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Commission Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

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Submission to the National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from

The Australian Nursing Federation

(Vic Branch)

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,

not children.

The "Pacific

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

their parents.

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

and equity.


Updated 9 January 2003.