A last resort?
National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention
The Inquiry received 346 submissions, including 64 confidential
submissions. Detailed information was provided by organisations representing
detainees, human rights and legal bodies, members of the public, religious
bodies, state government agencies and a range of non-government policy
and service-providing organisations.
Visits to immigration detention centres
Inquiry staff visited all immigration detention facilities
in Australia between January 2002 and December 2002, including three visits
to Woomera. During each visit, Inquiry staff conducted a tour of the facility,
spoke with detention centre staff and interviewed all families and children
who wished to talk about their experiences. The Inquiry conducted a total
of 112 interviews with children and their parents, on the understanding
that their identity would be protected.
During 2002, the Inquiry held 29 focus groups with over 200
children, parents and other former detainees now living in Sydney, Melbourne,
Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane on temporary protection visas. These focus
groups were also conducted on the understanding that the identity of the
participants would be protected in order to allow them to talk freely
about their experiences.
Between May and August 2002, the Inquiry held public hearings
in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane to allow members of
the community, state government agencies, non-government organisations
and former ACM staff, amongst others, to provide further information to
the Inquiry. The Inquiry held 61 public sessions (105 witnesses) and 24
confidential sessions (50 witnesses). Nine of the witnesses in confidential
hearings (seven sessions) later agreed to make their evidence public.
Evidence from the Department and ACM
The Inquiry received a series of documents from the Department
and ACM throughout 2002 in response to requests and legal 'Notices to
Produce' issued by the Inquiry. The Department also provided a written
submission in May 2002.
In December 2002, the Inquiry heard oral evidence from the
Department and ACM on various issues, including:
- how unaccompanied children are cared for in detention
- how families with deteriorating mental health are assessed
and helped in detention centres
- the provision of education in detention facilities
- the provision of services to families with disabilities
- how compliance with human rights standards is monitored
in detention centres.
After these hearings, the Inquiry wrote a draft report containing
initial factual findings and a preliminary view as to whether there were
breaches of children's rights. In accordance with the principles of natural
justice, a copy of the draft report was provided to the Department and
ACM, allowing them to respond to the Inquiry's findings and to provide
further evidence and submissions. ACM requested the opportunity to make
oral submissions and these were heard in September 2003.
A second draft was provided to both the Department and ACM
for further comment. After the Inquiry received their second round of
responses, the final report was completed. The Department and ACM were
given a final opportunity to inform the Inquiry about what actions they
were taking in response to the final findings and recommendations.