Bravehearts backs calls for inquiry into children in immigration detention
Bravehearts CEO and Founder Hetty Johnston AM, says children and their families should not be locked up in immigration detention with adults and suggests broadening the scope of the current Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to investigate the alleged sexual harm of children.
Mrs Johnston says Australia must meet it’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
"This detention model is fundamentally and morally flawed,” she says.
“The bottom line is that children should never be detained in these types of conditions. Their protection must be a first priority. Families and adults must be housed separately. The alarm bells were ringing long before this report was released. Australia has a duty of care for these children while they remain in an Australian-controlled environment.
“As an institution with the care of children as part of its remit, Bravehearts strongly believes that immigration detention centres need to be included as part of Royal Commission investigations. The Royal Commission covers youth detention centres, why not immigration detention centres?”
Mrs Johnston says contracted security companies and relevant authorities must be properly trained so they can mitigate risk and respond appropriately to disclosures of child sexual assault. She says this crime could be prevented if adults and children were properly educated, trained and informed and if the detention centre itself had strict risk management procedures and practices that prioritised the safety and protection of children.
“Immediate counselling and support must now be offered to the victims and their families with ongoing access to counselling and support services as well as access to health and education,” she says.
“These are some of the most vulnerable people already under tremendous duress and their children will carry these heavy scars for a lifetime."
A recent Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) report contains interviews with 1129 children over a 15-month period from January 2013 to March 2014 and shows 233 recorded assaults involving children and 33 incidents of reported sexual assault.
The AHRC report outlines two cases: In November 2013 a 16 year old boy was allegedly sexually assaulted by a cleaner, in view of security staff. It is understood that the cleaner was removed from the centre indefinitely. In another instance, an eight-year-old boy was allegedly sexually assaulted by adult detainees in view of a security staff member.
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