Monthly Archives: February 2015

Throughout Lent

This Lent we invite you to join a network of Christian churches in speaking with one voice, calling for compassion for asylum seekers.

The “Give us a Sign” project is simple to do and a way of engaging your congregation ecumenically for the sake of vulnerable people.

It asks churches and Christian organisations with changeable street signs to display specific messages on Tuesdays in Lent. Find out more!

By | 2015-02-24T11:22:27+10:00 February 24th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Moss Review: Where Are You?

The Taskforce is still awaiting the findings of the Moss Review which was established by Minister Morrison following allegations of rape and sexual assault of asylum seekers in Nauru. Letters sent to the Taskforce describing such assaults were submitted to the Moss Review in 2014. Read this story in New Matilda.

Christian Analysis of AHRC Report into Children in Detention

The Forgotten Children in Detention: It is the simplest of instructions to followers of Christ: “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). It speaks to our moral obligation to the most vulnerable in our society; an obligation that is central to our beliefs and one that should inform our actions. How devastating then to read of the horrors that child asylum seekers have experienced in Australian detention centres in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report, The Forgotten Children.

The report, tabled in Parliament late Wednesday night, interviewed 1129 children and parents and revealed 233 cases of assault and 33 cases of sexual assault against children and 128 incidents of self-harm by children over a 15 month period. While the numbers alone should be sufficient to horrify us, it was the stories of young people so traumatised by a system of our creation that they actively sought to end their lives that moved me most. The story of a 17 year old boy from Iraq who self-harmed ten times, including attempting to jump off a building, punching through a window, and cutting himself. The story of a 17 year old girl from Somalia who had to be hospitalised on the Australian mainland for three months due to her severe depression, only to be sent back to a locked detention centre once she was discharged from the psychiatric unit. If the measure of a society is how we treat our most vulnerable, then we have failed as a nation, and it is a stain on our very soul.

The report detailed the failures of successive Ministers who are charged with the care of young asylum seekers. Currently, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection is both the legal guardian and the jailer of unaccompanied children in detention. The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce has long called for this to change, arguing for an independent advocate to be appointed to protect children without parents caught up in our detention regime. While all children in detention suffer unnecessary and almost unimaginable horrors on a daily basis, those without parents are forced to endure this nightmare alone. Denying them even the right to an independent advocate is one of the cruellest aspects of our punitive immigration laws.

The response of the Government to the tabling of the report is telling. Our Prime Minister suggested that former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison be sent “a note of congratulations… saying well done, mate,” and when questioned about whether he felt any guilt over the 211 children still detained in Australia or the 119 children detained on Nauru, his response was an emphatic, “none whatsoever”. This callous disregard for the welfare of children shocked many of us, and yet it has been the driving ideology behind our immigration system for the last 23 years. For over two decades we have known about the negative impacts of detaining children, and yet the practice continues. Australia is – shamefully – the only country in the world that treats children in this manner.

In the Gospel of Mark we hear Jesus speak of his love for children: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me”. As Christians, we must not allow those in detention to be forgotten; we must not allow the suffering of child asylum seekers to continue unabated. Our moral duty is clear: we must welcome these children and end the practice of mandatory, arbitrary and indefinite detention once and for all.

By | 2018-01-04T16:13:59+10:00 February 13th, 2015|Front - Opinion, Mothers and Babies in Detention|

The Government’s demonising of the Human Rights Commission is totally unethical: ABC news interview.

A coalition of church leaders believes pressure is building within Government ranks to end the policy that has led to long-term child detentions. Misha Coleman, Taskforce EO, said there was a significant and growing number of backbenchers that want change. Read the full story.

By | 2015-02-13T13:11:24+10:00 February 13th, 2015|Latest News, Mothers and Babies in Detention|

Will the “new Tony” let kids out of detention? Media Release 11 February 2015

System to detain children can’t be fixed: Australian Human Rights Commission’s harrowing report

At a time when the Australian Prime Minister has promised that “good government starts today”, the Australian Human Rights Commission releases a report calling for the Government to end placing children into immigration detention. But will the “new Tony” demonstrate his Christian values.

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce today welcomed the release of The Forgotten Children by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), following the 2014 National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention.

‘The findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission could not be clearer,’ said The Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt, Chair of the Taskforce. ‘We are failing child asylum seekers in the most morally reprehensible way under the current regime of arbitrary and indefinite detention. We cannot ignore our responsibilities, and so we call for the immediate release of children from detention – and for those children on Nauru to be brought to the Australian mainland’.

Sister Brigid Arthur, Vice Chair of the Taskforce, noted that successive governments have failed to take heed of the lessons from the last AHRC report in 2004. ‘For ten years we have known about the devastating impact of prolonged detention on children, from severe mental ill-health, to developmental delays and lasting emotional and psychological trauma,’ Sister Brigid said. ‘The Taskforce has long advocated for all children in detention, but especially those without parents. That children without parents have no functioning guardianship arrangements, or independent advocate – another key finding of the Report – is a horrific indictment on our Government. These children are being punished for seeking asylum, and being denied the right to have someone who has their best interests at heart.”

Dr Catt said the Taskforce – made up of representatives from Anglican, Assyrian, Baptist, Catholic, Churches of Christ, Lutheran, Quaker, Salvation Army and Uniting Church denominations – calls for:

  • The immediate release of all children from mainland detention centres, and for children detained on Nauru to be brought to the Australian mainland.
  • Suitable and clear guardianship arrangements to be implemented to protect child asylum seekers without parents.
  • Ongoing support for children who have been released from detention as they continue to experience severe negative and ongoing emotional impacts from their time in detention.

‘No longer can child asylum seekers remain “forgotten children” in our society,’ Dr Catt said. ‘Like the many coalition backbenchers who abhor the policy of locking children up, I call on the “reincarnated Tony” to respond to this report by releasing children from these jail-like conditions.’

 Available for Interview: The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt, 0404 052 494; Misha Coleman, Executive Officer of the Taskforce, 0428 399 739

Read the full AHCR report here.