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.