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Submission to the National
Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from
The Australian Nursing Federation
The Australian Nursing
Federation is the peak industrial and professional body representing the
nursing workforce. In Victoria we have in excess of 34,000 members. Further,
ANF (Vic Branch) is affiliated with the Australian Council of Trade Unions
and the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC).
The ANF (Vic Branch),
both through VTHC and individually, has voiced its concern for the plight
of those in immigration detention centres by:
- Regular visits
as part of a VTHC contingent to Maribyrnong Detention Centre to visit
and take gifts to the refugees
- The passing of
a unanimous resolution at the February 2001 Branch Council meeting supporting
VTHC's call for an urgent Federal Government review of the mandatory
detention of refugees seeking asylum
- Numerous articles
in our monthly publication, On the Record, urging nurses to lobby for
a must and humanitarian refugee policy.
The subjects of this
Inquiry Children in Immigration Detention Centres (and their parents)
are seeking refuge under the United Nation's Convention relating to the
Status of Refugees, yet are incarcerated with fewer rights than prisioners.
It is inhumane to
indefinitely imprison people, especially children, who are fleeing due
to a well founded fear of persecution.
The mandatory detention
policy actively harms the health and well being of those seeking protection
from prosecution, and is contrary to the civil rights and freedoms of
children, as articulated by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The results of numerous
studies overwhelmingly demonstrate the serious harm and adverse long term
health effects of imprisonment of adults and children. Such health effects
include both physical and psychological health. Children are more vulnerable
than adults to the conditions under which they live. Their healthy development
is crucial for the future of any society.
The policy of detaining
refugee families is contrary to the Health for All principles of the Ottowa
Charter and other binding conventions.
Australia is a signatory
to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Yet in Australia, some
children are denied these rights because they are considered to be refugees,
Solution" of establishing detention centres in Papua New Guinea and
Nauru is the antithesis of good public health policy as:
- The refugees
are being exposed to new tropical diseases
- The health status
in some of these communities is extremely poor and local health systems
are unable to cope with local health problems, let alone these additional
- It is remarkably
expensive for the Australian tax payer
Refugees can be speedily
processed for health and security reasons in Welcome Centres (as in New
Zealand) not in detention centres
The ANF (Vic Branch),
as an organisation representing nurses, is particularly concerned about
the health status of these children. ANF (Vic Branch) recognises that
health is far more than the absence of disease, and has a view that there
are numerous social determinants of health, including adequate income,
housing, employment, transport and education.
While such determinants
are largely outside the health care sector, children in detention centres,
at a minimum, require programs that are family centred and address the
health impacts resulting from their social and cultural dislocation, and
the traumatic and violent experiences they may have suffered or witnessed
in their homeland, en route to Australia and indeed, since their arrival
at a detention centre.
Such programs must
provide at the very least screenings that are available as a matter of
course within the general Australian community. Similarly, education of
a level and standard equivalent to what may be reasonably expected within
the general community needs to be made available to these children and
ANF (Victorian Branch)
regards the continued detention of these children and their families as
a shameful act which damages our national psyche, and leaves citizens
feeling demoralised and disenfranchised, as decisions to detain these
children and their parents is contrary to our national belief in fairness
Updated 9 January 2003.