Child Detention: A Breach of NSW Child Protection & Human Rights

CEO Social Justice Blog

The response from the Federal Government to last week’s release of the Forgotten Children Report by the Australian Human Rights Commission was disappointing. The report recommended:

Immediate removal of all children from detention centres. Access to free mental health services to all former child inmates of detention centres; guardianship of unaccompanied minors to be transferred from the Minister of Immigration; a Royal Commission into the use of detention centres for children.

At Samaritans we agree with these recommendations and we have been calling for the removal of children from detention for over a decade. We believe the incarceration of children to be a breach of NSW Child Protection Legislation as well as the UN Convention on the rights of the child.  The Human Rights Report confirms our fears with clear evidence.

They interviewed 1123 families and found that over a 12 month period 34 % of children had been referred to a psychiatrist for treatment. There had been 128 incidents of self-harm. There had been 27 incidents of voluntary starvation.

We should expect many of these children to take legal action against the Australian Government at some stage for harm they have suffered under our care.

The current government has done well in reducing the numbers of child inmates from 1123 at the commencement of the Inquiry down to 330 in February 2015. But we should ensure that incarceration of children is never again an option for the Federal Government to turn to in its efforts to deter asylum seekers.