A group of concerned organisations and individuals – including legal and health professional, faith leaders and academics – have penned an open letter accusing the Government of wilfully and deliberately pursuing a policy known to cause severe mental and physical health problems.
The open letter, convened by Professor Louise Newman AM, is addressed to the Federal Government and the Opposition, calling on them to:
- abandon the policy of mandatory detention,
- cap detention at a maximum of 30 days, and
- adopt alternative solutions that are consistent with the Refugee Convention.
Professor Louise Newman's Letter at Get Up:
"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?
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: https://www.getup.org.au/jaccuse