Australians can no longer remain silent


Over the past few months we've heard the shameful stories coming out of the Human Rights Commission's inquiry into children in detention. It wasn't long ago that I was sitting in Fitzroy Town Hall, telling the inquiry how infants were failing to thrive in detention. Some of the children's first words, when learning English, was "guard". Not "mum", not "dad' – but "guard". Since then we've heard reports from doctors who worked inside the Christmas Island detention centre, that medication is often confiscated from newly arrived asylum seekers. Including the case of a three-year-old girl who suffered from epilepsy, and began to have seizures when her medication was taken from her. We heard the story of a young boy, who was forced to lip read a dialect he couldn't speak, after having his hearing aid taken. And how babies aren't learning to crawl, because the ground isn't safe for them to crawl around on.

It was this news that, when compounded with my years of experience working with children in detention, prompted me to convene an open letter with my colleagues, accusing the Federal Government of wilfully and deliberately causing harm to adults and children.

I'm writing to ask you to join me, and tens of thousands of others, in calling for an end to this inhumane policy of "deterrence". Click here to add your name.

I first became engaged with the needs of children suffering from significant trauma back in 1999, when I was working with young children from the former Yugoslavia. More than a decade on, it has only become more evident and clear to me that the long-term detention of children is not appropriate under any circumstances.

Over the years, I've witnessed children being further traumatised in an environment that offers them no sense of security or safety. These young children are forced to deal with issues that are way beyond their years – issues that even adults would find difficult to contend with. Yet in spite of the incredible hardships they face, these children are still determined to get an education and contribute to our society in a meaningful way.

While I had seen these sorts of issues before, as an experienced clinician who works with abused children, even I struggled with the reality of seeing how our government's policy of mandatory detention directly contributes to these children's mental deterioration.

Add your name to the open letter, which accuses the government of ignoring the harmful effects of this policy, and calls for an end to mandatory detention.

The government can no longer claim to be ignorant of the extent of harm this policy is causing. And as health professionals, legal professionals, people of faith, and academics we can no longer remain silent when we know this is happening.

We must hold our government to account and refuse to accept harm to children and adults as part of an inhumane policy of "deterrence".

Will you join me?

With hope,

Louise Newman


PS. from GetUp: this open letter was convened by Professor Louise Newman AM, and isn't an initiative of GetUp. However as a signatory to the open letter, we fully support Professor Newman, and numerous others, in calling for an end to indefinite mandatory detention. Add your name here:



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The Canberra Times August 18, 2014


Ben Doherty

Senior Correspondent for Fairfax Media


Australia will quarantine one-third of its humanitarian program  for Iraqis and Syrians fleeing the violence of terror group Islamic State, but refugee advocates have condemned the government for reducing its refugee intake despite the growing crisis in the Middle East.


Sweden has announced it will take unlimited numbers of Syrian refugees and Germany said it would take an additional 10,000, bringing its intake to 20,000. Norway will accept an extra 1000.


Australia reduced its humanitarian program refugee intake last year from 20,000 to 13,750.


"This is phoney generosity, trying to mask the fact that Australia has cut its refugee intake from 20,000 to 13,750": Ian Rintoul. Photo: Louie Douvis


"It was extremely disappointing that up to 4,000 applicants waiting in the queue missed out on places in this program, and that their places were being taken up by those who had arrived illegally by boat. This practice has ended under the Abbott Government," Mr Morrison said.

But Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said there were no extra refugee places in  Mr Morrison's announcement.


"This is phoney generosity, trying to mask the fact that Australia has cut its refugee intake from 20,000 to 13,750. This is not a humanitarian response, this is hiding the fact that we are accepting fewer refugees than we were."


Mr Rintoul also condemned the "false dichotomy" of separating refugees who received visas to Australia offshore from those who reached Australia by boat.


"It's blatantly hypocritical. We say we will resettle Yazidis from northern Iraq, but if those people were on a boat they would be locked up offshore."


David Manne, from the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, said while Australia's commitment to fulfilling its humanitarian intake was welcomed, the program needed to be urgently restored to 20,000 places and even expanded.


"The fact of the matter is that behind the rhetoric, Australia has reduced its humanitarian intake at a time when there has never been greater need in the world for humanitarian protection.

Currently, more than 50 million people are refugees or displaced within their own countries,'' Mr Manne said.


Human Rights Law Centre director Daniel Webb said the reserved places for Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the Middle East exposed the "senseless cruelty" of offshore processing of those from the same countries who arrived by boat.


"It's a complete misrepresentation to say that we are only able to accept these refugees because we've denied protection to others,'' Mr Webb said.


Ongoing violence in the Middle East has sparked mass movements of refugees.


In recent days, up to 35,000 Iraqi Yazidis have fled Islamic State-led genocide, many escaping from Mount Sinjar through Syria to camps in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.


The three-year Syrian civil war has forced up to 2.5 million civilians to escape that country, mainly for camps in Jordan and Lebanon.


Australia is the third largest ''third-country'' resettler of refugees in the world, behind the US and Canada. But fewer than 1 per cent of the world's refugees are resettled in a third country.


In absolute terms, Australia ranks 49th in the world for refugee intake, and 69th in the world on a refugees per capita basis.

Former Chief Justice of the Australian Family Court and Chairman of Children's Rights International, Alastair Nicholson discusses the plan to send up to 1,000 asylum seekers to Cambodia.

Australia and Cambodia are reportedly edging closer to a deal for the South-East Asian nation to take asylum seekers from the island of Nauru.

NICHOLSON: I think it's really quite offensive to even consider moving people to Cambodia. Cambodia is a very poor country, a country that has enormous problems. The concept of Australia sending people who are in need of refuge to a country like that is almost indescribably bad as policy.”

“We're faced with a government that's behaving as if the people don't matter, it does what it thinks is right or what suits it at the time, whether it's right or not and it doesn't leave itself open to any challenge. I mean, there's been countless cases where the Government has acted to move people out of the country and that effectively removes their legal rights.”

Full story at