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Appendix 7 – Departmental policies and procedures

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has provided the Commission with various documents which set out the legal, policy, procedural and training requirements which guide the Department and service provider staff.

This Appendix is based on the Department’s submission to the Inquiry. A full copy of the Department’s submission is published on the Commission’s website.

The Department’s submission sets out the following:

  • legal and policy framework of detention;
  • detention population;
  • alternatives to held detention;
  • managing detention facilities;
  • Departmental interactions with children;
  • services in detention;
  • guardianship;
  • ensuring the safety of children;
  • external scrutiny;
  • community and civil society engagement;
  • pre-transfer assessments prior to transfer to an offshore processing country.

7.1 Framework of Detention

The legal and policy framework consisting of Commonwealth, state and territory legislation, Ministerial directions and Departmental policy and procedures governs the immigration detention environment. The Department notes that this framework is informed by Australia’s international law obligations and by expert advice from specialists in relevant fields.

7.2 Children’s Unit

In 2010 the Department established a Children’s Unit to support the specific needs of children and families. This Unit has more recently expanded into the Community Support and Children Branch.

7.3 Treatment of children

The Department’s Procedures Advice Manual sets out the guiding principles for officers regarding the treatment of children when officers are undertaking compliance, detention, removal and/or case management functions. Pursuant to this guidance, when making decisions concerning children, officers should consider Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

7.4 Case managers

In addition to the coordination and management of service providers, logistics, facilities management, complaints handling, the Department staff are assigned as case managers to detainees. In this role, Department staff ensure that the best interests of the child are prioritised and staff are responsible for communicating the Department’s framework and policy settings to detainees.

7.5 Service providers

The Department notes that detention under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) is administrative and not for punitive purposes.

The Department has three service providers who are responsible for different aspects of detainees’ care and welfare. The service providers are required to treat children appropriately, for example, with dignity, equality, respect and fairness, in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Department has detailed performance management frameworks to ensure that the service providers deliver services in line with the Department’s required outcomes.

The three service providers are:

  • Serco which delivers onshore immigration detention facilities and detainee services, including facilities management services, security and escort services and welfare and engagement services;
  • International Health and Medical Services - the health services provider, which delivers health screening and assessment services, preventative health care, integrated primary health care, health advice, and referral to secondary and tertiary health services; and
  • MAXimus Solutions - the provider of independent observer services and care and support to unaccompanied minors.

(a) Serco

Serco is required to tailor their services to the individual needs of people in detention.

Serco is also required to ensure that staff are appropriately trained to identify and respond to the possibility of abuse or neglect of children.

Serco staff who perform the role of Client Support Worker for children must:

  • have obtained a relevant Working with Children Check;
  • hold (as a minimum) a Certificate III level qualification in Child Welfare; and
  • have at least two years’ experience in a related community service environment.

(b) International Health and Medical Services

International Health and Medical Services’ multidisciplinary team includes General Practitioners, Registered Nurses, Midwives, Psychologists and Counsellors.

Health staff must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

These professionals take into account the diverse and potentially complex health care needs of detainees.

International Health and Medical Services is contractually required to make appointments for detainees to see a General Practitioner within 72 hours of a request being made.

Routine mental health screening of detainees occurs at various points in time. Screening is also conducted as required, for example, by self-referral.

Specialist torture and trauma counselling services are available.

In relation to children with disabilities, health professional training includes the identification of possible physical or mental health conditions, including those related to disabilities.

(c) MAXimus Solutions

MAXimus Solutions is a specialist pastoral care service for unaccompanied minors.

MAXimus Solutions Client Support Workers must:

  • have an Australian Federal Police check;
  • if relevant (depending on the jurisdiction where they work) have a Working with Children Check, and
  • hold (as a minimum) a Certificate IV in Social, Community or Child Welfare.

7.6 Education

Where children are detained in one location for a sufficient period of time (therefore satisfying health clearances and enrolment requirements), they have access to primary and secondary education.

The Department funds access to schools through individual agreements with state and territory governments and non-government education providers.

Programs and activities in immigration detention centres include:

  • early childhood educational playgroup;
  • ‘Introduction to Australia’ classes;
  • arts and crafts activities;
  • cultural activities including cooking;
  • library activities;
  • sport and recreational facilities including gyms and swimming pools; and
  • communal areas where social and religious activities can be conducted.

7.7 Child protection

The protection of children in immigration detention is of paramount concern to the Department.

All staff delivering services to children are required to take all reasonable care to provide a safe environment and appropriate levels of care and support.

Reporting protocols are established and implemented by the service providers.