if you have any other problem.

They may need it. As temporary visa holders, they`re not allowed access

to government migrant services. There are now more than 7,000 refugees

in the same position. They get basic benefits, including Medicare. But

it`s supposed to be hard. Migrant resource centres have been instructed

by the Government that if they help any of them, they will lose their

funding. That means no English classes.

PHILIP RUDDOCK, MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION: I say, if what you`re talking

about is English language tuition, that is about, um, delivering a service

which helps somebody in THEIR life. It doesn`t necessarily make our situation

as an Australian community better and more effective.

REPORTER: Now if you create a group of people who can`t fit in, you don`t

help those people fit in, you say "We want you to remain on the outside,"

that can`t help cohesion in society, can it?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Except

the very way in which you preface your question, surmises that what we

should be sending them another message, which is, "You`ve made this

step, you`ve breached our laws, you`ve taken a place from somebody who

has far greater need from it," and what we`re saying is "We

want to embrace you for it." And what I`m saying is, "No, that

embrace is not there."

REPORTER: They`re been released because they`re genuine refugees. But

the clear message - `Not wanted here` has them wary, apprehensive….

'

http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/alternative2.htm

N.B. The document was produced by the Detention Working Group and has

been formally endorsed by the NSW Asylum Seeker's Interagency. Thus it

is not the work of the Refugee Council of Australia. RCOA is, however,

an active member of this group and contributed to the document's contents.

Last

Updated 9 January 2003.