Dec 13, 2014

Presents for children in detention – December 2014

ChilOut – Nationwide

We won’t be having a toy drive this year but every cent of your contribution goes towards getting children out of immigration detention. Our gift, hopefully, is freedom for all children, including those held on Nauru. Donate now.

South Australia + Nationwide

After the amazing success of Sarah Hanson Young's 'Toys for Nauru' campaign in 2013, this Christmas they're running a toy drive for kids in detention in Australia. They were absolutely blown away by your generosity a year ago and, for more details about how you can donate to a child in detention this year, please click here.


Shoe box drive

'Shoe box' appeal delivering toys to kids and presents for adult detainees in Broadmeadows. Details here.


RAC introduces Teddy Bears Without Borders

The latest campaign supported by RAC aims to receive 800 handmade teddy bears, one for each child in Australia's immigration detention network. While we work to change the system which visits such sadness on children, Teddy Bears Without Borders is hoping to give each child a teddy to help soothe themselves through tough times.

RAC QLD encourages people to make their own teddy bears and drop them off in collection locations across Brisbane and south east Queensland. Patterns and specifications are available from the Teddy Bears Without Borders website

Money for Xmas presents appeal



End of Year Presents for Children in Detention

The end of the year is a time when children all over Australia receive gifts. Help us show children in detention that they are not forgotten. DASSAN is coordinating a present drive to the more than 200 children here in detention


You can DONATE to the present drive  - donate by direct deposit to: 
DASSAN  (Bendigo Bank)
BSB: 633-000,
Account Number :143875664 -
Cheques can be sent to:
DASSAN, PO Box. 1695 Nightcliff NT 0814
write “ children’s presents’ in the subject line

We are looking for people who can HELP SHOP for presents, WRAP presents and WRITE ON CARDS (on the afternoon of Saturday 13th) and DELIVER presents (in the third week of December)
Contact - Vivienne or DASSAN

Details here.

Guidelines for presents

(many thanks to Asylum Seekers on Christmas Island (ASCI) for allowing us to use their text)

Cultural Resources & Current Media

  • Reading, listening and visual materials in native languages are very much sought after.
  • Current magazines and newspapers are very well received though difficult to get on Christmas Island.

Australian resources

The asylum seekers are very keen to learn all about Australia - everything from native animals, to climate to landmarks to food and culture, so any books or resources about the country will be very popular. The more pictures the better!

CDs & DVDs

All detention centres have TVs and DVD players but actual media is lacking so a good selection of movies would be great!
Please consider the content of movies being sent - sex scenes, nudity, graphic war scenes, excessive violence and culturally insensitive material are examples of inappropriate content.

Examples of suitable items:

  • Children's movies and cartoons
  • Mainstream pop music and various hip hop artists 
    (please don't send CDs with excessive explicit lyrics!)


Prepaid Phone Credit

Donations of prepaid international phone credit/calling cards for making calls to families overseas.

Games, Craft & Toys

All manner of art and craft materials are always popular - the kids in particular are very creative!
In particular:

  • Skeins of coloured wool 
    Bright colours including white and black which are used to make bracelets and jewellery ornaments. Wool is good because you don't need scissors to cut it.
  • Pencils, marking pens, paints, paintbrushes and drawing pads

Please note however that any kind of wire (such as that contained in pipecleaners) as well as scissors, sewing needles, knitting needles or any other sharp implement are not allowed within centres, so just bear that in mind when considering what material you'd like to send.

Games such as:

  • Packs of cards. They can spend hours playing cards!
  • UNO
  • Boardgames
    in particular Ludo, Chess and Jenga, backgammon, checkers, quoits, snakes & ladders and Guess Who. If anyone knows where to find Monopoly is other languages, that would be fantastic!!
  • Puzzle books are also a great way to keep the mind active and wile away the hours. Sudoku is great because it doesn't require any knowledge of English.

Sporting goods:

  • rubber balls, tennis balls, soccer balls, yoyos, volleyballs (volleyball is especially popular and there are courts on both compounds on Christmas Island)

Children range in age from toddlers to teens, and while they do not have many toys as such, games that involve group  participation are always great for example Twister. More often than not there is more than one child in a family, so its often better to send toys that are able to be shared!

Personal Items

Sorry no used clothing allowed. Please send new clothing such as:

  • sunglasses, sunhats, tee-shirts, shorts, shoes, light scarves
  • Clothes and covered shoes for children of all ages
  • Headscarves, full length skirts, women's long sleeved tops

A few things to note when donating clothes...

  • While not all female asylum seekers are Muslim, the majority of ladies do dress relatively modestly with short if not long sleeved tops.
  • As a tropical island, the weather can be very hot and very humid during the day and into the evenings. Lighter materials are preferable.

For Women

Beauty products are great for spoiling the women a little bit - they love a beauty night as much as the next girl!
In particular:

  • - eyeliners and shadows
  • - cottonballs
  • - henna
  • - waxing strips (these are particularly popular).

Please remember, nothing in glass bottles.

Ideas for toys

Chalk toys

Parent Direct

Both have free postage on their toys until Christmas!

Note on wrapping

Do not wrap presents, they need to be inspected by detention centre staff. Hence the reason for shoe box appeals – a brightly coloured shoe box, decorate with contact or wrapping paper but do not seal (with a lid that can be lifted off for easy inspection).



Dec 02, 2014

Open Letter to Australia's Senators

I have been fighting for children’s rights as a member of ChilOut – Children Out of Immigration Detention – for over a decade. I have watched as these rights have been eroded, one by one, by various acts of parliament. One Act – the Migration Act – stands out among the many. An Act poised to be amended yet again any day now.

Senators, I know many of you have cried for the lives of children lost at sea. Today please lend me your tears for those who still live.

I cannot stand idly by and watch the further erosion of the rule of law via the passing of the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014. Not if there’s a chance a few of you may hear what I have to say, and change the destiny of these children for the better.

Read more

Dec 01, 2014

A Secret Safe to Tell by Naomi Hunter Book Review

A Secret Safe to Tell

by Naomi Hunter

Illustrations by Karen Erasmus

Available from Booktopia

We just want to take a moment out of our busy days to commend to you a book dealing with the issue of child abuse – all too often at the forefront of news stories in Australia and the world over. And certainly at the forefront of our campaign work here at ChilOut.*

This book – A Secret Safe to Tell – is written for children in the voice of a child who is being abused.

The child at first feels loved and comforted by her special relationship with an adult, but this relationship soon turns sour and she realises things are not right.

The book exposes the common lies abusers tell – your parents will be angry, this is a secret between us – in a very simple and safe way. 

The child is trapped by feelings of confusion and shame which she cannot come to terms with until she meets an adult who is willing to listen.

Only then is she set free from her terrible secret.

Talking about inappropriate touching has to be one of the most difficult conversations you can have with a child.

A Secret Safe to Tell uses beautiful colour illustrations and simple language to introduce the topic in gentle ways that a child can understand.

The book ends with a list of Australian help lines children and adults can call.

It can help parents negotiate this conversation with their children if they suspect something isn’t right. And children can also be empowered to explain to an adult that they don’t feel comfortable with certain relationships or actions by individuals who are supposed to be their friends.

By reading A Secret Safe to Tell hopefully children at risk will realise that they are not alone. And hopefully they’ll be encouraged to finally tell their secret and be set free from it.

If you work with children, care for them, if you’re a parent, or a friend and you suspect a child may be at risk you should have a copy of this book. No child or parent should have to understand this topic, but the reality is, far too many do. Certainly at ChilOut, we see abuse in many forms, in a detention system created to break people, children are often the first victims.

One way to prevent child abuse/neglect is for all our communities to value children – a community that cares about early childhood development, parental support, and maternal mental health, for instance, is more likely to foster nurturing families and healthy children. Sadly children aren't always valued so we rely on individuals to notice the warning signs and act.

Here's an interview with the author about the book:

*ABC News: Australian Medical Association have officially concluded that federal immigration detention is harming children. Under the Northern Territory's mandatory child abuse reporting laws, people are legally obliged to report any harm they become aware of to the Office of Children and Families.


More resources

i-Bobbly can be used anonymously and, once uploaded to a tablet, does not require internet access. Young people who have dropped out of school and are disconnected from family and community are often at risk but are hard to engage – this app may be one way of breaking through. See more at Young and Well.

Ditto visits schools to do his show or equivalent and has reached 400,000 children.




May 12, 2014

A Last Resort - ten years on from National Inquiry into children in detention

Child immigration detention: 2004–2014

On this day, 13 May 2004 – ten years ago – the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), then HREOC, released A last resort? the report of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. The Inquiry found Australia’s mandatory immigration detention system was fundamentally inconsistent with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Under the CRC, a child should only be detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time

After the Inquiry the Federal Parliament amended the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) in 2005 to affirm ‘as a principle’ that a minor should only be detained as a measure of last resort. Gradually children were removed from Australia's high security immigration detention centres, and moved in significant numbers into community detention.

A few years later children started to be held in larger numbers in lower security immigration detention facilities such as immigration residential housing, immigration transit accommodation and various so-called ‘alternative places of detention’ on Christmas Island and on the mainland. Despite the terminology, this was a slippery slope and the reality was most definitely secure detention, a child locked up. By May 2013 it was announced that high security immigration detention facilities on Christmas Island, at Curtin in Western Australia, and Wickham Point in the Northern Territory would be adapted to hold children and families. The AHRC, ChilOut and many others expressed significant concerns about this change in policy. 

In May 2013 the government announced that asylum seeker families would be transfered to a third country and some would be granted bridging visas and allowed to live in the community, without the right to work. (See Tell Me About: Bridging Visas for Asylum Seekers). 

Today, any child who arrived by boat after 19 July 2013 is subject to offshore detention and will never be resettled in Australia, even if found to be a refugee. This means indefinite detention in a facility with no school, insufficient medical care, no dentist, no recreation space and very limited infrastructure. When and if the child (and adult's) claim for asylum is processed and they are determined to need protection, apparently this will be provided in Nauru by the Nauruan Government. This applies to all children, alone, newborn, sick, with disability, all children. 

We take a look at some of the key recommendations from: A last resort? National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention: 13 May 2004 and see where we are at ten years on...

2004 Recommendation: Children should be released as soon as possible, but no later than four weeks after tabling of the report 13 May 2004.

2014 – over 1000 children in indefinite detention, no time limit for their detention]

2004 Recommendation: Australia's detention laws should be amended, as a matter of urgency, to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

2014 – CRC has been implemented in both state and federal laws – and the principle of detention of children as a matter of last resort is enshrined in the Migration Act. But what is missing is the presumption against detention – see below.

2004 Recommendation: New laws should incorporate the following minimum features:

  • There should be a presumption against the detention of children who do not hold a valid visa.

2014 – there is no such presumption, all children who arrive by boat are all summarily detained.

  • Within 72 hours of any detention, a court or independent tribunal should assess whether there is a need to detain children for immigration purposes (eg for health, identity or security checks).

2014 – not even close

  • Prompt and periodic review by a court of the legality of continuing detention of children for immigration purposes.

2014 - The Ombudsman can review after 6 months – but has no power to compel the minister to act.

2004 Recommendation: All courts and independent tribunals should be guided by the following principles: 

  • detention of children must be a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time

2014 – children are detained as first resort not last.

  • the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration

2014 – numerous reports see below clearly this is not the primary consideration – current driving force of govt policy is “stop the boats”.

2004 Recommendation: families should remain united

2014 – children and parents are separated across the detention network, sometimes for many months (medical transfers, one parent arrived earlier and is in the community, others locked up, some arrived later and are detained offshore, others detained on mainland etc, pregnant women have been forced to travel to mainland alone leaving spouse and very young children behind on CI)

2004 Recommendation: special protection and assistance for unaccompanied children.

2014 – unaccompanied children are summarily sent to offshore processing, generally with no access to legal advice, never with special considerations. 

2004 Recommendation: Bridging visa regulations for unauthorised arrivals should be amended so as to provide a readily available mechanism for the release of children and their parents.

2014 – some families have been released into the community, but 1000+ children remain in detention, some in offshore detention indefinitely. Bridging visas are issued with no work or study rights, the ability to support one's family and children is impossible without assistance of charities. 

2004 Recommendation: An independent guardian should be appointed for unaccompanied children and they should receive appropriate support.

2014 – no – in some cases children are more vulnerable than ever. Guardianship for children on Nauru has been transferred to the Nauruan Justice Minister and a contracted agency paid by the Australian Government. 

2004 Recommendation: Minimum standards of treatment for children in immigration detention should be codified in legislation.

2014 – no.

2004 Recommendation: There should be a review of the impact on children of legislation that creates 'excised offshore places' and the 'Pacific Solution'.

2014 – no, offshore processing has been expanded without any such review taking place and despite much evidence to show the damage it caused to adults and children the first time around. 


In 2014, 10 years after the last report, a new Inquiry into children in immigration detention is being held. With regards to current circumstances:

  • over one thousand children held in secure immigration detention
  • almost 200 held offshore in appalling conditions (this is outside the scope of the new Inquiry)
  • low security facilities being closed in preference to high security centres
  • a new attitude of operational secrecy in regards to all matters pertaining to asylum seekers in detention,

So, is this new Inquiry necessary? ChilOut belives it is well and truly needed. We must shed light on the conditions and impacts of Australia's system of detaining children. If this practice is set to continue indefinitely as it appears to be, the effects must be understood, there must be scrutiny, the public must know what is being done to children in their name and with ALOT of their tax dollars.

AHRC submissions are open until 31 May 2014 and we would encourage people to have their say. 

For more information see:

Compiled by Jessica Perini and Alanna Hector, ChilOut Board Members

Jan 08, 2014

Government directive - end the lifeline of family unity.

The Governments' latest directive involves advising migration agents that applications for family migration lodged by refugees who arrived to Australia by boat will go to the bottom of the pile. We understand this directive does not take into account age, circumstance or any other individual factors. 

This means; A 15 yr old boy who arrived to Australia alone in 2011 - recoignised as a refugee granted his permanent protection visa in 2012 and weeks later lodged an application for his mother (widowed) and 3 younger siblings to come to Australia has no real hope of ever living in the same country as his mother ever again. The application had been 'in train' for 2yrs, not at all an unsual wait time for such applications. Everyone involved knows that the wait is long, but they also took comfort from knowing there was a process and that they were in a system. That is no longer the case.

The boy will not get protection in another country, he has Australia's protection. The mother and siblings may receive protection somewhere else in the world, but where, when, and will they be able to apply for their (by then) adult son / brother to join them? 

In 2009 the boy and his family were recognised by UNHCR as refugees, ever since they have been awaiting settlement, anywhere safe, just like millions of others. The decision to send the eldest boy in the family was made just after his 15th birthday, just after the two year anniversary of his father's murder by militants at home, 22 months after they had arrived in Malaysia where the boy and his sisters could not attend school, his mother could not legally work and where protection seemed a lost hope. 

What a directive Minister. 

If stopping boats and saving lives is the aim - then wouldn't we encourage family reunion applications, people applying through formal channels where possible -  not forcing people into such desperate positions that their only hope of seeing their child / parent is to also undertake a dangerous boat journey? 

And why does this so-called 'deterrent' directive apply to people who have been in Australia as recognised refugees for years? Whom does that deter? No-one. In fact, if you were the mother mentioned above, faced with persecution at home, another 2 (and potentially 22) years trying to provide for and protect your daughters in a transit country where you have no rights, even faced with the threat of detention on Nauru wouldn't you perhaps consider a boat journey to be reunited with your child in Australia? That family application your son had lodged, it was taking time, but you knew it was there, you had hope. 

Procedure until now had roughly been that applications for family migration were assesed in order of lodgement, whether made by someone who had arrived by plane, by boat, had been here for a year or ten years. There were of course some exceptions and other avenues in extenuating circumstances and other visa options. What we have now is another layer of punishment based on mode of arrival - something prohibited by the Refugee Convention (Article 31). 

This move should be hardly surprising, it is current operational practice to seperate a pregnant woman from her children and husband (woman brought to mainland for scans and other medical needs, rest of family remain detained on Christmas Island). The right to family unity, the best interests of the child and so many of Australia's international obligations are nowhere to be seen in the cruel at all costs asylum policies of our Government.

Guardian Australia coverage of the issue - including comments from Sophie Peer, ChilOut Campaign Director. 

Nov 14, 2013

"Border protection" separating mums and bubs.

Latifa, Niza and their 2 children arrive to Christmas Island by boat sometime after 19 July. Latifa is pregnant, with twins (as she understands from advice given in Indonesia) and has diabetes.

The family is transferred to detention on Nauru. Around 3 weeks later (approx 18 October) Latifa is transferred to Brisbane for medical care in preparation to give birth. Here it is discovered that Latifa was not carrying twins. Three days later after much insistence, Niza and the two children are also brought to Brisbane. The family is detained at the BITA (Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation), near to the Brisbane Airport.   

On Weds 6 November Latifa delivers a baby boy, Farus by ceserean. Niza is present and meets his newborn son. The older siblings meet their brother and sister. Visits to the hospital are arranged over the ensuing days. 

Sunday 10 November, Latifa is discharged from hospital and taken back to detention. Baby Farus requires medical care for some respiratory issues and remains at the hospital. Daily visits are arranged for Latifa, she can be at the hospital between 10am and 4pm under Serco escort. Niza and the children are not taken with her, the father does not see his baby for 5 days. 

OUTRAGE develops on social media. Midwives are horrified. Health professionals cannot fathom it. Mothers take to the internet expressing their disbelief that this could happen. Mother and baby contact, breast milk production, can she express? will the baby take a bottle?, bonding, emotional trauma, recovery from a cesarean, travelling an hour each day in the car, being at the hospital without husband or other children... on so many levels, so many people have connected with this situation. In so many ways, this is not about asylum seekers, this simply about motherhood and about a tiny, new life. 

So is Minister Morrison to blame? Yes and no is my belief. He would not have directly made the operational decisions about where in Brisbane Latifa and the family are detained. He has of course directed his Department to call Latifa and baby Farus "illegals". From this extremely low benchmark decisions are made and actions justified. Perhaps, I am being naive, but I don't believe this was a cruel hand played from Canberra I think this is an a poor operational decision made within a destructive system that does not place the needs of the child front and centre. The false notion of 'border protection' trumps child protection at every turn. 

What else could have been done? Any place can be designated a place of immigration detention. For the days that Latifa was in hospital, their room would have been just that. A Serco officer would have been present at the hospital. Why could Latifa, Niza and the children not be accommodated in the hospital as many other families with sick babies are? If it was about capacity at the hospital, is there not a hotel nearby that would be used again by families in the position of Latifa? Some kind of arrangement that would have maximised her time with Farus, allowed her to be with him as his sleep pattern, his medical treatment and her own rest permitted. Perhaps she chose not to exclusively breastfeed, but was every possible chance given to her and baby Farus to make this happen? Milk supply is most likely going to be hampered when mother and baby only have contact for 6 hours per day, Farus was 4 days old when the separation commenced.

Playing on Latifa's mind constantly is the threat of being sent back to Nauru with her new baby and other children. Latifa has said that she fears her baby may die in the detention conditions of Nauru. There is every likelihood that once Farus is medically cleared, the family will be returned to indefinite detention in a camp with only tents for accommodation, unreliable water, power and limited medical care. 

We understand that Farus was likely to be discharged from hospital on by 16 November and is now at the BITA with his mother and family. We question the level of support and healthcare treatment available to Latifa. Perhaps she has full access to midwives for post-natal care, perhaps 'home visits' will take place in the BITA, perhaps she has access to a lactation specialist. We simply do not know, the secrecy surrounding contracts, detetnion facility operations etc mean that we are not told - and this is a Ministerial level issue. Perhaps there are some terrific Dept and Serco staff in Brisbane but the fact remains that this mother and baby should not have been separated in this manner. More flexibility could have been exercised which would have seen security needs met and importantly, health and best interests of the child met to a far better degree than they have over these past 5 crucial days. 

Should this situation occur again anywhere in Australia for any asylum seeker family we very much hope that Dept officials will exercise more common-sense and find an option that works far better than has been the case for Latifa and Farus.  And the likelihood of another case like this is high. There are more than 50 pregnant women detained in Australia today and with indefinite detnetion on Nauru and Manus Is, it is likely that more women will become pregnant in locations where their health care needs may not be met.


Written by Sophie Peer. Views are my own and not necessarily those of ChilOut


An update: Hospital staff counter Morrison's argument about visiting hours.

Among the tweeters on the issue was Wallaby and ACT Brumbies player, David Pocock:

Dear , I have a hunch that Latifa + Farus are "the least of these" Jesus said to look after. Thoughts?

Oct 08, 2013

Vanstone's opinion minus Vanstone's facts

OK, I know an opinion piece is just that. I know that writers are not discouraged from being controversial. BUT... when the author has facts at hand, has an insight not available to many and is a former public representative - are they not compelled, at least in part, to base their opinion on fact? It seems, the answer is no. 

Former Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone had an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on 7 October, 2013. Among other things, Ms Vanstone stated that asylum seekers who pass through several countries cannot be actually in need of protection. What a load of rubbish.

Ms Vanstone is fully aware of the realities in countries like Malaysia (as highlighted in the media just a few weeks ago) where authorities randomly arrest asylum seekers and even those already deemed by UNHCR to be refugees. These people are placed in horrendous detention facilities, children are separated from their parents, people are returned despite the dangers they may face, others (particularly women and girls) are too terrified to leave their overcrowded apartments for fear of exploitation of some kind or another. 

Ms Vanstone AGAIN tried to use the "queue" argument. That we should not grant protection to someone who will be otherwise persecuted if they dared to arrive here by boat. And that if we do, a person in a camp misses out. RUBBISH. Australia is the ONLY Refugee Convention signatory to link the two systems ( a change introduced by the Government that Vanstone was a part of*). We can and should take both. Increases in asylum applications to Australia are and have always been in line with global increases in refugees and conflicts. Ms Vanstone would be fully aware of this as well as the fact there is no 'refugee camp to wait in' in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan etc..

Ms Vanstone seemed to apportion blame for the most recent boat tragedy off the coast of Java on 'media savvy asylum seekers'. Ms Vanstone was Australia's Ambassador to Italy. She cannot be oblivious to the immense numbers of asylum seekers who arrive to Italy by boat and the incredibly high number of fatalities. Does she also blame 'media savvy asylum seekers' for these deaths? Can she not see the parallels in her writing this opinion piece the very week that Italy held a National Day of Mourning for asylum seekers who died en-route to their country. 

There are many opinion pieces on these issues that provide me with insights into the way others form their views. Some that share personal accounts of how people reach the position they hold. Some that bring interesting and at times odd ideas to the table. I am able to like an opinion piece even without agreeing on the opinion presented. But this one just looks like pure spin and basic denial of what we know the author knows!

*p4 Seeking asylum: Australia's Humanitarian Program

Sophie Peer.  (These views and blog are my own and not necessarily the views of ChilOut).

Sep 12, 2013

Burnside's 'Tasmanian solution'. Craziness that could-sort-of work?

Julian Burnside has suggested the 'Tasmanian Solution' to the current asylum seeker situation and as an alternative to indefinite detention in locations such as Manus Island and Nauru. 

Some are dismissing the idea as nonsense, some are saying that Burnside is simply trying to show how absurd the whole asylum 'solution' discussion is. I actually see some merit in investigating the idea. Plenty of areas are designated as places of detention. There is easy precedent for that. The cost saving is very clear. Burnside says $3billion/yr and proposed that the Federal Govt pay Tasmania $1billion/yr. The idea is that people live in the community as they choose but are 'in detention' because they cannot leave the island state.

I have not seen any detailed analysis or response from Tasmanian officials as yet. The most obvious questions would be about housing availability, specialist services needed (translators, trauma counsellors etc), job opportunities, pressure on local education and health services. I guess this is where the $1 billion is spent. Would the idea apply to the approximately 30,000 people currently awaiting determination of their asylum claims in Australia? Could this be a location for permanent resettlement of refugees? There is much to ponder and I look forward to seeing some Tasmanian commentary on the idea.* 

Above all, even if this idea goes nowhere, I am glad it's come this far. We need some creative thinking and humane approaches - without these, Australia will be responsible for the loss of lives through suicide and permanently damaging lives by removing hope, causing mental illness, separating families and destroying childhoods. 

*Good to hear so many people today asking what the Tasmanians think. It must be said there has been little of the Nauru or PNG commentary on what locals there feel of Australia's 'solution' on their soil ! 

Sophie Peer

(these views are my own and not necessarily those of ChilOut)

Sep 04, 2013

Election 2013: where does ChilOut sit?

"ChilOut is not non-partisan, you are a pro-Greens organisation." OK, let's chat about that. 

We are most definitely non-partisan. One of the leading pics on our website shows our Ambassadors with an ALP and a Liberal member of Parliament. Present at that press conference were also a Greens Senator and an Independent Member. In our 12 years of operation, ChilOut has met with a whole range of parliamentarians, spoken at a wide variety of events, stood side-by-side with people from across the political spectrum.  We are not pro or anti any particular party. We are in favour of child protection, upholding the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in support of humane asylum seeker and refugee policy no matter where it comes from. We wish it came from all directions and if we were invited to speak at the next Young Liberals function, we would most certainly attend! When the ALP launched their 'New Directions in Detention' policy in 2008 we applauded it. When it was not implemented we were critical. We are advocates and we make no apologies for holding any politician to account. If we see policies and announcements that will harm people,  cause mental health concerns, are detrimental to children - we will speak out against them. 

One of ChilOut's founders, and current Board member Dianne Hiles is the Greens candidate for the seat of Sydney. We have been consistently transparent about this fact and Dianne is a passionate advocate for the policies outlined in documents such as this report card prepared by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.  

This Saturday we are not telling you how to vote. We are suggesting that if asylum seeker policy matters to you and if the protection of children matters to you, perhaps have a look through material such as those compiled by ASRC and the Refugee Council of Australia and below is a taste of what's on offer at the polls. Vote wisely. 

Video below authorised by Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie. 

Dept of Immigration advertisements under ALP Govt, 2013. ALP Campaign page (no specific info on asylum seekers / refugees)

Liberal  policy platform. A Liberal election flyer, 2013

Greens Refugee Plan video 2013

Jul 05, 2013

Asylum seeker kids off Manus Island, what does it mean?

On 20 June 2013 as if to mark World Refugee Week, 22 children and their families were moved out of the Manus Island detention facility (Regional Processing Centre - RPC is how the Government refers to it, not that any refugee processing has happened in the facility's 8 months of operation).  

12 children and their families remained in detention at the RPC. The flight removing them from the Island landed on Christmas Island on 4 July 2013. Other children had been moved off the Island earlier as their mothers fell pregnant. So that's it - no more children detained on Manus. 

A win; right! A veritable advocate celebration! Well sort of... The chorus of people and organisations calling for an end to offshore detention for asylum seekers, particularly children, is diverse and loud.  

Where are those children now? Safe. Secure. No - they are in incredibly overcrowded detention on Christmas Island. These children and other vulnerable people removed from Manus Island (read; those to first feel the worst mental health effects of their remote detention) face complete uncertainty. They know that they could be returned to Manus Island at any moment, perhaps even Nauru (this is where the Opposition proposes to send children). These asylum seekers arrived after 13 August 2012 and so fall within the Government's no-advantage principle. These children and families now realise that this could mean at least five years in limbo, possibly all of that time in detention. See why we are far from a celebration!

Construction has just commenced for a permanent detention facility on Manus Island. It is set to house 600 people in family groups, the transfer of unaccompanied minors to this location has not been ruled out (even though they would have no guardian once there). The new facility is deisgned to include one classroom. Yes, one! That is to cover the children and the adults - for five years. The centre is set to be an open one where people can come and go as they please. But to where? To do what? 

The Opposition is saying that Manus Island is not suitable for children. The Government acknowledges that children under the age of seven and pregnant women cannot stay there due to the malarial risks and issues with medication for these particularly vulnerable groups. The United Nations has just visited the facility for the second time and despite some changes still finds the facility unsuitable for any detainees. 

As the families were moved out of the detention facility on Manus Island, it made room for more single men to be sent there. The Australian Parliamentary Library just completed a report into health care realities for asylum seekers detained on Manus Island and Nauru - the conclusion - it would be very difficult to deliver appropriate care to anyone in these settings. 

So, yes we welcome the fact that today there are no children detained on Manus Island. We fear for children who may be sent there in the future and we fear for the wellbeing of those adults presently enduring such remote detention. These people are so 'out of sight, out of mind' that they don't even feature in Dept of Immigration statistics. This policy is shameful and will certainly cause harm. 

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Dec 13, 2014