ACOSS and ACFID call for immediate release of children from detention and Nauru

The peak bodies for Australia’s social welfare and overseas aid organisations are joining together today to call on the Australian Government to urgently release all asylum seeker children from Nauru and Australian detention centres. Children located offshore must be immediately brought to Australia.

“We are joining together to deliver a very simple and direct message to the politicians of this country and on behalf of our combined membership: the ends do not justify the means,” said the Executive Director of the Australian Council of International Development, Mr Marc Purcell.

“Stopping asylum seekers coming by boat cannot justify locking children up indefinitely in detention centres and on Nauru and putting at risk their mental, physical and sexual wellbeing,” Mr Purcell said.

“Let us be absolutely clear: nothing can ever justify putting children at risk of harm – nothing.

“We are deeply concerned that the Australian Government has kept children in institutions where they are being subject to psychological and sexual abuse for over a year,” he said.

At the present time, 96 children are in Nauru and a further 104 children are in Australian detention facilities.

Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Council of Social Services, Dr Cassandra Goldie said releasing the children from detention and removing them from Nauru is the most urgent and important task for this Government. Community organisations in Australia stand ready to work with the Government to ensure that the children and their families are cared for upon release.

“Once the children have been removed, all allegations of child abuse raised by staff, parents and children in detention centres and on Nauru need to be referred to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse,” Dr Goldie said.

“The Government needs to realise that the Australian and International community does not condone what is happening to the children of asylum seekers. It does not believe the Government has done enough to keep them safe.

“Indeed, by not removing all children from detention and Nauru, many Australians believe the Government is actively putting children in harm’s way.

“ACFID and ACOSS also call on the Government to establish an independent Children’s Guardian to represent the best interests of children seeking asylum in Australia.

“The Children’s Guardian would be charged with ensuring that children upon arrival to Australia are held by authorities for the absolute minimum period necessary for appropriate checks to be conducted, and to oversee their release to appropriate carers in the community without delay.

“The Children’s Guardian would also ensure that unaccompanied children in the community have a permanent Guardian to ensure that their best interests are protected at all times,” Dr Goldie said.

Dr Goldie and Mr Purcell will be holding a doorstop at the Amora Hotel, 11 Jamison St, Sydney at 2.30pm on 15 October.

Media Contacts:
Lyn Larkin (ACFID) – 0400 343 227
Fernando de Freitas (ACOSS) – 0419 626 155