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Submission to National Inquiry

into Children in Immigration Detention from

the National Council of Women

of Australia


rights and the rights of the child


and Nutrition


and accommodation of disabilities


and social well being



The National Council

of Women of Australia is a voluntary organisation working for the advancement

of women through a vast network of affiliated organisations & individual


The national council

is comprised of state councils which have individual members and affiliated

organisations. In total the membership comprises over three million women.


rights and the rights of the child:

It is paramount that

the best interests of the child is considered. The child is entitled to

nurture and protection within the family unit.

The council expresses

concern at the suggestion that children are to be separated from parents

and other family members and removed from the centres to be placed in

foster care. Whilst this move would remove the child from the oppressive

atmosphere of detention in a camp it would remove the child from the family

unit and in most cases from the care of the mother.

Consideration should

be given to containing the family unit. The child's right to play must

also be acknowledged.

Long term research

has established the essential roll of play in the child's physical, emotional

and social development.Australia is a leader in research and development

of opportunities for play. Throughout Australia in cities and country

towns innovative parks and play areas have been developed for children.Play

therapy programs are established in hospitals, special education centres,

preschool, day-care centres and schools.

Children in detention

centres have few play facilities.

Immediate attention

is needed to aspects of play situations available to children in detention

centres.Many children have experienced great trauma in the period of their

short lives. The value of play and emotional expression through music

and art is well known and yet it is apparent that such experiences are

denied children in detention centres.


and Nutrition:

The council expresses

concern at the level of nutrition advice to catering staff employed by

the operators of detention centres.

Most children in

detention centres have arrived in Australia from war torn areas of the

world, where access to nutritious food is limited and at times non existence.Mothers

during pregnancy have had limited access to nutritious food.

The establishment

of nutritious patterns of food and drink consumption is essential to the

development and growth of the child. It is a basic right of the child

to have access to adequate and nutritious food appropriate to its culture

and to a diet which will encourage growth and well being.

The council also

questions access to health services and in particular child health examinations

readily available to children in Australia. The value of regular health

examinations is established as a preventative measure and an established

practice in child health.Early testing of eye sight,hearing and for disabilities

ensures that the child has access to the best possible care and attention.

Refugee children in detention centres are unlikely to have had adequate

health care in their home country due to the unavailability of services,

medical staff and facilities. It is imperative that children in detention

centres have access to adequate health care.


and accommodation of disabilities:

The physical environment

of the detention centre must cater for children with disabilities including

mobility, hearing, sight impairment.

Adequate health care

by specialists in disability areas should be available.The remoteness

of several detention centres hampers access to such care. Parents require

support and advise.

The council has been

unable to find factual information that establishes this care is available

to children in detention centres.


and social well being:

The compounding problems

developing from lack of acknowledgement of the psychological effects of

trauma, life in war torn areas, transportation to Australia and detention

in a prison like environment will result in further pain and suffering.

Whilst the council

acknowledges that those in detention centres have entered the country

illegally, the children are the victims of the actions of parents and

other adults and cannot be held responsible for the actions of their parents.

In many cases parents and family members have acted in the best interests

of the child to remove them from situations of war and deprivation.

Australia now has

a responsibility to ensure that these children have every consideration

which will allow them to grow into healthy, happy teenagers and adults,

worthwhile and contributing citizens of this country or their home country

should they return to their home land.

It is reported that

there are unaccompanied children in detention centres. Immediate efforts

should be made to connect these children with family members either in

Australia or in their home land and unite these children with family members

capable of caring for the child.


The lives of these

children have been already disrupted in ways most children fortunately

will never experience. In most cases formal education has not been established

in the pattern of their lives. The child's right to education that will

equip the child for adulthood and a productive life style is an accepted

and enforceable practice in Australia. Effective education within detention

centres must be sensitive to cultural and language requirements and to

the level of the child's development. Specialist educators will be required

to provide the level of education required by the child detainees.



The National Council

of Women of Australia recognises the difficulties faced by the government

coping with the influx of boat people and other illegal immigrants and

that it has an obligation to those legitimate applicants for immigration

to Australia.

The council also

recognises that children are perhaps used a tools to gain attention and

publicity by some illegal immigrants and those sponsoring illegal immigration.

The sensational reporting by the Australian Press has fuelled this practice.

The council expresses

deep concern that the problems of children in detention centres has not

been fully addressed.

National Council

of Women of Australia thanks the Human Rights Commissioner for conducting

this enquiry and for the opportunity to express the council's concerns

and will monitor the results of the enquiry.

This submission was

prepared with the assistance of:

Judith A. Parker,

President 12/3/02

National Adviser for Immigration and the Coordinator for Social Issues

Council of Women of Australia
Ist Floor

6A Thesiger Court Deakin ACT 2600

Phone 02 6285 2337 fax 02 6285 2652




Updated 9 January 2003.