A ‘blatant attack’ on the government or a voice for abused children?

| April 15, 2015

Australia’s system of mandatory immigration detention keeps getting damning reviews while the Abbott Government keeps using dismissive rhetoric. Nicole Cooper says all this government should be concerned about is the right of the children detained, not political pandering.

When the Australian Human Rights Commission’s national inquiry into the effect of immigration detention on children was released, it provided a grim picture of the health and wellbeing of children in detention.

The Human Rights Commission found that, on average, children are detained for more than a year, and that this detainment has profound impacts on the mental and emotional health of children. They recorded 33 recorded assaults involving children, 33 incidents of sexual assault and 218 incidents of self-harm from the period of January 2013 to March 2014.

The Convention on the Rights of Children (Article 37(b)) states that the detainment of children should be used as an absolute last resort and that they must be held for the shortest possible time. It also states that children should be treated with respect, and not made to suffer violence or abuse at the hands of other inmates or guards. In addition, Australian Government policy dictates that children are not to be held in detention centres; they must only be held in facilitated housing.

Despite these facts, children in detention centres are held for arbitrary reasons. Despite these facts, there are numerous reports of assault of children in Australian detention centres. Despite these facts, 330 children have been indefinitely detained in Australian immigration detention.

Regardless of the horrifying revelations brought forward by the Human Rights Commission, Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted to feel no guilt “whatsoever”, and refuses to set up a Royal Commission into the detention of children, declaring that the Australian Human Rights Commission should be “ashamed of itself” over the inquiry.

Abbott and the incumbents appear to be intent on blaming the previous labour government for any and all problems surrounding children in immigration, hobbling discussions about how to rectify human rights abuses with constant debate about who did what and when. The it-wasn’t-us card has been played by Abbott one time too many. It shouldn’t matter when the report was written. It shouldn’t matter which political party of the day is responsible. What matters is, what are we going to do about it?

The report holds several recommendations. Children detained in immigration detention should be released as soon as possible. Children should only be detained long enough to conduct necessary health and security checks. The best thing we can do us a country is to process refugee claims as quickly as possible.

Despite what Abbott may believe, this “blatant attack” on the government is about human rights and the rights of children, not political pandering.


  • Australian Government. (2015). Australian Migration Act 1958. Retrieved from: ComLaw, Fact Sheet
  • Australian Human Rights Commission. (2014). The Forgotten Children: National inquiry into children in immigration detention. Retrieved from: The Human Rights Commission
  • Australian Human Rights Commission. (2015). Locking up children taints us all. Retrieved from: The Human Rights Commission
  • Griffiths, E. and Woodley, N. (2015). Tony Abbott labels Human Rights Commission report into children in detention ‘blatantly partisan politicised exercise’. Retrieved from: The ABC
  • White, S. and Browne, R. (2015). Human rights commission should congratulate Scott Morrison: Tony Abbott responds to report on children in immigration detention. Retrieved from: The Sydney Morning Herald