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Report on the Human Rights Commissioner's Visit to Curtin IRPC in July 2000

Report on the

Human Rights Commissioner's Visit to Curtin IRPC in July 2000


Saturday 29 July 2000 the then Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Chris Sidoti,

assisted by a consultant, Dr Mary Crock, Senior Lecturer in Law at Sydney

University, visited the Curtin Immigration Reception and Processing Centre

outside Derby in the Kimberley region of WA. They made observations and

obtained information about accommodation, programs and services, and particulars

about the conditions and treatment of detainees. This report documents

Commissioner Sidoti's observations and the information he obtained with

Dr Crock's assistance.


the Commissioner's 1998-99 detailed review of the four then-existing centres,

the Commissioner's objective at Curtin was to see the facilities for himself

and to signal to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

the Commission's continuing interest in conditions and treatment. It was

a spot-check and not a detailed investigation.


Curtin the Commissioner interviewed, in private, a group of six detainees

(the detainees' consultative committee whose members are selected by ACM

management) but the time available did not permit him to interview other

detainees at the centre. He was also briefed in detail by the DIMA Manager,

Mr Greg Wallace, and the ACM Manager, Mr Grant Chapman. The Commissioner

also toured the centre to inspect the sleeping, bathroom, recreation,

education and dining facilities and spoke briefly with some members of

staff. Ms Phillipa Godwin, First Assistant Secretary in DIMA's Border

Control and Compliance Division accompanied Commissioner Sidoti and Dr



late July Commissioner Sidoti and Dr Crock received information from former

Curtin detainees and former ACM employees at Curtin IRPC, which is also

included in this report.


report describes and comments upon the information obtained and the facilities

observed. The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs has

been provided with an opportunity to comment on the report and submitted

a response on

15 December 2000.


addition, during his visit to WA the Commissioner received specific allegations

he considered should be dealt with as complaints. These matters were referred

to the Commission's Complaint Handling Section. The Commission treats

complaints confidentially during investigations and conciliations and

therefore the information provided by complainants is not included in

this report.


its inspections of immigration detention centres, the Commission compares

the treatment and conditions observed with international minimum human

rights standards. These standards have been summarised and collated for

Australian IDC conditions in the Commission's Immigration

Detention Guidelines (March 2000) .


1. Introduction

2. Summary


Facilities, Conditions and Treatment at Curtin


Information for Detainees


Legal Assistance and Advice


Other Outside Contacts


Children in Detention




Security and Discipline


Complaints and Consultation Arrangements




Physical and Mental Health




Recreation and Work


Religion and Culture



Commission has a long-standing interest in the issue of the mandatory

detention of unauthorised arrivals in Australia - that is, people who

arrive without valid travel documents. Following the release of the May

1998 report Those

who've come across the seas: detention of unauthorised arrivals, the

Commission has published two further reports. The first - Immigration

Detention: Human Rights Commissioner's 1998-99 Review - surveyed the

major immigration detention centres following their privatisation. The

second dealt with a specific complaint of treatment in the detention centre

in Perth (HRC

Report No 10: Report of an Inquiry into a Complaint of Acts or Practices

Inconsistent with or Contrary to Human Rights in an Immigration Detention

Centre, June 2000).


Commission maintains the view expressed in its 1998 report that the laws

and policies mandating the detention of all but a small minority of unauthorised

arrivals contravenes Australia's obligations under the International Covenant

on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

However, while that policy is retained, the Commission continues to monitor

and report on the treatment of detainees and the conditions of their detention

both by receiving, investigating and attempting to conciliate individual

complaints and by making regular inspection visits to all centres.


human rights of asylum seekers held in detention are recognised at international

law in a number of treaties. Most importantly, ICCPR article 7 provides

that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading

treatment or punishment." Article 10 stipulates: "All persons deprived

of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the

inherent dignity of the human person."


Detention Centres must ensure that detainees are treated in such a way

as to satisfy international standards. The responsibility of ensuring

compliance with these standards lies with the Australian Government through

the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA).


March 2000 the Commission published its Immigration

Detention Guidelines which collate relevant international minimum

standards and set out the minimum requirements that have to be met for

Australia to be acting in accordance with its international human rights

obligations. Throughout this report, reference to section numbers is to

the principles outlined in the Guidelines.


1999 the influx of boat people from the Middle East

led to the re-commissioning of a facility at Curtin Airbase near Derby

in Western Australia (September 1999) and the commissioning of a new detention

centre at Woomera in South Australia (November 1999). Both centres are

managed and operated by Australasian Correctional Management (ACM), the

same operator/provider responsible for the other immigration detention

centres at Port Hedland and Perth in WA, Villawood in Sydney and Maribyrnong

in Melbourne. ACM is contracted by DIMA, the responsible Commonwealth

department, which remains ultimately responsible for any violations of

detainees' human rights.




the date of the Commission's visit in late July 2000 the physical conditions

at the Curtin IRPC were of an acceptable standard in many of the areas

identified. However, some aspects of the operation of the centre were

of concern.


points of note are:

  • the

    many improvements to the comfort, utility and aesthetics of the centre

    comparative to the conditions around the time of re-commissioning in


  • the

    employment of detainees in the preparation of culturally appropriate


  • the

    efforts made by ACM managers and staff to build links with the community

    in Derby in the interests of the detainees

  • the

    institution of outings for children to play volleyball in Derby

  • the

    moves being made to secure two computers as part of the education and

    training offered to detainees although these had not yet arrived at

    the time of the Commission's visit

  • the

    existence of a detainee/ACM consultative committee

  • improved

    access to phone lines to facilitate access to lawyers, advisers and

    families outside the centre.


Commission notes the logistical and other difficulties associated with

setting up new facilities to cope with the sudden influx of detainees

that occurred in 1999. Nevertheless, substantial problems persist that

cannot be explained solely by pressures of time and numbers, in particular:

  • The

    continued refusal to advise new arrivals of their right to request legal

    assistance (Immigration Detention Guidelines section 2.1).

  • The

    alleged failure to provide legal assistance upon request to some individuals

    who have been 'screened in' to the asylum application process (Guidelines

    section 4.4).

  • The

    inappropriateness of the detention environment for children.

  • The

    practice of referring to detainees predominantly by number rather than

    by their given or proper names.

  • The

    inadequacy of clothing and bedding provided to detainees (Guidelines

    sections 9.1, 9.5 and 9.6).

  • The

    inadequacy of phone lines and of access for lawyers and others needing

    to contact detainees (Guidelines sections 3.6 and 4.1).

  • Concerns

    about access to health services, with particular concerns expressed

    about the availability of dental and ophthalmology services (Guidelines

    Part 13).




Information for Detainees



should receive information, in a language and format they can understand,

about the reasons for their detention and their rights and obligations

in detention. This should be provided as soon as possible upon their reception

into detention (Guidelines section 2.1). Detainees' rights include

the right to request legal assistance and to complain to the Commonwealth

Ombudsman and the Commission. They must, therefore, be advised promptly

of these rights (Guidelines section 2.2).


13 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under

Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states: "Any person shall, at

the moment of arrest and at the commencement of detention or imprisonment,

or promptly thereafter, be provided by the authority responsible for his

arrest, detention or imprisonment, respectively with information on and

an explanation of his rights and how to avail himself of such rights".


at Curtin IRPC


detainees' consultative committee commented on the improvements that had

been made at the centre and asked that the Commission record their appreciation

to DIMA and ACM. The one area of common complaint related to the provision

of information. All agreed that the length of time taken to process their

claims created pressures and that few people in the camp understood what

was happening. One detainee stated, "We don't know why people are being

accepted or rejected. We would like to know why. They are keeping us in

the dark (so that) we don't know our destiny". He complained that one

detainee had been detained for 10 months and had then been rejected and

that there seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to who was accepted and

who was rejected.


should engage in more effective dialogue with the detainees so as to inform

them of the processes involved in determining refugee claims in Australia.

The detainees are effective networkers within the centre. Where communication

with the management is inadequate, there would appear to be a real and

foreseeable danger of shared and repeated misunderstandings occurring

within the detainee population.

3.2 Legal

Assistance and Advice



combination Principles 17, 18 and 32 of the Body of Principles for

the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment

specify that the following requirements should be met in relation to the

legal assistance available to detainees.

  • Detainees

    are to be informed of their right to legal assistance promptly after

    being taken into detention.

  • Detainees

    are to be given adequate time and facilities for consultation with

    their legal counsel.

  • Detainees

    are to be allowed to communicate with their legal counsel in full

    confidentiality, unless exceptional circumstances exist.

  • Where

    a detainee does not have sufficient means to afford legal assistance,

    he or she is entitled to be assigned legal assistance when the interests

    of justice so require.

  • Communications

    between detainees and their legal counsel are to be inadmissible as

    evidence unless they are connected with a continuing or completed



at Curtin IRPC


to the DIMA Manager, of the 830 detainees at Curtin at the time of the

Commission's visit in July 2000, all but 25 had been 'screened in' to

the refugee determination process. The remaining 25 were being held in

a compound separated by two wire fences screened with tarpaulins. They

had been interviewed by DIMA officers but had not been given access to

legal assistance. The Manager stated that none of the 25 had requested

legal assistance.


his 1998-99 Review the Human Rights Commissioner wrote:


Act 1958 (Cth) section 256 requires the provision of legal assistance

upon request. Section 193 requires all detainees to be notified of their

right to make such a request with the exception of those who have arrived

unlawfully by boat or plane (ie without a valid visa). In their case

the Act does not require the authorities to notify the detainee of the

right to make such a request. The Department's position is that the

legislation prevents its officers notifying unauthorised arrivals of

their rights. In the Commission's view, it does not.The

Government's position is that the effect of the legislation is consistent

with international law. In the Commission's view, it is not.


Commission's view is that this situation is wrong in law and principle.

Article 9.4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

(ICCPR) requires that all detainees have an opportunity to challenge

their detention in a court of law. Article 14.1 requires the court to

be "competent, independent and impartial" and the hearing to be "fair

and public". 'Fairness' must at least require that the individual have

an opportunity to present his or her case effectively by reference to

Australian law and in accordance with Australian procedures. For unauthorised

arrivals with little or no understanding of Australia's Migration Act

and, typically, very little English language comprehension, effective

presentation requires the assistance of an independent advocate with

expertise in migration and refugee law. In other words, compliance with

ICCPR articles 9.4 and 14.1 requires that detainees have ready access

to independent legal advice and assistance.


July 2000 the UN Human Rights Committee observed with respect to Australia's



Committee considers that the mandatory detention under the Migration

Act of 'unlawful non-citizens', including asylum seekers, raises questions

of compliance with article 9, paragraph 1, of the Covenant, which provides

that no person shall be subjected to arbitrary detention. The Committee

is concerned at the State party's policy, in this context of mandatory

detention, of not informing the detainees of their right to seek legal

advice and of not allowing access of non-governmental human rights organizations

to the detainees in order to inform them of this right.


Committee recommended as follows:


Committee urges the State party to reconsider its policy of mandatory

detention of 'unlawful non-citizens' with a view to instituting alternative

mechanisms of maintaining an orderly immigration process. The Committee

recommends that the State party inform all detainees of their legal

rights, including their right to seek legal counsel. [1]


to provide legal advice on request not only violates international minimum

human rights standards but also Australian law (Migration Act 1958

section 256).

3.3 Other

Outside Contacts



significance of contacts with the outside world and in particular with

family and friends is expressly recognised in Principle 19 of the Body

of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention

or Imprisonment which provides: "A detained or imprisoned person shall

have the right to be visited by and to correspond with, in particular,

members of his family and shall be given adequate opportunity to communicate

with the outside world, subject to reasonable conditions and restrictions

as specified in law or lawful regulations". Immigration detention centres

should have effective policies that allow detainees to have contact with

family and friends outside detention while still maintaining detention

security. At least weekly contact should be permitted (Guidelines

section 4.1).


at Curtin IRPC


a lengthy period in which all detainees were unable to make contact with

the outside world - either within Australia or overseas - there are now

four telephones at the centre, one for incoming calls and three for outgoing

calls. Detainees are not provided with newspapers although televisions

and videos are available. Although a very significant improvement on the

earlier situation, the number of telephones remains inadequate for a centre

with over 800 detainees.

3.4 Children

in Detention



are recognised at international law as being vulnerable and more susceptible

to harm than adults. Accordingly, article 3(1) of the Convention on

the Rights of the Child (CROC) requires that, in any action concerning

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

CROC further stipulates that

  • the

    detention of a child must be in conformity with the law and only be

    used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period

    of time (article 37(b))

  • a

    child is not to be separated from his or her parents against their will,

    except where this is in the child's best interests (article 9), and

    the legal rights and responsibilities of parents are to be respected

    (article 5)

  • the

    State Party must undertake all appropriate measures to promote physical

    and psychological recovery for child victims of neglect, exploitation,

    torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or

    punishment (article 39).


seeker children are to receive "appropriate protection and humanitarian

assistance in the enjoyment of their [CROC and other human rights]" (article



at Curtin IRPC


the time of the Commission's visit in July 2000 there were 128 children

in the centre. Centre staff appeared to be doing whatever they could to

assist the children in the detention environment. However, the basic problem

is detention itself. The Commission is concerned that so many children

should be detained in a centre as remote as Curtin IRPC where there is

a large contingent of single male detainees, many of whom have themselves

been the subject of continuing stress, deprivation and trauma. The alleged

commission of sex offences against two child detainees is indicative of

the perils inherent in the centre arrangements.


of sexual abuse of children


Commission was informed that charges of sexual abuse of two children at

Curtin have been laid against two male detainees. The DIMA Manager reported

that the incident had prompted the management to institute education programs

for detainees on matters relating to child sex offences under Australian

law. Staff at the centre have also been counselled about the need for

vigilance on behalf of detained children. Without commenting on those

charges, the Commission is concerned that the detention environment places

children at risk of sexual and physical abuse.




Curtin IRPC there is no playground although there is a table tennis table

and video. A demountable was reserved for the use of women and children

at the time of the Commission's visit. The Commission was informed that

this had been found necessary as the male detainees refused to allow the

women and children into the general television area.


Commission was provided with a timetable detailing the recreational and

educational programs at the centre. The Commission was informed that the

centre had instituted excursions to Derby for the child detainees. When

pressed the DIMA Manager explained that nine children had been taken to

play volleyball at Derby during the week preceding the Commission's visit.

The Commission was told that moves to allow the children to swim in the

Derby swimming pool had met with resistance from local residents.

3.5 Staffing



able to work with detainees is more than simply a case of being able to

tolerate an isolated environment. It requires special skills to assist

highly emotional, confused and traumatised people in a sensitive and caring

way. A sensitive approach is especially required in the case of victims

of torture or other serious human rights abuses. Principle 2 of the Body

of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention

or Imprisonment requires that detention be managed "by competent officials

or persons authorised for that purpose". Staff at immigration detention

centres need to be appropriately qualified and trained to interact with

administrative detainees (that is, people who have not been sentenced

for any crime) (Guidelines section 16.2).


at Curtin IRPC


detainees' consultative committee interviewed by the Commission offered

no criticisms of staffing at Curtin, although all agreed that all aspects

of the centre were "much improved" since the early days of their detention.

The ACM Manager informed the Commission that every one of the guards at

Curtin undertakes a course in critical incident management during orientation.

However, a health professional who had worked at Curtin IRPC described

the Curtin staff as having an 'us and them' approach to detainees and

showing no indication of sympathy for the situation of their charges.


Commission accepts that the necessary haste in establishing Curtin in

1999 led to staff placed there not being adequately trained. However,

with the immediate pressure eased, intensive training for staff remains

a necessary priority.

3.6 Security

and Discipline



degree of security and discipline is required to ensure an appropriate

standard of behaviour and the maintenance of civil order in any detention

facility. However, it is essential that any security measures and disciplinary

action be conducted in a respectful and humane manner. ICCPR article 10

requires that all detainees must be "treated with humanity and with respect

for the inherent dignity of the human person". Torture and other cruel,

inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment are outlawed (article 7).


right to privacy is also relevant to security. Interference with detainees'

privacy must not be unlawful or arbitrary (article 17).


detained person should be given the right to be heard before any disciplinary

action is implemented. Principle 30(2) Body of Principles for the Protection

of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment stipulates:

"A detained or imprisoned person shall have the right to be heard before

disciplinary action is taken. He shall have the right to bring such action

to higher authorities for review."


action must never, under any circumstances, involve the use of force that

is disproportionate to the action that it seeks to correct (the issue

of Use of Force is discussed below).


at Curtin IRPC


a tour of the centre the Commission was shown the facilities for isolating

and observing detainees. The section is referred to as 'Hotel' [2]

and is constituted by a row of demountable buildings that are air-conditioned

but otherwise empty, sealed units with a single uncurtained window. The

DIMA Manager stated that the rooms were used for anyone "undermining the

good order of the centre", as "timeout" for the protagonists of an unresolved

fight. He said that the rooms were used for the least amount of time possible.

For example, people returned to the centre from prison after escaping

in June 2000 were held in these rooms for two days, with the first day

used as a debriefing period and the second with the detainee allowed back

into the camp community under close supervision of the staff. The DIMA

Manager suggested that detainees sometimes requested time in the 'Hotel'



practice at the centre is for ACM staff to call detainees by number rather

than by name. Centre managers gave the following reasons for this practice:

the detainees all had similar names; they were difficult to pronounce;

they changed their names. The Commission considers that there is no practical

reason why detainees cannot be called by the name of their choice. This

does not prevent numbers being used as identifiers in a broad administrative

context, for example, as part of the refugee determination process.

3.7 Complaints

and Consultation Arrangements



effective complaint resolution mechanism must be in place to ensure that

detainees' complaints are treated seriously and confidentially. This is

recognised in Principle 33 of the Body of Principles for the Protection

of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment which provides

that detainees should be entitled to complain about their treatment to

the detention authorities and to higher authorities. Australian law entitles

immigration detainees to complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Commission.


at Curtin IRPC


ACM Manager advised the Commission that the detainees' consultative committee

members were chosen by management without consultation with detainees.

None of the members spoke English with sufficient confidence to speak

without an interpreter.


group stated that it served as a mechanism for dialogue with centre management

and that it met every three to four weeks. The group stated that they

had no real complaints about the centre as it now operates. This committee

had been selected some three weeks prior to the Commission's visit.


Commission did not observe copies of its posters or those of the Commonwealth

Ombudsman on display in the centre. However, the detainees in the main

compounds seemed to have a good idea about the identity of the Human Rights

Commissioner and about the purpose of his visit.

3.8 Accommodation,

Food and Clothing



food and clothing for detainees must "meet the requirements of health

and human dignity" (Guidelines section 9.1). Detainees must not

be exposed to the elements and must not be expected to endure extremes

of heat or cold. Detention centres should strive to allow some privacy,

especially during ablutions (Guidelines section 9.7).


at Curtin IRPC


All detainees interviewed complained that the original accommodation was

uncomfortable and inadequate. The accommodation during the first six weeks

was in tents, with poor ablution and other facilities.


at the centre have improved dramatically in the intervening months. Detainees

are now housed in demountable buildings, referred to as 'dongas'. Most

are air-conditioned, with 16 people to a unit. No separate accommodation

is available for women and children, although family groups are housed

together. The detainees' consultative committee stated that there were

no serious complaints, although the bedding supplied was inadequate on

the colder winter nights.



ablution facilities provided when the centre was first recommissioned

were criticised by detainees. The Commission was told that, at that time,

the toilets and showers leaked and that the camp was cut by flows of sewage

that both smelled bad and attracted swarms of flies and mosquitoes.


July 2000 the demountables fitted out as shower and toilet blocks were

generally adequate. The Commission was told that ACM faced difficulties

because of the cultural differences in the toilet and bathing habits of

the detainees, which led to frequent flooding of the facilities. The Commission's

observation was that the demountable buildings were not well drained,

with evidence of water flowing out from the shower and outlet areas. More

importantly, they did not appear to be adequate for the high level use

demanded of them.



detainees all complained about the quality and quantity of food in the

period before about May 2000. By the date of the Commission's visit in

July 2000, however, attempts were being made to provide culturally appropriate

food for all detainees. Detainees were doing most of the cooking.


Commission inspected the kitchen and mess area while a meal was in preparation.

It was informed that detainees have a choice of vegetarian or meat dishes

and that Halal meat is used for Muslim detainees. The preparation areas

appeared to be clean and well organised.



Curtin IRPC now has a demountable set aside as a sewing room. The Commission

was shown piles of cotton clothing, including children's clothing and

adult sized shirts made by the detainees. The DIMA Manager stated that

detainees were free to come to the building and ask for clothing as needed.


account is somewhat at odds with that of detainees interviewed. The detainees'

consultative committee stated that families with children were permitted

new clothes for their children every two months but complained that the

clothing provided was made from a thin cotton fabric inadequate for the

cold weather sometimes experienced. They stated that they occasionally

received clothes from Islamic charities but that the supply was irregular

and they were told to "be patient".

3.9 Physical

and Mental Health



detainees are entitled to medical treatment and care provided in a manner

that is culturally appropriate and which respects the inherent dignity

of the human person. That treatment and care should be commensurate with

that provided in the general Australian community (Guidelines section



who have experienced traumatic circumstances prior to detention often

require extensive medical treatment, both of a mental and physical nature.

This need is intensified by the fact that being in detention can itself

heighten such problems. Accordingly, Principle 24 of the Body of Principles

requires that a proper medical examination be offered to a detained person

as promptly as possible after his or her admission to detention. Further,

subject to requirements to ensure security, detainees should also be given

the opportunity of seeking a second medical opinion where this is desired

(Principle 25).


at Curtin IRPC


in other areas, the medical facilities and treatment at Curtin IRPC in

July appeared to be a vast improvement over the situation in place earlier

in the year. These improvements are very welcome.


IRPC now has one full time doctor on site, who is on site five days a

week and on call after hours. There are 12 nurses on staff providing a

24-hour clinic. The nursing staff includes individuals with expertise

in all the major areas: pediatrics, psychiatry, gynaecology and general

medicine. The centre also makes use of the regional hospital at Derby.

On at least one occasion a detainee has been flown to Port Hedland for

a CAT scan and surgical cases have been transferred to Perth. The centre

has been assisted in such transfers by the Royal Flying Doctor Service

that has an operational centre in Derby.


DIMA Manager responded to concerns he said had been raised about over-servicing

of the detainees. He said this perception might arise because of the past

practice of rotating doctors, which sometimes led to a series of doctors

seeing and treating patients.


Commission inquired about a child detainee who presented at the centre

with a clubfoot. The Manager stated that an orthopedic surgeon had assessed

the child but that treatment was a long-term project that was pointless

to initiate while the child was in detention and that the treatment was

not needed urgently. He said that the child would have been treated if

the advice was that treatment was urgently required and that every effort

was being made to expedite the processing of the claims made by the child's

parents but that delays were being experienced from overseas.


asked about the use of chemical restraints on detainees, the mental health

professionals interviewed stated that they were not aware of any instances

of inappropriate use of such restraints, although they were aware that

the centre had a good supply of sedative drugs.


consultative committee stated that access to medical care at the centre

was generally adequate in July 2000, except in the two areas of dental

and eye care. One detainee complained that a detainee who complains of

toothache is given the choice of either having the tooth extracted free

of charge or paying for a filling. The detainee stated that he knew of

a man who had paid $100 to have two teeth filled. He said that for many

detainees the only option is to have the tooth pulled out. The detainee

stated that while the centre would test the vision of detainees it would

not provide glasses unless the detainee could pay for them.

3.10 Education



right to education is recognised at international law as a fundamental

right of all people. Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic,

Social and Cultural Rights requires States Parties to direct education

to "the full development of the human personality and the sense of its

dignity". However, the provision of proper education is especially critical

for children. CROC article 28(1) requires States Parties to:

  • make

    primary education compulsory and available free to all, and

  • encourage

    the development of different forms of secondary education, including

    general and vocational education, make them available and accessible

    to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction

    of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need.


accordance with this requirement, children in immigration detention centres

are entitled to be provided with education to assist in their educational

and social development. They are not to be denied this right merely because

they are in detention and isolated from traditional forms of schooling.


at Curtin IRPC


management at Curtin now provides educational programs for both adult

and child detainees. The children have school for 5 days each week, from

8.30am - 3pm. The programs focus on English, mathematics and self esteem.

Adult classes run from 3 - 7pm. The schedule of classes includes computer

classes from 3 - 4pm and English language and communication classes from

4 - 6pm. Formal language classes are given by three qualified teachers

on ACM staff and nine detainees and some visiting students, with 16 classes

of one hour's duration each, seven days a week. The Manager stated that

an average of 71 students attended each day of a total of 380 adults undertaking

educational programs. He said that computer training was to be provided

by detainees with experience as computer programmers. Staff informed the

Commission that two computers were on order from Derby but that they had

not yet arrived at the centre. Accordingly, the Commission understood

that the reference to computer classes was to classes envisaged to commence

once the computers arrived.


the time of the Commission's visit there were 128 children in the centre.

The educational arrangements for them appeared to be basic but adequate

provided the period in detention is short. The Commission was provided

with a timetable detailing the recreational and educational programs at

the centre described above. The teachers observed during the Commission's

visit appeared enthusiastic.


detainees' consultative committee expressed no major complaints about

the teaching schedule, although one detainee stated that older children

were disadvantaged as they fitted comfortably into neither the children's

nor the adults' program. The detainee stated that these children felt

that they were "losing a year of their life". The group stated that the

present programs had been put in place over the three months preceding

the Commission's visit.

3.11 Recreation

and Work



detainees should have the facilities to utilise their time constructively.

The isolation, conditions and indeterminate nature of immigration detention

are such as to jeopardise the already precarious physical well-being and

mental health of many detainees. Boredom and futility must not be allowed

to exacerbate this risk (Guidelines section 7.2).


at Curtin IRPC


Commission observed that detainees were given the opportunity to participate

in sporting competitions such as football tournaments, volleyball, basketball,

table tennis, dancing, aerobics, weight lifting and walking. As mentioned

above, an effort had been made shortly before the Commission's visit to

institute sporting outings for the children to Derby. The DIMA Manager

stated that nine of the children had been taken to play volleyball at

the courts in Derby. The detainees' consultative committee confirmed that

the children had been delighted with their outing. The Commission welcomes

this initiative but considers that a more comprehensive and sustained

program is required to allow the children out of the centre as much as



relation to work at the centre, the DIMA Manager explained the regime

that had been developed so as to allow detainees to work and earn 'points'

by way of reward. Detainees are employed in many different activities

around the centre. Reference has already been made to the nine detainees

employed as English language teachers. Other jobs include cooking, food

preparation and serving, cleaning, gardening and sewing. The Commission

was shown a series of murals on the demountables painted by an artist

among the detainees and the demountable set aside as a sewing room, with

the piles of clothes and accessories made by detainees.


Commission's visit in July 2000 coincided with the designation of a TV/recreation

building for women and children. The DIMA Manager explained that this

measure was necessary because the male detainees had refused to allow

women and children into the building housing the main television and video



Commission was also shown the canteen where detainees can buy groceries

and basic necessities either with cash or with the points that they have

earned through the programs in operation. Detainees can earn a maximum

of 35 points a week. The DIMA Manager stated that competition for the

better jobs such as cooking is keen. The system observed by the Commission

appeared to be well organised although the opportunities for work were

far fewer than the demands of the detainees for it.


Religion and Culture



of religious belief and practice is a fundamental right which should be

secured to the maximum extent possible in immigration detention (Guidelines



at Curtin IRPC


interviewed by the Commission commented on the surprising lack of discord

in the centre over matters of religion. The DIMA Manager stated that one

of the detainees was an Imam who was able to officiate at prayer sessions.

A place is set aside for religious worship. The Manager stated that provision

is made for detainees of different faiths to celebrate religious festivals.

Halal meats are provided for observant Muslim detainees. Christian services

are also conducted. The current arrangements at Curtin appear to comply

with the rights and interests of the detainees.



The Committee's Concluding Observations can be read at


The name reflects the alphabetical naming of the different compounds at

the centre rather than the type of accommodation offered.