Guardianship of Unaccompanied Children

Taskforce Analysis of new ALP Asylum Seeker Package

MEDIA RELEASE: A new policy adopted by the ALP National Conference on Saturday has been welcomed by the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce. The commitment is to establish a Children’s Advocate for child asylum seekers –  and is one that the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce has been strongly advocating for. There were 15 positive amendments to the ALP National Platform on Saturday, and this was one of them.

Father Peter Catt, Chair of the Taskforce, said that “this goes in part towards what the Churches’ Taskforce and several UN bodies and Senate committees have been trying to get up since 2004, which is to have an Independent Guardian, instead of the Minister for Immigration, to look after children who arrive on their own” (see attached history).

Under the ALP’s proposal, this  new independent  body would be given the statutory  power and importantly the resources,  to represent children and to  bring court proceedings on a child’s behalf-which right now is rarely done because it relies on pro-bono legal support and on having access to these children and their files.

An alternative model for an Independent Guardian of unaccompanied children has been developed by an Expert Group that convened following the release of the Taskforce’s Report in July 2014, entitled Protecting the Lonely Children (available online.)

Father Peter Catt, said “ I also welcome the ALP’s commitment to increase the number of people we’ll protect to 27 000 people/year. This commitment to increase the quota is within a 10 year time-frame though, so we really hope that this increase can be achieved in a couple of years, as opposed to 10 years. If the number of people that Australia takes in was increased dramatically and quickly, the imperative for families to get on boats wouldn’t be so strong in the first place”.

Executive Officer of the Taskforce, Misha Coleman said that “with regards to the ALP’s commitment to take people away and to turn boats back, the Taskforce continues to reject this and the associated on-water processing procedures”. She said that “when people have been assessed on the 16 boats that have been turned back, 474 people of those people were refused their claim for asylum – only one person was assessed as being a refugee. This is in contrast to what happens in Australia when people get a fair and proper process, where about 90% of people are found to be refugees. Something very strange and different happens when people are processed at sea”.

The Taskforce also strongly support efforts by the ALP to work with transit and wealthy countries in the region, to increase the number of places available to resettle refugees.

Taskforce Vice-Chair, Sister Brigid Arthur, said “I’m extremely upset that there are still no long-term resettlement arrangements to address the fate of people sweltering on Manus Island and Nauru, nor for those  people who have been assaulted or harmed in the offshore detention centres, and who are terrified at the prospect of return. I believe it is an indictment on our Nation that we seem to have forgotten about these desperate people”.

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.



Taskforce Submission – Guardian for Unaccompanied Children Bill 2014

Download the Taskforce’s submission to the inquiry for this bill: ACRT Submission on Guardianship of Unaccompanied Children Bill 2014

Scott Morrison’s response to Taskforce’s Concerns about Children held at Offshore Processing Centres Attachment 2_Correspondence from DIBP re children offshore 19May2014

Read the Taskforce’s full report, Protecting the Lonely Children

By | 2014-11-06T15:47:58+10:00 November 6th, 2014|Front - News, Guardianship of Unaccompanied Children, Latest News|

State-sanctioned abuse of asylum seeker children in immigration detention – ABC AM

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce has accused the Federal Government of state-sanctioned abuse of asylum seeker children in immigration detention. The Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the claims are offensive and the Government is committed to protecting children from exploitation and abuse. But the taskforce wants the Minister to be stripped of his guardianship role of children in immigration detention.



Government treatment of asylum seeker children is ‘state-sanctioned child abuse’, says Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce

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Church leaders have described the Federal Government’s treatment of unaccompanied children seeking asylum as “state-sanctioned child abuse”. By Emily Bourke.
In a report titled Protecting The Lonely Children, the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce says Australia’s treatment of unaccompanied child asylum seekers is a “sick joke”.