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DIAC Response to the 2011 Australian Human Rights Commission Statement on Immigration Detention in Villawood

Australian Government: Department of Immigration and Citizenship logo

Response to the 2011 Australian Human Rights Commission

Statement on Immigration Detention in Villawood

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Introduction

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) welcomes the opportunity

to respond to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) public statement

on Immigration Detention at Villawood.

DIAC places a high value on the work of the AHRC and appreciates the

AHRC’s substantial recognition of the consistent efforts of staff

supporting the management of clients in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre

(IDC).

The AHRC has outlined a number of key issues related to Immigration Detention

in Villawood. DIAC comments in response to these recommendations are outlined

below.

Recommendation 1: The Australian Government should end the current system

of mandatory and indefinite immigration detention.

The Australian Government should implement reforms it announced in 2008

under which immigration detention is to be used as a last resort and for the

shortest practicable period, people are to be detained in the least restrictive

environment appropriate to their individual circumstances, and there is a

presumption that people will be permitted to reside in the community unless they

pose an unacceptable risk.

The need to detain should be assessed on a case-by-case basis taking into

consideration individual circumstances. A person should only be held in an

immigration detention facility if they are individually assessed as posing an

unacceptable risk to the Australian community and that risk cannot be met in a

less restrictive way. Otherwise, they should be permitted to reside in

community-based alternatives while their immigration status is resolved.

The Australian Government remains committed to all measures to prevent,

deter and enforce compliance to preserve the integrity of Australia’s

migration program, while treating clients humanely. The government considers

mandatory immigration detention an essential component of strong border control.

The government continues to see the need to retain the system of mandatory

detention, along with strong border security measures, to ensure the orderly

processing of migration to our country.

It remains the government’s

position that indefinite or otherwise arbitrary detention is not acceptable and

the length and the conditions of detention are subject to regular review.

Continuing detention is dependent upon factors such as management of health,

identity and security risks and ongoing assessments of risks to the community or

the integrity of Australia’s migration programs. These assessments are

completed as expeditiously as possible.

We note the Australian Human

Rights Commission’s (AHRC) previous position that a legitimate purpose of

immigration detention can be for the purposes of conducting security checks.

The screening mechanisms in place ensure that a balance is met between the need

to protect Australia from people who may pose a risk to our national security,

and Australia meeting its obligations to those who are found to be in need of

protection.

Recommendation 2: The Australian Government should comply with its

international human rights obligations by providing for a decision to detain a

person, or a decision to continue a person’s detention, to be subject to

prompt review by a court. To comply with article 9(4) of the ICCPR, the court

must have the power to order the person’s release if their detention is

not lawful. The lawfulness of their detention is not limited to domestic

legality – it includes whether the detention is compatible with the

requirements of article 9(1) of the ICCPR, which affirms the right to liberty

and prohibits arbitrary detention.

DIAC notes the AHRC’s view that

Australia is not complying with its international obligations in this regard and

that the AHRC has cited the views of the United Nations Human Rights Committee

in A v Australia[1]. The AHRC

may be aware that Australia disagreed with that Committee’s interpretation

of Article 9(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

(ICCPR) and expressed to the Committee its view that under that Article,

judicial review needs to be available to consider the lawfulness of detention in

the context of domestic law, rather than issues of

arbitrariness.

Nevertheless, the government is considering ways of

improving the review of the appropriateness of detention.

Senior Officer

and Ombudsman’s reviews consider the appropriateness of the person’s

detention, their detention arrangements and other matters relevant to their

ongoing detention and case resolution.

Senior officer reviews occur

every six months - at three months initially, and then if a client is still in

detention at nine, 15 and 21 months and so on, for as long as the client remains

in detention. These reviews fall between the Ombudsman’s six-month

reporting periods; the Ombudsman conducts an ‘Own motion enquiry’

into all clients detained at 6, 12 and 18 months after initial detention. From

the two-year mark of a client’s detention the Commonwealth Ombudsman has a

statutory obligation under the Migration Act 1958 to investigate and to

report to the Minister every six months a client remains in detention. The

Minister is obliged to table all Ombudsman reports in Parliament.

Recommendation 3: DIAC and the Minister for Immigration should make

greater use of community-based alternatives to holding people in immigration

detention facilities for prolonged and indefinite periods. This should include

alternatives to detention such as bridging visas, and alternative forms of

detention such as Community Detention.

DIAC and the Minister for Immigration should make full use of Community

Detention, particularly for people who meet the priority criteria under the

Residence Determination Guidelines. This includes children and accompanying

family members, people who may have experienced torture or trauma, people with

significant physical or mental health concerns and people whose cases will take

a considerable period to substantively resolve.

On 18 October 2010, the Australian Government announced an expansion of its

existing Residence Determination (community detention) program to progressively

move significant numbers of children and vulnerable family groups out of

immigration detention facilities and into community-based

accommodation[2]. Whilst Residence

determination is not a visa grant, it allows children and their families to move

about in the community under the care of the Commonwealth and its Non-Government

Organisation (NGO) partners.

As at 18 May 2011, the Minister had approved 799 clients (including 401

children) for Residence Determination, consistent with the terms of the

government’s 18 October 2010 announcement.

As at this date, 604 clients (including 290 children) are residing in

community detention. The remaining clients are either in the process of being

transferred into their community-based accommodation or have received protection

visas either prior to, or after, being transferred into community detention.

The capacity for this to occur is limited by the availability of suitable

accommodation and support services in the community.

The Australian Red Cross is the lead agency contracted by the department to

deliver community detention. The Australian Red Cross are working with other

NGOs, including church groups to source accommodation without putting extra

pressure on housing that is already in demand from vulnerable Australians.

While placement of minors and their accompanying families in community-based

accommodation remains the government’s priority, there will be a continued

need to accommodate them and their families in low to medium-security facilities

and alternative places of detention (APOD) whilst community-based accommodation

is being sourced.

Recommendation 4: Until recommendations 1 and 2 are implemented, the

Australian Government should avoid the prolonged detention of asylum seekers by

complying with its New Directions in Detention policy under which

detention of asylum seekers is for the purpose of conducting health, identity

and security checks. The security check should not be interpreted as requiring a

full ASIO security assessment for each individual before they are released from

an immigration detention facility. Rather, the security check should consist of

a summary assessment of whether an individual would pose an unacceptable risk to

the Australian community. That assessment should be made when the individual is

taken into immigration detention, or as soon as possible thereafter.

Beginning in March 2011, the department implemented a new security indicator

triage method developed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation

(ASIO). All clients assessed under the new security methodology are clients

found to satisfy the definition of refugee set out in Article 1A of the United

Nations’ Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of

Refugees.

DIAC staff using the new methodology are trained by ASIO to assess several

security indicators particular to client cohort nationalities.

During March and April, over 1200 clients were triaged using the new

methodology and indicators prepared by ASIO. Of these, around 200 (17%) clients

were referred to ASIO for further scrutiny. Over 1000 (83%) other clients did

not match a security indicator and they have joined the Protection Visa

assessment pathway.

DIAC is now working to prepare robust and resilient operating procedures to

streamline the security indicator triage function. It is anticipated 'same day

service' will be possible for many clients assessed under the new system.

Recommendation 5: The Australian Government should ensure that durable

solutions are provided for individuals who have received adverse security

assessments from ASIO, and that they are removed from immigration detention

facilities as soon as possible.

The government is actively exploring durable solutions for individuals with

adverse security assessments that are consistent with Australia's international

obligations, including its non-refoulement obligations. These solutions

may include resettlement in a third country or safe return to their country of

origin where country circumstances allow, where the risk of relevant harm

occurring no longer exists or where reliable and effective assurances can be

received from the home country. However, the government considers that it is

not appropriate for individuals who have received an adverse security assessment

to live in the Australian community while such solutions are sought.

Recommendation 6: People whose visas have been cancelled under section 501

of the Migration Act should not automatically be categorised as posing an

unacceptable risk to the Australian community. They should only be held in an

immigration detention facility if they have been individually assessed as posing

an unacceptable risk and that risk cannot be met in a less restrictive way.

Consideration of appropriate alternatives should begin as soon as DIAC becomes

aware that an individual is likely to have their visa cancelled and be taken

into immigration detention.

An individual who has had a visa cancelled or

refused under section 501 of the Act is not precluded from having their case

considered by the Minister under section 197AB of the Act for a possible

community detention placement.

Recommendation 7: The redevelopment of Villawood IDC should be undertaken

as soon as possible. It should include the demolition of Blaxland compound,

ensure that people are detained in the least restrictive form of detention

possible, and address the infrastructure concerns raised by the Commission in

its 2008 Immigration detention report.

The Department of Finance

and Deregulation (Finance) is managing the Villawood IDC redevelopment project

on behalf of DIAC. The project is subject to the governance requirements of

publicly funded Commonwealth projects including review by the Parliamentary

Standing Committee on Public Works, heritage referral to the Department of

Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Communities and examination

by Finance’s Gateway Review process. These approvals are being undertaken

in a timely manner and the project is currently running on time and on

budget.

DIAC is also committed to engaging stakeholders such as the AHRC

in an iterative design process to ensure the new facility not only reflects the

2008 and 2009 concerns raised by the AHRC, but that it is able to flexibly

respond to evolving immigration policy over the next 50 years.

The

provision of $186.7 million to extensively redevelop Villawood IDC, announced by

the government as part of the 2009-10 Budget, includes funding for new

facilities to replace Blaxland compound.

Recommendation 8: DIAC should develop a written policy setting out the

decision-making process, criteria and rationale for placing a person in the

annexe in Blaxland compound at Villawood IDC. The policy should include

requirements for each person’s placement to be reviewed on a regular basis

and for information to be provided to the person about the outcome of that

review and the reasons for the decision. The policy should mandate an individual

management plan that specifies the purpose of the placement and the strategies

staff will use to contain the risk. The annexe should not be used for managing

people who have been involved in violent or aggressive behaviour at the same

time as it is being used to monitor people who have been placed on observation

because they are at risk of suicide or self-harm.

The department’s draft ‘Safe use of more restrictive

detention’ policy (which is currently under review by the Detention Health

Advisory Group [DeHAG] Mental Health Sub-Group) will assist in guiding decisions

in relation to placing people in the Blaxland Dormitory 3 Annexe or the Murray

Block.

The department is of the view that, in normal circumstances, the Client

Placement Review (CPR) managed by the Compliance and Case Resolution Division

(CCRD) is the appropriate means of determining a client’s placement. The

‘Safe use of more restrictive detention’ policy will assist in

informing decisions made under the CPR.

Where concerns exist as to the self-harm or suicide risk state of a client,

the department’s contracted Health Services Provider, International Health

and Medical Services (IHMS), through the Prevention Committee and/or the

Psychological Support Program (PSP) Committee at Villawood IDC, will advise on

appropriate accommodation placement, based on clinical factors.

The PSP calls for a safe environment where clients can be monitored and

engaged with. Currently, Blaxland and Murray are the only sites within

Villawood IDC which allow this type of observation. As a general rule, unless

the degree of risk necessitates accommodating an individual in a highly safe and

secure environment, every effort is made to accommodate the person in their

regular living environment.

Recommendation 9: An independent body should be charged with monitoring

the provision of physical and mental health services in immigration detention,

and adequate resources should be allocated to that body to fulfil this

function.

The DeHAG and its Mental Health Sub-Group provide the department with

independent expert advice to design, develop, implement and monitor health and

mental health care services and policies for people in immigration detention.

The department works with the DeHAG and other key health stakeholders to improve

the physical and mental health of people under our care.

The department has recently contracted an external provider to assist in the

review of clinical governance processes. This includes the development of a

health audit tool and a pilot clinical review of health services provided by

IHMS on Christmas Island. Following the finalisation of this review, the

department will investigate the option of conducting similar clinical reviews at

other immigration detention facilities.

Recommendation 10: In relation to the provision of physical and mental

health services, DIAC should:

  • Consider increasing the staffing level of the IHMS physical health

    service and the IHMS mental health service at Villawood IDC.

  • Require at least a minimal IHMS presence at Villawood IDC twenty four

    hours per day, seven days per week.

  • Overhaul the clinical governance framework for the delivery of mental

    health services to detainees within Villawood IDC and across the detention

    network. This would involve a consultant psychiatrist overseeing mental health

    service delivery, providing clinical supervision of staff and accepting clinical

    responsibility for the provision of clinical care.

  • Amend the IHMS contract to incorporate active outreach work in the

    accommodation compounds at Villawood IDC, and address this issue in a consistent

    way across the detention network.

  • Require that IHMS provide at least a minimal onsite presence at Sydney

    IRH.

Clients in immigration detention are provided access to

health care at a standard comparable to that available to the general Australian

community.

The unique circumstances of clients in immigration detention, including at

Villawood IDC, typically necessitates a high proportion of physical and mental

health services and resources.

As at 30 April 2011, there were seven full-time mental health staff working

at Villawood IDC – a Mental Health Team Leader (psychologist), three

additional psychologists, a mental health nurse and two counsellors. An

additional counsellor is also employed by IHMS on a casual basis, and provides

services as required. In addition to these services, a consultant Psychiatrist

is also employed by IHMS on a casual basis and attends Villawood IDC as

required.

While the department believes that IHMS staffing at Villawood IDC recognises

and reflects the specific needs of clients, we are constantly monitoring health

service provision to ensure this remains appropriate to client needs. This

recommendation will be considered in the context of this ongoing review

process.

With regards to the AHRC’s recommendation around clinical governance of

mental health services at Villawood IDC, the department notes that the provision

of mental health services at Villawood IDC is managed by the Villawood IDC

Mental Health Team Leader (a psychologist), with oversight from the IHMS

Psychological Services Manager (also a psychologist) and the IHMS Medical

Director (a Psychiatrist). Where required, advice is sought from the treating

IHMS Psychiatrist.

The department is currently considering two proposals from IHMS recommending

an increase in the Psychiatrist presence at Villawood IDC and the creation of a

dedicated Medical Director of Mental Health (a senior Psychiatrist), who would

provide strategic and operational leadership for the various mental health

disciplines available at each place of detention.

The department acknowledges the AHRC’s concerns around the lack of

active outreach services provided to clients at Villawood IDC and has

reconfirmed the need for outreach services with IHMS.

IHMS plans to provide mental health staff to walk the areas of the centre (as

has been done in facilities such as at Christmas Island IDC) to provide staff

with the opportunity to better interact with clients.

Currently, IHMS coordinates the delivery of both mental and primary health

care services for clients residing at the Sydney IRH, through the use of

community network providers.

The department has asked IHMS to review the current service delivery model at

Sydney Immigration Residential Housing with regards to its appropriateness.

Recommendation 11: In relation to self-harm and suicide, DIAC

should:

  • Consult with organisations that specialise in suicide prevention, as well

    as mental health professionals including members of the Detention Health

    Advisory Group, for advice about measures that should be taken to mitigate the

    risk of further suicides across the detention network.

  • Ensure that a safety audit is conducted across Villawood IDC and all

    other detention facilities, and that all appropriate measures are taken to

    minimise the risk of suicide and self-harm.

  • Ensure that there is a clear written policy in place at each detention

    facility, including Sydney IRH, setting out procedures for responding to threats

    of self-harm or suicide, and ensure that all relevant staff are provided with

    training on the policy and procedures.

The department shares the

AHRC's concern regarding the rate of self-harm across the detention network.

The department, through IHMS, endeavours to promote optimum mental health

through various programs and also through the screening and management of

clients ‘at risk’ through the PSP. IHMS reviews all critical

incidents and provides a comprehensive report to the department.

IHMS Mental Health Team Leaders at sites contribute to the prevention of

suicide and self-harm through involvement in the Prevention Committee Meetings

and by giving expert advice to the department on placement and client management

issues for individual clients. More directly, the IHMS Mental Health Team

focuses on the management of formal mental illness, suicide prevention and the

promotion of mental health well being through their direct therapeutic

engagement with clients.

The department is working to engage expert advice to help mitigate the risk

of further suicides within immigration detention. As noted in the AHRC’s

report, DeHAG is not mandated to monitor physical and mental health service

provision. DeHAG's role is to "provide the department with independent expert

advice to...monitor health and mental health care services". Following advice

from DeHAG, the department is working to access expert opinion through a Suicide

Prevention Working Group.

The department is also currently working with DeHAG to develop an appropriate

tool to be used for the purpose of conducting regular safety audits across the

detention network.

The department is conducting a review into the implementation of the three

new mental health policies, including the PSP, and will take the AHRC’s

comments into consideration as part of this review. In the meantime, the

department will ensure its policies in this area are fully and effectively

implemented.

The department is negotiating with IHMS to develop and deliver PSP training

to all stakeholders at Villawood IDC and Sydney IRH. Currently, departmental

staff working with clients at Villawood IDC and Sydney IRH are able to access

training on PSP through courses offered by the department’s College of

Immigration.

Recommendation 12: The Australian Government should implement the

outstanding recommendations of the report of the National Inquiry into Children

in Immigration Detention, A last resort?. These include that

Australia’s immigration detention laws should be amended, as a matter of

urgency, to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In

particular, the new laws should incorporate the following minimum features:

  • There should be a presumption against the detention of children for

    immigration purposes.

  • A court or independent tribunal should assess whether there is a need to

    detain children for immigration purposes within 72 hours of any initial

    detention (for example, for the purposes of health, identity or security

    checks).

  • There should be prompt and periodic review by a court of the legality of

    continuing detention of children for immigration purposes.

  • 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

    • the best interests of children must be a primary

      consideration

    • the preservation of family unity
    • special protection and assistance for unaccompanied

      children.

The government takes its international obligations seriously and acts

consistently to comply with all of its treaty obligations, including the

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC).

Minors and their accompanying families are accommodated at low-security

sites, such as immigration transit accommodation (ITA) and immigration

residential housing (IRH), or other APOD, which includes commercial

accommodation such as motels.

Unaccompanied minors (UAM) are subject to the same accommodation arrangements

as other children, but are supported by appropriate carers and are held in an

APOD while health, security and identity checks are completed. They may then be

considered for a community placement if accommodation is available.

Section 4AA of the Migration Act 1958 states:

"(1) The Parliament affirms as a principle that a minor shall only be

detained as a measure of last resort.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the reference to a minor being

detained does not include a reference to a minor residing at a place in

accordance with a residence determination".

While section 4AA affirms the principle that children should only be detained

as a last resort, the principle does not limit the location and nature of any

such detention. DIAC maintains that Key Immigration Detention Value 3, which

provides that ‘children, including juvenile foreign fishers and, where

possible, their families, will not be detained in an immigration detention

centre’, broadly reflects our international obligations under Article 3(1)

and Article 37 of the CROC. Although children fall under the broad mandatory

detention framework, they are treated considerably differently than adults.

The facilities at Sydney IRH are designed to provide a comfortable

environment where children can continue to develop while they remain with their

families in detention. The processing of asylum claims by children is accorded

the highest priority to ensure compliance with our Article 37(b) obligations

under the CROC and that children remain in facilities for the ‘shortest

appropriate period of time’.

DIAC maintains that children in Sydney IRH have considerable liberties, and

are free to attend school, outings and other organised activities in order to

best permit them to live as unrestricted as possible while their claims (and

those of their families) are assessed.

Policy documents relating to the treatment of children in detention are

clear:

‘Children can be a vulnerable group of clients, particularly in the

context of compliance operations and immigration detention. The case management

of children presents particular challenges and requires special consideration of

the child’s individual and family circumstances. Although a child will not

be detained in an IDC, it is possible that a child may be subject to other

detention arrangements such as community detention or immigration residential

housing. If a child has been detained, whether or not this is with a parent or

guardian, the child will be actively case managed. The only exceptions might be

children who have been detained with their families and are on a rapid removal

pathway or juvenile foreign fishers.’

The department acknowledges the

AHRC’s concerns regarding assessments on the need to detain children and

undertaking periodic reviews. As previously noted in the response to

Recommendation 3, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and

Citizenship announced the intention to use existing powers under the Migration Act 1958 to progressively place significant numbers of UAMs and

vulnerable families in residence determination arrangements.

This move

is in recognition of the increasing numbers of families with children and UAMs

in immigration detention and the lengthening period of time which some may have

been detained during processing of their claims or finalisation of their

cases.

The residence determination arrangements will be rolled out

progressively in partnership with community organisations over the coming months

and should go a large way to providing suitable longer term accommodation for

this group of clients.

A reference group has been formed involving key Council for Immigration

Services and Status Resolution (CISSR) representatives, DIAC officers and other

external members, including a representative from the Department of Families,

Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

As noted above in relation to Recommendation 2, DIAC has established Senior

Officer and Ombudsman’s reviews that now regularly consider the

appropriateness of a person’s ongoing detention, their detention

arrangements and other matters relevant to their detention and case resolution.

These review arrangements apply to people in Residence Determination

arrangements as well as to people in other places of

detention.

Recommendation 13: The Australian Government should, as

a matter of priority, implement the recommendations made by the Commission in A last resort? that:

  • Australia’s laws should be amended so that the Minister for

    Immigration is no longer the legal guardian of unaccompanied minors in

    immigration detention.

  • An independent guardian should be appointed for unaccompanied minors in

    immigration detention.

The Immigration (Guardianship of

Children) Act 1946 (IGOC Act) provides that the Minister for Immigration and

Citizenship is the guardian of certain unaccompanied non-citizen children who

arrive in Australia with the intention of becoming permanent residents. It is

recognised that the IGOC Act is outdated and not designed for the purpose for

which it is now used. The department recognises the concerns that have been

raised about the perceived conflict of interest between the Minister's role as

guardian under the IGOC Act and being the decision-maker under the Migration

Act 1958.

The Minister has asked the department to further develop several options for

the Minister’s consideration to address not only issues relating to

guardianship, but also to better target youth and settlement services for minors

and to better assess individual needs of unaccompanied minors. We will consult

with the AHRC and other key stakeholders on the implementation of these changes

shortly.

Recommendation 14: In the absence of an independent guardian, DIAC

officers and staff members of detention service providers in each immigration

detention location should be provided with a clear written policy setting out

which DIAC officer has been delegated the Minister’s powers of legal

guardianship of unaccompanied minors in that location, and how and when that

guardian should be consulted.

Policy setting out the guardianship arrangements for UAMs in immigration

detention is contained in the Detention Services Manual which is published on

the departmental database (LEGEND). For UAMs who come under the IGOC Act, the

Minister delegates his guardianship to either a senior representative of a State

or Territory child welfare agency or the relevant departmental Regional Manager.

The operation of these guardianship powers are outlined in Serco's operational

guidelines.

The department agrees that policies and guidelines relating to the

application of the IGOC Act should be consistent, comprehensive and clear; and

agrees these should be regularly reviewed and updated, noting that this will

done in line with any decisions taken by the Minister to address issues relating

to guardianship, to better target youth and settlement services for minors and

to better assess individual needs.

A technical working group with a departmental representative and experts from

a variety of organisations including the Australian Red Cross and specialist

service providers, Life Without Barriers (LWB) and Marist Youth Care has been

established to develop policies and processes specifically related to

unaccompanied minors in community detention.

The department also notes the work of the Department of Families, Housing,

and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Attorney-General’s

Department on possible models for a Commission of Children as part of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children

2009-2020.

Recommendation 15: DIAC should pursue the adoption of a Memorandum of

Understanding with the NSW Department of Community Services in order to ensure

clear guidelines are in place regarding responsibilities and procedures relating

to the welfare and protection of children in immigration detention at Sydney IRH

or other locations in NSW.

There is an existing agreement in place between DIAC and the NSW Department

of Education and Training regarding minors in immigration detention, including

those in community detention. Under that agreement, a set of detailed

procedures are in place for the enrolment in NSW schools of minors in community

detention.

A meeting between the department and the NSW Government was held on 18

February 2011 to discuss possible variations to the agreement to reflect the

expanded numbers of minors in community detention in NSW.

The department has contracted LWB to provide the role of care coordination

for UAMs in detention facilities and APODs, including Sydney IRH.

LWB's care is facility based in the form of either 24 hour live-in care or

non-live-in daily care and welfare supports visits. Care services provided by

LWB includes:

  • Pastoral care provided by cultural and linguistically diverse cultural

    support workers;

  • Provision of suitably trained and screened professional care staff to

    supervise day to day care arrangements;

  • Ensuring that the accommodation is maintained by the unaccompanied minors in

    optimum condition;

  • Ensuring health, recreational, emotional and spiritual needs of the clients

    are attended to, and appropriate referrals made where challenges or issues are

    identified;and

  • Development of care and welfare support services and programs for

    unaccompanied minors.

The Australian Red Cross provides support for

those UAMs in community detention arrangements.

DIAC and its services providers, who work with minors in any capacity, must

comply with relevant state child protection legislation.

Recommendation 16: DIAC should ensure that all relevant DIAC officers and

staff members of detention service providers are provided with a localised

policy setting out the requirements, procedures and contact details for making

child welfare and protection notifications in relation to concerns that arise in

respect of children in immigration detention in the location in which they work.

The departmental policy is that any suspicion or allegation relating to child

welfare should be immediately referred to the relevant state/territory welfare

authority regardless of whether or not mandatory reporting is a requirement.

Regional Managers are to escalate any concerns they have in relation to child

welfare issues, including allegations or suspicion of abuse or neglect, to the

Assistant Secretary, Compliance & Case Resolution, East & North or the

Assistant Secretary, Compliance & Case Resolution, South & West

(depending upon the geographical location of the Immigration Detention

Facility), who will liaise with the relevant state or territory welfare

authority.

These lines of communication are documented in the departmental instruction

concerning minors contained in the Detention Services Manual. These

instructions, which were updated on 15 May 2011, provide policy guidance to

departmental and Serco staff.

DIAC staff are advised of new or revised instructions by means of an email.

Serco is also advised by means of a letter with a copy of the revised

instruction attached.

Recommendation 17: DIAC should ensure that all

people in immigration detention at Villawood have access to:

  • adequate outdoor recreation spaces including grassy and shaded

    areas

  • adequate indoor areas for educational and recreational

    activities

  • a range of recreational and educational activities conducted on a regular

    and frequent basis

  • a freely accessible library area stocked with reading materials in

    languages spoken by people in detention

  • adequate access to communication facilities including internet facilities

    and telephones

  • opportunities to attend religious services in the community, should they

    wish to do so.

The department provides infrastructure to support

the provision of passive and active recreation, educational programs, religious

observance, access to reading materials and internet facilities. Unfortunately

many of these buildings were lost or damaged during the recent fires and the

department is in the process of sourcing replacements.

Prior to the incidents in April 2011, Serco had prepared a proposal to

upgrade the amenities in Villawood IDC, including Hughes, Fowler as well as

Blaxland.

Whilst the recent incident at Villawood IDC has hindered our

ability to implement these changes in the initial timeframes as planned, having

sufficient equipment and facilities to enable our clients access to activities,

library, computers and recreation remains a priority in Villawood IDC.

The immediate priority is restoring essential services such as computer

and internet access. IT solutions are currently under consideration to enable

facilities to be restored as quickly as possible. Computers for Fowler and

Hughes are currently on order and should arrive soon for client use. The

replacement of the existing football field in Fowler with an artificially turfed

pitch is also being progressed.

New recreation equipment such as sporting equipment has been purchased and is

now available for client use independently and as a part of structured

activities.

Serco management have also advised that a plan for further improvements in

Blaxland is currently under review. One of the aims of this plan will be to

address the availability and use of recreation space within Blaxland to provide

client opportunities for further participation and engagement in programs and

activities for their welfare and well-being.

Library Facilities

Library services will be restored in

Fowler once sufficient space is made available after repair works are carried

out on impacted infrastructure. Blaxland will also be receiving further stock. A

well-stocked, language-appropriate library is already established within Hughes.

A monitored borrowing system will soon be introduced for clients to access books

at Villawood IDC and to better facilitate borrowing and fair distribution of

books amongst all clients.

Telephones

Landline

telephones are available in Fowler, Hughes, Banksia and Blaxland. Telephone

lines were impacted during the recent unrest but this service has been restored.

Programs and Activities

Serco have delivered Programs

and Activities schedules for Villawood IDC that have met with Regional

Management approval with the view that further improvements are implemented

moving forward. Serco has recently appointed a new Programs and Activities

Manager at Villawood IDC. As a result, we expect to see an improvement in the

variety and frequency of structured recreational and educational activities

within Villawood IDC. DIAC will continue to monitor the provision of programs

and activities and assess the performance of Serco in the delivery of these

services as per the contractual requirements.

Community volunteers are

also continuing to deliver their services at Villawood IDC as a part of the

overall Programs and Activities schedule.

Attendance of religious

services in the community is governed by departmental guidelines on external

excursions as detailed in the response to Recommendation 18 below.

Recommendation 18: DIAC should ensure that people in immigration detention

at Villawood IDC are provided with regular opportunities to leave the detention

environment on external excursions.

DIAC should implement consistent standards for external excursions across

the detention network. Standards for the conduct of a minimum number of external

excursions should be specified in the Serco contracts applicable to all

detention facilities, and financial penalties should be applied if those

standards are not met.

Current departmental guidelines on external excursions are detailed in the

Detention Services Manual (Chapter 8 - Safety & security Excursions). An

update to those guidelines is scheduled to be made on 1 July 2011.

DIAC supports the implementation of meaningful programs and activities,

including external excursions, across the detention network. DIAC also supports

the implementation, where possible, of consistent standards for external

excursions.

The department notes that availability and variety of suitable excursion

destinations is not consistent at all locations across the detention network.

Within these constraints, however, this recommendation is supported.

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[1]A v Australia [1997]

UNHRC 7; CCPR/C/59/D/560/1993 (30 April

1997)
[2] Minister for Immigration

and Citizenship, Joint Media Release with the Prime Minister, 18 October

2010, viewed 11 February 2011 http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/cb/2010/cb155484.htm.