Skip to main content

HREOC Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

Transcript of Hearing -

BRISBANE

Monday 5 August 2002

Please note: This is an

edited transcript


DR SEV OZDOWSKI,

Human Rights Commissioner

MRS ROBIN SULLIVAN,

Queensland Children's Commissioner

PROFESSOR TRANG

THOMAS, Professor of Psychology

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

MS VANESSA LESNIE,

Secretary to the Inquiry


DR OZDOWSKI: I would like to formally open this public hearing which

is one of a series of hearings conducted around Australia and I think it's

possibly the last one which involves the public. We will have further hearings

for Immigration officials and ACM officials. My name is Sev Ozdowski and

I am the Human Rights Commissioner of Australia and I have two Assistant

Commissioners assisting me with this Inquiry.

On my right is Professor

Trang Thomas, Professor of Psychology at the Royal Melbourne Institute

of Technology and on my left Mrs Robin Sullivan, who is also the Queensland

Children's Commissioner. Before the hearing commences I would like to

note the following matters. First, the issue of confidentiality and privacy.

The Commission believes it is important to respect the privacy of individuals

and to protect children in particular. Even where individual cases have

been made public elsewhere, individual's names should not be named in

this hearing.

And as a matter of

fact I issued a number of directions to protect the security and privacy

of people and the effect of these orders is that the identity of Mr X

is not to be disclosed during the hearings. Second, that the identity

of any other person who requests anonymity is not to be disclosed. And

third, that the identity of any third parties is not to be disclosed and

this includes current or former employees at detention centres and these

people shouldn't be named because they have not had the opportunity to

defend themselves against allegations which could be made.

I therefore also

would like to ask the media to adhere to the following: that when witnesses

request not to be identified by name or photograph even though they may

have given public evidence, please respect this request. When filming

please respect the wishes of those who may not want to be included in

any background shots. Now, I would like to invite our first witness, Mrs

Jane Delaney-John from Access Childcare Equity Supports Program. Welcome

to the hearings.

MRS J. DELANEY-JOHN:

Thank you.

DR OZDOWSKI:

The role of the Commission is to test evidence which was provided in the

submissions and to elicit further information, so I will ask you a number

of questions and also my Assistant Commissioners will do the same. And

if you feel that you don't understand the questions just please ask. I

will try to rephrase them, but to start with I would like to ask you to

take an oath or affirmation and I will ask Ms Vanessa Lesnie, who is Secretary

to the Inquiry, to administer it.

MRS J. DELANEY-JOHN:

Just the affirmation, thank you.

JANE DELANEY-JOHN [8.34am]

Diversity in Child Care, Queensland Access Program

DR OZDOWSKI: Thank you. Now, could I ask you for the record to

give your name, address, qualifications and the capacity in which you

are appearing?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

My name is Jane Delaney-John and I'm the program manager of the Access

Program, which is a program of Diversity in Child Care, Queensland. My

home address is [address removed]. I am early childhood trained, with

more than 10 years' experience working with refugee children and migrant

children in the inclusion needs of those children into child care services.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And now I would like to remind you again about the orders I made about

privacy. If you would like to mention some names, please provide them

to the Secretary to the Inquiry after the hearings. Sometimes it may be

necessary to do so in order so we can follow through documentary material

to establish what the full circumstances of individual cases are. Now,

could I ask you to make an opening statement and in particular I would

like to ask you to say something about the children's services you are

providing and what we are particularly interested in are kids on TPVs

with whom you have contact. We would like to establish the level of your

expertise with children on TPVs.

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Okay. Access is a Commonwealth-funded supplementary service program

and our main charter is to support families to access children's services

of their choice, Commonwealth-funded children's services of their choice,

and to support child care services in the inclusion needs of children

into those care arrangements. Those care arrangements can be ongoing support

over a period of time, depending on the individual needs of children so

some can be shorter periods of time and others can extend for more than

18 months of support or beyond.

With the children

that we've provided support in the last year we have provided support

for children from all migration status, but within that there has been

99 children who are refugee children and there are 45 children who are

actually temporary protection visa. In addition to the support provided

within the children's services, there are home visits that take place

where there's observations of children that take place, and also we have

a subcontract where we've actually been providing the creche situation

for the children at Harmony Place, the ethnic mental health, where staff

have actually been looking at the inclusion needs of children and providing

a creche play environment for those children.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So if I understand correctly, you are basically a referral service to

various child care services providers and you are financed by the Commonwealth.

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Yes, but in addition to that we actually look at the inclusion needs

of the children; what is actually happening in the range of behaviours,

what are the linguistic needs of the children, what are the cultural and

spiritual needs of the children and are there other stressors or traumas

that might actually be not conducive to sound development for children,

and it's actually about upskilling and giving the staff confidence to

be able to create those bonds and relationships with the children and

their parents and also to look at the daily care needs of those children.

DR OZDOWSKI: What

ages of children are you dealing with?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

We cover the age of birth through to 13 years of age.

DR OZDOWSKI: Could

you say something about your experience with the 45 kids who were TPVs

and especially you mentioned in your submission that there are a number

of behaviours which were of concern to you. Could you perhaps say a bit

more about that?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Okay. While I think it's fair to state that the ranges of behaviours

that I'm presenting today we have seen in evidence for children who are

refugee children, one of the factors which I think bears some heightened

examination is that for the children who are refugee experience, we've

provided 140 hours to 16 hours of inclusion support, depending on the

needs of children, compared to the children who are TPVs, which is 200

hours to 30 hours. Also, the elongated levels of distress that occurs

with the children. With the behaviours of the children, sleeping difficulties

where babies are waking because they are crying, not that they're actually

waking and then crying, is quite readily observed. Children taking a long

time to settle and then sleeping lightly and they're quite watchful and

afraid to go to sleep within the services and some of the children are

exhibiting signs of rocking continuously. The period of time in which

that has actually been occurring has been quite extended.

Now, while there

has been some reduction in these behaviours while children have been bonding,

the length of time really is what we'd like to note, and there are four

children particularly who appear to wake up and appear sad. They have

slumped features and stance and have no interest in actually participating

or moving around and continue to show those kinds of signs and behaviour.

There are some over-dependent behaviours and they have a high level of

autonomy so they are not actually interacting in a co-operative way. They

seem to value the autonomy in the way that they're behaving.

What we've noted

particularly is that children are constantly watchful of others and also

visitors to any services and situations. This has been observed both within

services and within home visits, even though we might have made repeated

visits to those homes and made relationships with families. There are

some levels of aggression in the children aged from four to seven years

particularly and while that might not be considered for some children,

to have some aggressive tendencies, in three of the children aggression

was observed at times when children returned from outdoor play and only

at these times.

So when we're looking

at the individual needs of children with aggression, we try to observe

the periods of time in which children are much more challenging, and we

try and actually work out those times that we actually can see how we

could modify environments of approaches and those sorts of things. So

it actually was quite interesting that - the children were actually being

observed as they were coming from the outdoor play to the indoor play;

there was some aggressive tendencies occurring then. There's some withdrawn

behaviours to children, and children particularly not wanting to be touched,

and also some excessive hiding, where children are continually looking

for little hidey holes, and having to spend quite some time developing

programs where children can actually, you know, play where they're remaining

and encourage them to participate in the broader environment.

And while it's agreed

that these behaviours can be observed in refugee children, the number

of children in the cohort of claimants is higher where behaviour is quite

overt and the length of time is longer for the children that we're talking

about. There also appears to be a little bit more difficulty to interact

and relate to others, and that while good quality childcare plays a strong

role in supporting children and their families, the needs of the children

have been actually quite challenging. Some of the children have also been

continually unwell, and they're complaining of stomach pains, listlessness,

and lack of appetite at various times.

Within the creche,

there are only approximately three to four children attending one afternoon

a week. And they - all the children there are exhibiting restlessness,

even with two staff members and with parents on the site. It's quite an

energetic session where the children really flit from one thing to another,

not really taking very much in terms of direction; not really engaging

in play for any length of time; and quite watchful. Again, avoid being

touched, and want to repeatedly check that mum is still with them.

So they're the range

of behaviours that we've been observing in the children specifically,

and while with some children - because we've been providing supports for

over a year now - there has been some reduction, at varying times we're

actually seeing re-stresses, or if there's a change in the environments

or slight differences to the numbers of children - you know, changes in

the rooms - children reverting back to a range of behaviours. So there's

quite a lot of passive play as well that occurs, where children are really

kind of more observing play than actually engaging in play.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Could I ask you how the frequency of these behaviours compares with the

frequency of something like behaviours in broader population.

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Okay. Within the year we've supported 1025 immigrant children, so

children are coming from cultural linguistically diverse backgrounds,

not necessarily in care environments where they have staff who can interest

and bond with the children very readily. Their behaviours are different

in that we have children with separation anxiety, and that can be any

child who has a separation from their parent because parents are going

to English classes or vocational training, or it might be some counselling

services. But the difference particularly that we've noted is that the

separation anxiety appears to be heightened, and it appears to go for

a lot longer in time.

We have had a couple

of children actually vomiting from the separation that has occurred. And

it also is to be noted that with five of the children particularly, one

of the difficulties has been the crucial shortage of childcare, so I know

that there is another impact. It's not necessarily in relation to an experience

in a detention centre, but perhaps the ongoing trauma of settlement is

the - with those five children, they're actually being picked up from

their home from by a service of the childcare service and taken to the

childcare centre.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Is there a difference in level of services available to kids on TPV in

comparison with other kids? No

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

No.

DR OZDOWSKI:

they are exactly the same.

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

No. The services available are exactly the same. The availability of spaces,

which is critical shortage, is exactly the same. There's a lot more work

into trying to access those services and make them affordable for the

families and the parents. Out of the children who were placed in care,

there was - some children were absolutely relocated to services. One child

was relocated three times; one was relocated five times; with unsettled

behaviours. Some children are actually in two quite different environments

during the week, so they might be in a pre-school for some of the time

and they might be in a childcare service for some of the time, and both

services are actually experiencing similar levels of behaviours.

So if, for example,

the child is quite watchful and restless and not really interacting, we're

actually finding that similar behaviours are occurring in either service

regardless of which environment the child is in.

DR OZDOWSKI: Perhaps

I will ask now Professor Thomas to ask you some questions.

PROF THOMAS:

Ms Delaney-John, the children - do they get formal assessment so that

they can be referred for formal intervention?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Formal assessment is quite difficult. Some of the families are actually

receiving torture and trauma counselling services.

PROF THOMAS:

Yes.

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Of the children and families, we have six families definitely receiving

torture and trauma counselling. The difficulty is any formal programs

of - whether it be touch therapy or music therapy or any other therapy

for that matter - dance therapy - it's not been forthcoming in a great

way for the children. So the formal assessment has - is a difficult road

to take. The formal assessment for any child, I must note - any refugee

child - even though we have the special needs subsidy scheme of the Commonwealth,

there have only been two children approved through that system.

PROF THOMAS:

So is there any difference between the treatment and the help that the

refugee children receive and the children who are from - are still on

TPVs?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

There hasn't been a difference in help. What there has been is a difference

in the time being spent to support the children, looking at inclusion

needs. But in terms of assessment the systems are fairly weak for any

child who has experienced war torn torture and trauma. And that's across

the board in Queensland.

PROF THOMAS:

And how about the mothers? Do they get support?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Some of the mothers are attending the torture and trauma counselling service,

as I'd said. Also other mothers who are going to, yes, I think mental

health at Harmony Place for their English classes - like a conversational

English class which is also a little bit of a social kind of gathering.

Both Harmony Place and ourselves are looking at an application at the

moment to go in to have a formal program for the children, which will

be based on touch therapy and dance therapy.

PROF THOMAS:

Of the children that you have observed, what is the longest time you have

had to observe the children? I just want to see that long-term impact.

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Over a period of 13 months.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So you see any improvement; any change at the end of 13 months?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

We've seen an increased bonding and a relaxation by some of the children,

but then it can - there can be some regressions occurring and it also

depends on how the families are feeling in relation to what they've articulated

as long-term security or other issues that have been occurring for the

family. So the children can be creating those bonds and then, for example,

with some children there's been a change of staff member and those sorts

of things so that's had another effect for the children. So we're sort

of seeing three steps forward and two steps back and that sort of behaviour

that's occurring with the children. As I said in the letter I sent you,

I really can't state evidence that the children have been singly affected

in relation to the detention centre. What I'm able to do is to bring to

the table the behaviours that we've actually observed in the children

in the length of time that's occurred, and with that and the other evidence

that you receive to actually weight that.

DR OZDOWSKI: Are

you saying you are not sure whether there's a linkage between the behaviour

and the fact of being detained?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

We see the restlessness and the behaviours where children react when

the gates get closed in the childcare centres. Most childcare services

have the pool gates. We've also observed those behaviours in some of the

refugee families as well, so we've done a lot of observation and worked

with refugee families for five years, so while we are seeing some of the

behaviours in the refugee children as well, there is much more challenge

in working with the children who have come from the detention centres,

and the ongoing distress for the families has - we believe also has an

impact for the children. So I suppose I'm trying to be as frank as possible.

With the children, one thing that did occur in relation to getting some

materials together for this Inquiry was we sat down and we were looking

at the statistics and the staff sat back and couldn't believe really that

we were servicing 43 children because from their experiencing levels of

stress in relation to the level of workload that had occurred for temporary

protection of these children, and they had - it was only when we looked

at it collectively that they realised they'd actually been supporting

more refugee children, but the work level for the TPV children has been

much higher. The work level also with the families and the observations

in their homes where there doesn't appear to be huge changes in the behaviour

of anxieties that are occurring.

DR OZDOWSKI: What

percentage of TPV children would you handle out of 100 persons residing

here in Queensland - what percentage of them would go through your hands?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

I wouldn't be able to state that. We have over 20 referral services that

refer children to us and their families. I could only really comment on

the 40 that

DR OZDOWSKI:

That you met.

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Yes.

PROF THOMAS:

You support culturally diverse children, so do you have also migrant children

or children from - children who were born in Australia, but have migrant

parents. Do you see the difference between these

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

We don't see these range of behaviours. We see some separation anxiety.

For some children who have come from business visas we do see children

who will vomit due to separation anxiety, but they will have less ranges

of behaviours. Some of the children have the sleeping - the withdrawal,

the excessive hiding, the reaction to the gates, the watchfulness. They

have a combination of those behaviours occurring for them, whereas with

some of the children who may have separation anxiety they're exhibiting

some withdrawn behaviours but an interest in observing children. So there

is a difference in the way that they're actually observing what is happening.

They don't appear to be jumpy and, you know, watchful and looking to see

who's coming through the doors; those sorts of things. So the behaviours

are quite different, and so the work undertaken for the inclusion of those

children is definitely a lot less hours as well. Service providers are

able to bond more readily with the children.

PROF THOMAS:

Did you observe any difference in the mother/child interaction, you know,

all these dyads?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Well, obviously with the - we support - I think the most in the year that

we've supported is 53 community language and within that there's diversity

in parenting. However, if we're looking at the families we have some families

where the children are quite clingy and bonded to families, but there

does appear to be less touch, which may have some cultural practice in

that, but it's - there is more disconnection in some respects. Families

have indicated high levels of distress and their ability to perhaps engage

in a very relaxed way with their children can have an effect. So we've

seen children who are being collected by services from their homes and

we've seen other children who were taken into the care situation by their

families and parents have expressed the pressures that they're experiencing.

And the sleeplessness that can occur because their children are sleepless.

PROF THOMAS:

But over time, have you observed the mother/child interaction, because

sometimes if the mother settles down and improves, that could have an

impact on the children?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Definitely. However, when we're looking at the children in the creche,

those children are exhibiting restlessness, high levels of restlessness.

It's - you know, staff are coming back. We've only got three to four children

with two staff, and we've got parents on site, and the staff are coming

back quite exhausted after those sessions and we're looking at ways to

actually engage them more in play, yes. So the difficulty with stress

is that you can have other factors on the long-term basis which affect

families and the way that they're coping with those changes and the families

have been expressing high levels of stress and so their ability to be

relaxed with their children is affected.

PROF THOMAS: So

do you have any recommendations for us?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Yes, I do.

PROF THOMAS:

More services?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Really in Australia, and particularly in Queensland, we have only

done some recent studies since 1997 in relation to children with post-traumatic

stress and we really haven't got very good services that really respond

to children and their psychological wellbeing even for refugee children.

So if the government is to embark on continuing to detain children, given

that there hasn't been enough work done, even though the body of evidence

is showing that children are showing quite high signs of post-traumatic

stress and they can have long-term mental health issues, I strongly do

not believe that detention centres are the ideal environments for children

and we're talking about children who are quite innocent of the politics

that go on and the effects that occur and we're seeing through the expression

also of parents the loss of childhoods and what effect that has for children.

Detention centres are not an environment of supportive developmental childhood

and I think it needs to be urgently addressed.

If there is going

to be any reception areas, I do believe strongly that counsellors and

therapists and early-childhood practitioners should come to the table

to look at play in environmental centres which would be much more appropriate

and supportive of family and children, and I would hope that, at the end

of this Inquiry, that there can be some addressing of this.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you.

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

I have tried not to be emotive, but it is very hard not to be emotive

when we are talking about children.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Just one more question.

MRS SULLIVAN:

It's really a follow-up to your recommendations. You make quite a strong

point in your submission about the greater length of time to support these

children. Is your recommendation more of the same support or is it different

support. I'm trying to think of a case management approach for these children.

So is it just more of what we've already got or are you looking at more

an alternative case management approach?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

I believe there needs to be specific early-childhood supported programs

for the children. I would hope that the Inquiry is able to address what's

actually happening for children now and in the future. So I suppose I

see it as two things: one is about the detention of children which I think

I've sort of stated fairly clearly my opinion on that, but also in relation

to children who have come out of those services. I do believe that specific

programs with smaller numbers of children with special supports of therapy

and early-childhood, with family support so there is actually a family

participation so that the resiliency is being built up in children and

in their families and I think clear programs of resiliency need to be

put into place. I don't believe that they're adequate or well-resourced

at this point in time for the children. For that matter, I don't see that

in place also for refugee children and I do believe that there are some

steps that are needed within any settlement of children who have experienced

war and war-torn torture and trauma, and environments of detention require

those kinds of supports.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Just a last question. The Department of Immigration has advised us that

every child in a detention facility is case managed and that they are

quite actively case managed. Did you see any evidence of it? Were any

files transmitted to you?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

No.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Nothing? Any indications

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Not one. Not one piece of document

DR OZDOWSKI: of

information?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Nothing - no information. I mean to say, we don't even know who's coming

to Queensland. There is no transferral information, no information in

relation to what programs were observed, what areas of concern for children's

behaviour, any interventional or preventative or other supports that have

taken place which we might be able to continue in any shape or form.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Did you try to contact the department to access some records relating

to particular children?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

There has been some contact and we've found it incredibly frustrating.

So what we did is we basically worked with a clean slate when the children

DR OZDOWSKI: Why

did you find contact frustrating?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Who to contact, how it gets passed on, the perceptions of the Privacy

Act of not passing on - it's quite - it was actually taking more time

than what we actually had available to us which we needed to spend for

the children. So there needs to be some transferral process in place.

There needs to be some mechanisms in which that information can be shared.

Even for children who actually were ill - we had some children which we

had to rush to hospital who had been sick for some time and they had fevers

and it had been going on for too long. Just being able to receive the

information in relation to children

DR OZDOWSKI: To

medical records of children?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

to the medical records of the children had been difficult as well. So

it's been one of the hardest group of children, really, in terms of being

able to respond appropriately to their needs and, in some respects, I

feel that while we have attempted to do so, we have still managed to do

that poorly.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Ms Delaney-John, thank you for your evidence. One more question here from

Professor Thomas.

PROF THOMAS:

During the time that you have been helping these children, any of the

families have sort of disappeared without notifying you?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

They've - I'm not quite sure what you are meaning there.

PROF THOMAS:

One of the suggestions that have been made to us is that families while

they are on the TPV may disappear, abscond, go into hiding.

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

No.

PROF THOMAS:

So have you ever had that experience?

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

No. I mean to say, all the families that we have here, we have - even

though they might have moved services, for example, one's moved five times

within early-childhood - we still know their addresses, we still know

where they live and if a parent has moved because there has been issued

over accommodation and being able to settle, it's always come back to

us in that - and even a couple of families who have moved, you know, have

let us know so that, in my experience and in the experience of access,

we have not seen that kind of behaviour at all.

PROF THOMAS:

Thank you.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much for your evidence and for your submission.

MS DELANEY-JOHN:

Thank you. Good luck with the Inquiry.

DR OZDOWSKI: And now I would like to ask Brisbane Refugee Health

Network and the Refugee Claimant Support Centre to approach the table.

Welcome. Could I ask you to take an oath or affirmation?

GABY HEUFT

MARGOT SALOM

ROHAN VORA [9.09am]

Brisbane Refugee Health Network

DR OZDOWSKI: Thank you. Now, could I ask you to give your names,

addresses, qualifications and the capacity you are in here?

MS HEUFT:

My name is Gaby Heuft. I live at [address removed]. I am a member of the

Health Network and also the co-ordinator at the Refugee Claimant Support

Centre in Lutwyche.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you.

MS SALOM:

My name is Margot Salom. I live at [address removed]. I am a medical and

psychiatric social worker of 30 years experience and I am the health co-ordinator

co-ordinating the Nursing Outreach Team at Brisbane Refugee Health Network.

DR VORA: I

am Rohan Vora. I am a qualified doctor, a Fellow of the Royal Australian

College of GPs. I live at [address removed] and I guess I am the medical

co-ordinator for the Brisbane Refugee and Asylum Health Network.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much. Could I ask you, perhaps, to start with an opening

statement and what I would like to ask you is to especially say a bit

more about the Refugee Health Network, how you came into being, who finances

you and also to indicate the level of contact you have with TPV children.

DR VORA: We

came into being, I guess, about two years ago. We have actually had a

minor name change since the submission where we are now called the Brisbane

Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Network. There are two reasons for this:

one was to reflect more, I guess, the wide range of our work and cover

all the groups we deal with and the other was to link with a sister group

down in Melbourne called the Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Network.

We are also affiliated with the Darwin Refugee Health Network. We have

a membership of about 70-strong in Brisbane itself plus many others outside

in regional Queensland.

DR OZDOWSKI:

70 individuals?

DR VORA: 70

individuals. Most of us are professional health workers and allied health

workers as well as community and development workers working in the area

with a special interest in asylum seeker and refugee health. I guess our

main focus has always been that we see ourselves as focusing on the health

and human rights issues of this severely marginalised - or what we believe

to be a severely marginalised group of people in Australia. We are informed

in our vision, I guess, by the same sorts of documents that the Physicians

for Human Rights Group that we have close contact with in the USA have

been informed with. If I could just read briefly out of their vision statement

where they say:

The right to health

extends to all things which promote health and well-being and prevent

illness. Health professionals hold a well-acknowledged commitment to the

care of their patients. Discriminatory practices threaten physical and

mental health and deny people access to reasonable care, or relegate them

to inferior care. The devaluation of human beings and each other has had

devastating consequences historically.

And I guess this

is really a large part of our sentiment. Our work has been on a lot -

besides service provision in terms of trying to set up links and networks

with the AMA, with the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Psychiatrists,

all the other medical and profession bodies in Australia. And as well

as now joining with the Australian Nurses Federation, and I'm making a

lot of contacts with the dental associations, both locally and nationally.

And I guess most of our work in that area has been on the basis that if

we, as professionals, start discriminating against people on the basis

of visa category in terms of either offering them inferior care or not

offering them care at all, we really slide down a very slippery slope

for which there's a lot of historical evidence; that we no longer are

really practising ethical health care. We're practising politics.

And once we go down

this slope as a profession, the evidence is certainly there around the

world, of where that is going to lead. And I guess that has been the basis

of our work with the AMA, and most of the ethical associations in the

college of GPs, the College of Physicians and the College of Psychiatrists

has been that we really need to get our ethical committees onto the issue

of detaining people and what sort of health consequences that has, particularly

on the children. Our work in Brisbane has I guess for quite a while been

very much focussed on the community based asylum seekers, particularly

the 40 or so per cent of those who end up with no work rights, no welfare

rights, no Medicare rights. Their children can't go to school.

And the reason for

a lot of our efforts in that area is that they inform us, I guess, with

what actually happens when you get no access to services whatsoever. And

the evidence has gradually been mounting that children in this area are

very severely affected. The evidence as presented before by the previous

presenter, Jane, is certainly backed up with the work that we've done

and we're seeing. The other issue is that we really work in a policy vacuum.

In New Zealand, for instance - and I'll just show people the Refugee Health

Policy Document. This was launched November last year. It was launched

by the Ministry of Health. It's a refugee and asylum seeker health policy.

We just do not have that sort of policy in Australia. So it's very hard

for us as professionals to work in the area, which is basically totally

policy free.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Can I stop you for a moment and ask you about how are you financing? Are

you financing yourself or you are supported by the Commonwealth or State

Government?

DR VORA: We

as an organisation are totally self-financed. I guess the reasons for

that are that we had not sought funding because we want to maintain our

independence.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And about the contacts but with TPV children: how - what's your level

of contact with TPV children?

DR VORA: We

have quite a lot of contact with TPV children and I personally have gone

over and done sessions at the Romero Centre which there will be presentations

later on from the group there. The involvement there, I guess, of the

Network has been in trying to set up services for these children; try

and get services to be more refugee friendly. What we found was that people

would arrive in Brisbane, and it would take them six weeks to get their

Medicare cards. Now, things would go backwards and forwards between Department

of Immigration and Medicare and so on, saying, oh well, they will get

their cards. GPs can just sit and wait and they'll eventually get financed.

But most GPs do not find this particularly acceptable, so that was certainly

a barrier where they would then end up going to the emergency departments.

DR OZDOWSKI:

You were saying about, in your submission, about third world care for

refugees, and your submission was also mentioning that Medicare doesn't

cover some services. Could you maybe let us know a bit more what are the

areas of service for TPV children which are not covered by Medicare?

DR VORA: Well,

Medicare doesn't cover their dental services. It doesn't

DR OZDOWSKI:

That's like for most of other Australians, isn't it?

DR VORA: Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Where are differences?

DR VORA: Except

that most of the dental services - the public dental services will actually

cover a lot of Australian children; they were denying access to TPV children.

DR OZDOWSKI: Denying,

yes.

DR VORA: To

these services, particularly when they didn't have their Medicare card,

and what we really found was that for the first six weeks there would

be a lot of health problems that would occur during that time because

they had saved them up in detention. I mean, we've had people who have

arrived and who have had recent operations and really - our trying to

get medical records is extremely hard. It's just not like phoning up another

health practitioner and doing that.

DR OZDOWSKI:

The Department of Immigration is telling us that every person on the release

is given some kind of a medical health record sheet and that full documentation

is easily available for GPs when they contact the Department of Immigration,

but I see it's not your experience.

DR VORA: It's

not a question of contacting the Department of Immigration; usually you

have to contact a detention centre. From talking to nurses there it would

seem that they are told probably late the day before the person is to

be released that they are to be released and they have to get all the

medical records organised. The evidence that we have is that, yes, they

might arrive with a small sheet that says whether they're HIV positive

or Hepatitis B positive or need a TB check or whatever, but you get very

little else. Now as a GP I find that quite amazing because over 80 per

cent of GPs in the country now are computerised to generate a - if you

take proper medical records to generate a computer medical record is really

a question of a push of the button, and it costs $200 per practitioner

for that sort of a program so I don't really see that as being particularly

complicated, so it seems strange that it's so hard for us to get medical

records for a lot of these people. We've had people arrive with broken

arms who were not treated in detention. Now whether that was because it

was intentionally not treated or whether it was, as he feared, that he

didn't want to tell them about his health problems including his arm pain

because he feared that he would then be put in the other category and

not be given a temporary protection visa.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So you met people who were afraid of indicating their health standards

because of the possibility of being kept longer in detention and denied

a visa?

DR VORA: That's

right, yes. That seems to be a very common fear and whether that's a rational

fear or not, I don't know.

DR OZDOWSKI:

What kind of condition are people in health wise when they are released

from detention centres?

DR VORA: There

certainly seems to be a lot of concern. We've had people who have been

released with various illnesses that have not been treated. I guess when

they get to a severity then they generally will get treated. Mental illness

is something that is extremely poorly treated in detention centres, unrecognised,

and often is considered from our experience to be something that they're

blamed for.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Mental illness or also any kind of stress?

DR VORA: Well,

mental illness in terms of, I guess, the classics of post-traumatic stress

disorder go unrecognised. People come out hyper-vigilant, constantly aroused,

sleeping extremely poorly, often severely depressed. It has just gone

unrecognised or untreated.

DR OZDOWSKI: Does

this condition extend to children?

DR VORA: Yes,

the condition certainly does extend to children. I mean, just on a personal

level there has been quite a lot of concern really with children feeling

totally disempowered and seeing their parents as being disempowered; sleeplessness,

bed-wetting even amongst teenagers, even situations where you get young

children ruminating about their own mortality and death and asking for

their bodies to be returned to their country of origin if they do die;

this from an eight year old is quite an alarming

DR OZDOWSKI:

In detention, there are quite a number of self-harm incidents among children.

Did you observe any self-harm incidents after children were released from

detention?

DR VORA: It

certainly is prevalent from our experience, and that's where I think it

is extremely hard, because we, once again, are working in a policy vacuum

where we just don't have the research funding to be able to go and research

this group, you know, this marginalised group of people, but certainly

as far as the suicidal behaviours; the intensity settles, the depression

still remains, because a temporary protection is really a very insecure

protection, and particularly we are finding now amongst a lot of the Afghans,

particularly the unaccompanied minors, that they just don't feel safe,

and a lot of those behaviours are starting to resurrect now.

DR OZDOWSKI: If

they were given normal visas as permanent visas, not temporary protection

visas, would it assist with their condition? Is their condition treatable,

or will they cart it as luggage for the rest of their lives?

DR VORA: Well,

I guess we have got to then look at the evidence of other refugee groups

that come here with similar evidence of house torture and trauma, and

yes, they will exhibit those things in the early phases, but they do seem

to settle, and they do seem to gradually get over those. They seem to

go on and have some hope - have some sense of purpose about life, and

over the years really a lot of those behaviours diminish quite dramatically,

but we don't see that in this group. In fact, at the moment, things seem

to be getting worse for that group.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you, Dr Vora.

PROF THOMAS:

In that sense, do you think that the people who are in the community,

the TPVs, because they have no access to so many things, like you have

just said, in a way that are they worse off than in detention, because

in detention they get dental care, they get medical care to a point, you

know, as another issue, but they do get those things; meals.

DR VORA: I

don't think any of them would want to go back into detention.

PROF THOMAS:

Yes.

DR VORA: I

think that they see that as tremendously dehumanising, and degrading.

I guess there is one other category that we are not looking at here; people

have been in detention, and that's the recent group who are being released

on the Safe Haven Visa, 449, and we have had several cases of this. Now,

we are not arguing that they shouldn't be released. We think that is an

excellent move on the part of the government to release them; however

they are being released into the same situation as the community based

asylum seekers, where they have no access to work rights, welfare rights,

Medicare rights, the kids can't go to school. If you talk to - certainly

our evidence is if you talk to them, they don't want to go back, but to

be released to then have to beg for absolutely everything is extremely

hard and, for children involved in this situation, it's just continues

their parents' disempowerment. Often it will change the power relationships

within the family. We find, I guess, in the medical area that then if

the children do go to school and they get better at their language, than

the parents - quite inappropriate use of them as interpreters to the extent

where, as we have documented in one case there, was a young child who

had to give evidence on the past torture and trauma history of her father

which was extremely damaging to the child.

PROF THOMAS:

So what would you recommend, that those people who are released should

get full rights on - you know?

DR VORA: Yes.

I would think that, really, the people who are released should get work

rights, welfare rights, certainly access to Medicare and the children

should get access to schooling. The vast majority of them want to work.

They don't come from countries where they are used to welfare and work,

I think, is extremely settling for a lot of people where we've had community-based

asylum seekers who've had work rights and then had them withdrawn from

them. They deteriorate very rapidly. The going-to-work seemed to be something

where they could just put aside all of their other fears and anxieties

and not settle, but feel that they had something that they could work

towards, that they could then pay for their care, they could pay for various

things. They didn't have to beg. So I think that people should be released.

Where their refugee status has not been determined, should be released

on bridging visas but with full rights.

PROF THOMAS: From

the evidence we have been gathering, the mental health issues seem to

be enormous. What recommendation do you have for this area?

DR VORA: I

think that - yes, the mental health issues are enormous and I think that

there should be a policy developed which allows the normal community paediatric

services to take on a lot of the issues that we are seeing with children

and that the community psychiatric services should be directly involved,

should be trained particularly - or have their registrars - and there's

a lot of interest in that - trained up in refugee and asylum seeker health.

There is a lot of interest within the College in doing that; however,

they need a policy developed within which we can all work.

PROF THOMAS:

What do you think about the long-term impact of the experience in detention

and then the early settlement in terms of mental health? Are you optimistic

if they get proper treatment?

DR VORA: Our

experience, I guess, is, with these people, they have been through a tremendous

amount of trauma in their lives. When we've had them come along to - and

amongst them you will get lots of professionals. They are doctors, they

are nurses, there are health professionals. When they come along and we

talk to them they say, "Hey, look, don't categorise us as having

post traumatic stress disorder or depression. We can get over all of this.

We'll show you how to get over them. Just give us work rights. Just allow

us to settle. You will be surprised what we can get over." And I

think that is quite true. I think that they would get over a huge amount

of their trauma. Coming into the country and re-traumatising them makes

it extremely hard, but, once again, they would probably get over that

if we gave them a much more humanitarian way of being able to settle into

the country.

PROF THOMAS:

How about the children?

DR VORA: And

I think the children, once again, if their parents settled, would be able

to get over a lot of that trauma, and I think the evidence is there from

past refugee families that have been very traumatised and their children

have really grown up to take up some of the very high positions in Australia.

MRS SULLIVAN:

I want to follow through your New Zealand booklet that you waved around

before and ask you, for the record, some scenarios and what the answer

to these scenarios is. If a refugee family turned up at a public hospital

with a sick child, would they be treated?

DR VORA: If

they were a community-based asylum seeker, they may well get turned away.

Now, that's not necessarily by the doctor or the triage nurse, it may

well be by a secretary who says, "Look, you haven't got a Medicare

card; you have to leave." That will be the same, I guess, for the

safe-haven visa, and that's what we have been trying to negotiate, and

I think fairly successfully, in Brisbane with the major hospitals now.

There seems to be a lot more understanding of those issues.

MRS SULLIVAN:

So there is currently not a policy directive that says these people are

to be treated in the same way as other people?

DR VORA: That's

right. There isn't.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Okay. If the same family turned up at a GP, would they be treated?

DR VORA: Once

again, no. Without a Medicare card, they may well not get treated. With

the Medicare cards, they may get treatment. The GPs without the infrastructure

support that we have been really pushing for may well decide the case

is too complex and they don't want to take it on.

MRS SULLIVAN:

That is a prerogative of individual GPs?

DR VORA: That

is a prerogative of the individual GP.

MRS SULLIVAN:

And would that be changed by a new policy directive?

DR VORA: Yes,

because, with a policy directive, just like you've got in New Zealand,

you get training that goes on in those areas. There is also then a move

to have infrastructure support which we have been pushing for. There are

certainly item numbers that have been introduced in Australia to help

GPs deal with mental health problems, with diabetics, with asthmatics,

with complex health needs, but, with the asylum seeker and refugee population,

you've got a complex addition to that in terms of having adequate interpreters

and well-trained interpreter services, having community health services

willing to provide backup and provide the infrastructure support before

you can really access those item numbers.

MRS SULLIVAN:

So one of your recommendations to us is additional item number?

DR VORA: No.

Probably the infrastructure support that would support the item numbers

that we already have in there, and having Medicare card access, and I

guess developing a policy where the College of GPs and the various Royal

Colleges and certainly the College of Psychiatrists has been very interested

in having training for GPs in torture and trauma services in dealing with

refugees, and that is going on on the ground level. I mean that's going

on in Brisbane; it's going on in Melbourne; it's going on in Sydney.

MRS SULLIVAN:

So the college itself has taken some initiative?

DR VORA: The

College itself has taken initiative. I've been one of the focus people

placed on the College. Now, we're developing our own register of doctors

and now we're gradually moving to developing a register of specialists

who are interested in the area in providing back up services.

MRS SULLIVAN:

The third scenario is access to mental health facilities because we

did touch on that earlier. If a family turns up at a health facility to

seek mental health support, will that be given?

DR VORA: With

the case study that we had in the submission of the community based asylum

seeker, that was the third hospital that we tried to get him into. He

was obviously extremely psychotic. His neighbours had encouraged us to

try and get help and finally the third hospital we managed to get him

in. He was at that stage seeing blood on the walls; he was severely depressed,

suicidal.

MRS SULLIVAN:

What I am trying to tease out here is whether there's special treatment

for them given there's a back log of mental health needs anyway? Are they

treated any differently?

DR VORA: No,

they're not treated differently except that they may not get access. I

guess the issues are once again that we need training within the mental

health services of some of the special issues of torture and trauma in

the asylum seeker and refugee population. And the mental health services

have - certainly in Brisbane from my experience - been extremely on side

with trying to develop training in these areas, but once again need back

up from some sort of policy initiatives.

MRS SULLIVAN:

There are some health services provided for children in government

schools. There are school nurses for example and there's a certain amount

of screening. There are school dental services. Have there been any children

to your knowledge denied access to these services?

DR VORA: Well,

certainly with the community based asylum seekers, once again, yes, they

are denied access to those services. We are working with the dentists

and we've got a project at the moment in development with the community

paediatricians in Brisbane to work services up that will include them.

MRS SULLIVAN:

So if they're enrolled in a state school, they don't go along to the school

dental nurse?

DR VORA: As

far as I know. I'm

MS HEUFT:

I'm not aware of a case that has been turned back, but I'm also not aware

of many children attending either so I don't have any statistics.

MRS SULLIVAN:

That's fine. I'm just trying to get a feel for the quantum of services.

MS HEUFT: Yes.

The issue for community based asylum seekers is that there is no formal

right to attend a state school. Most of the children that I'm aware of

are enrolled in small private schools because the parents feel the barriers

of enrolling the children in a normal state school are just too large,

and because of that I suppose the issue of no access to dental vans etcetera

has arisen for us.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And what each child needs to do after being released from detention centre

and arriving in Queensland to get access to a school.

MS HEUFT: Yes.

I'm speaking on behalf of community based asylum seekers that have not

been in detention but that are living in the community on bridging visas.

And their access to schools, Medicare cards and services is different

in some respect to TPV children.

DR VORA: And

it would be similar to the safe haven visa 449, release from detention.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Just last question. You mentioned in your submission wrist and dental

x-rays which are being used to determine age and so on, and you challenged

the validity of that material. Would it be possible to ask you to provide

us with some references to that material? We are looking at the issue

and if there is any material and literature about unreliability of this

material, could you provide us with references. If not now maybe to take

that question on notice and provide us at a later stage.

DR VORA: Yes,

I can provide it at a later stage and I've had discussions with the Australian

Dental Association particularly some of those that do radiology. The Australian

Radiologists Association and the Health Alliance obviously has been interested

in this area. I guess most of my scientific type data comes from a Physicians

for Human Rights Group in the US that has done a lot of work in this area

- and that was the information that I put in the submission - was directly

from them. We're trying to get and we just don't have and whether the

Commission can help find this evidence is just where it has been used

in any way in Australia.

We have evidence

from our Canadian contacts that there have certainly been Australian representatives

at meetings in the US looking at the use of dental x-rays for age in children.

We have some anecdotal evidence of its use in Australia to basically,

I guess, to categorise people as being over 18 where they weren't sure

of their age so they could then be treated in a different way and not

as unaccompanied minors. Now, from my talking with the radiologists' college,

there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever and it's totally unscientific

to use this on that basis. It's used really only for staging operations

to see whether there is any growth potential and that you might do different

operations for. But it has no validity whatsoever to use it to decide

whether someone is 18 or not.

DR OZDOWSKI:

I'm not aware of the use of dental evidence but I'm aware of the use of

X-ray wrist - X-ray evidence and that's what we're interested in particularly.

Okay, so is there anything else you would like to ask or is that all?

DR VORA: Yes,

I'd just like to add that part of the reason for our submission - we're

part of the Health Alliance submission, but we were urged to place a separate

submission. And part of the reason for that was that we were very strongly

looking at community based asylum seekers because our fear at that stage

was that more people would be released on some sort of bridging visa and

denied access to this. Now, the release - SHV449s has certainly confirmed

our fears. And I guess our submission there is that what happens is you

release people from detention but you release them to a much more insidious

form of detention which is that you release them into a situation where

they have to beg for absolutely all their human rights in everything.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much. Thank you to Brisbane Refugee Health Network.

Now,

could I ask Mr Mark Huxstep to come forward? Welcome, Mr Huxstep. I'll

ask you to take an oath or an affirmation.

MARK HUXSTEP [9.42am]

Former nurse from Woomera

DR OZDOWSKI: Now, could I ask you for the record to give your name,

address, qualification and capacity in which you are appearing, please?

MR HUXSTEP:

My name is Mark Huxstep. I'm a Registered Nurse. My address is [address

removed]. I'm appearing in the capacity of a former nurse at the Woomera

Detention Centre.

DR OZDOWSKI: Thank

you. You possibly sat in the audience for some time and you heard my orders

relating to the privacy.

MR HUXSTEP:

Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Basically it's a basic order that we shouldn't be using names here in

order to protect privacy of refugees. And if you'd like to provide the

names later our Secretary will take them and on some occasions it's good

to do so, so we can follow up the case and cross-check the evidence.

MR HUXSTEP:

I understand.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Could I ask you to start with an opening statement and in particular if

you would like to address the length of the association you had with Woomera

Detention Centre.

MR HUXSTEP:

Certainly. I'm a registered nurse. My background is in critical care nursing

- my specialty - that's intensive care, emergency department and operating

theatre. I worked at the Woomera Detention Centre from August 2000 - early

August 2000 - until mid-February 2001 as a registered nurse.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So one could say that you worked in the relatively early stages. Did you

maintain any contact with people who were there after you left?

MR HUXSTEP:

I have seen some people that were detainees at the time that I was working

there since their release, yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

I see. What about the medical people - nursing people - working in Woomera;

did you maintain some contact with them?

MR HUXSTEP:

Yes, I have.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So you would know if there were changes since you worked in the late 2000-2001?

MR HUXSTEP:

People that I've maintained contact with haven't returned to work at Woomera

since they finished working there, so I'm not aware of specifically any

changes.

DR OZDOWSKI: Could

I ask you also why you left Woomera? You had, as I understand, three 6

weeks contract over there and then I think you decided not to seek renewal?

MR HUXSTEP:

That's correct. I was offered ongoing contracts with ACM Australasian

Correctional Management at the Woomera Detention Centre but I declined

to accept them because I found that the work was having a mental effect

on me, it was distressing me and I was unable to sustain that type of

work.

DR OZDOWSKI:

What do you mean that type of work? What do you mean that it was having

an impact on you?

MR HUXSTEP:

I found witnessing people in that environment to be emotionally, and mentally,

distressing to me. I found that I was unable to change the situation for

them and the conflict that arose from that for me was I was unable to

sustain it any longer.

DR OZDOWSKI:

I understand you were also, for a short time, acting manager in the health

centre over there?

MR HUXSTEP:

That's correct. The last 5 weeks of my last 6 week contract I was acting

manager of the medical centre at the Woomera Detention Centre.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And who were you responsible to when you worked as an acting manager?

MR HUXSTEP: I

was employed by ACM and I was responsible to the centre manager at Woomera.

DR OZDOWSKI: Could

you, perhaps, describe the condition at Woomera and especially how it

related to the medical centre?

MR HUXSTEP:

The conditions - the environment - is particularly harsh. It's a moon

scape. It's dust and rubble. There's no grass inside the compound. There's

sparse brush on the red desert outside the compound. There's one tree

in the main compound, double palisade fencing around the entire perimeter

with razor wire top and bottom. There are different compounds divided

up by fences. Quite often there are barriers between the compounds so

that detainees can't see, or hear, one another speaking or see each other.

It's particularly hot in summer. The main compound: there was a temperature

of 61 degree Celsius recorded the summer that I was there and it's bitterly

cold at night in winter.

Detainees have to

line up at gates with their identification passes with their name and

number on it and ask permission to go to the medical centre to seek help

for problems - health problems. They have to line up to see DIMA about

any problems.

DR OZDOWSKI:

How long did they need to wait to get medical progress?

MR HUXSTEP:

It depends on the time of day. If people are lining up to go for meals

it can take longer. If it is in the night-time after 7 pm there's only

one nurse manning the medical centre between 7 pm and 7 am to see the

entire population of detainees and the practice, at the time I was there,

for the nurse to take medical charts and drugs to different compounds

and have a half hour clinic in each one. In those times if somebody from

one of the other compounds needed to see a nurse they would have to line

up at the gate for their compound to get to the medical centre. Sometimes

they waited for hours.

DR OZDOWSKI:

For hours to get - to see a nurse or

MR HUXSTEP:

To see a nurse. There's no doctor at night.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And in terms of seeing a doctor, who was controlling access to the doctors?

MR HUXSTEP: Many

people were controlling access. There were guards at the gates. They sometimes

made a subjective judgment that people didn't need to see a doctor or

a nurse and were turned away, particularly if the guard had a personal

relationship with the detainee in which that they dislike them then the

acuity of their health problem, if they needed to see a doctor for something

that's perceived to be less acute than - we had limited resources - the

local GP came to our clinic each morning at Woomera and there was a DIMA

doctor who was present through the day and was on call at the week-ends.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So what you are saying is that on occasion guards played doctors?

MR HUXSTEP:

Sometimes they would make a subjective judgment that the person didn't

need to see a doctor or a nurse, yes.

DR OZDOWSKI: Tell

me what was the relationship between the doctor and the nurses? We've

had information that the person who was in charge of medical centre, and

usually it was a nurse, was second-guessing decisions of the doctors.

Are you aware of this kind of situation especially when it was coming

to more expensive treatment and so on?

MR HUXSTEP:

I personally didn't witness that happening, no.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So what was the relationship between the doctor and yourself when you

were the manager?

MR HUXSTEP:

When I was the manager the doctors were more than - I mean, as trained

health professionals the patients' health outcomes are our primary focus.

I wasn't aware of anyone not getting the treatment that they needed because

of the cost. Certainly if there were less expensive treatments available

for the same outcome that would be better, but people didn't get - did

not get the treatment they needed based solely on cost.

DR OZDOWSKI:

On cost. Who is paying in Woomera for the cost of medical treatment which

had to be provided outside of which it was a bit out of extraordinary,

more expensive?

MR HUXSTEP:

I asked that question myself and I was told that ACM would pay the bill

and they would be reimbursed by DIMA.

DR OZDOWSKI:

I see. So basically the final paying authority was DIMA. So did DIMA have

any rules which were limiting the expenditure on medical - did they have

a policy?

MR HUXSTEP:

They had policies, for example, many people would come to the medical

centre with eyesight problems and complain of headaches or poor vision

and it fell to me, several times while I was there, to refer them to the

GP who would refer them on to a place in Port Augusta for eyesight assessment.

And often they would come back with a - the report would come back from

the specialist in Port Augusta to say that these people did, indeed, need

glasses, for example, prescription glasses. I would send a recommendation-type

letter and send it off to the centre manager and it became a practice

to send a copy also to the DIMA manager asking that the person be allowed

to have glasses and that they pay the bill.

On no occasion during

the 18 weeks that I worked there did anyone get glasses that were prescribed

them and I was actually admonished by the centre manager through the health

centre manager while I wasn't working as the manager there for pursuing

the matter and told that people didn't need glasses, they could follow

that up after they got released and that our brief was to look after their

basic health care needs and not go beyond that.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And glasses were not

MR HUXSTEP:

Glasses were outside the parameters of what they were prepared to pay

for.

MS LESNIE:

Do you have any other examples of things that were outside that sort of

basic needs category?

MR HUXSTEP:

Dental, again. We had a dentist come several times while I was there.

It was made on an ad hoc arrangement. There was no routine or specific

dates and times that he would come or how many people he could see or

how long he could stay and he told me one day that basically his only

treatment that he could provide would be extractions. There was no drill

or anything like that available. He had no other equipment other than

instruments for extracting teeth.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Did you have a dental chair at this time?

MR HUXSTEP: No,

we did not.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So how to extract

MR HUXSTEP:

People would sit on a chair and he'd examine them and if extraction was

- he felt that that was the most appropriate treatment, and under the

circumstances that's all he could provide, he could give them an injection

- a local anaesthetic - and remove the tooth.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Just a normal chair?

MR HUXSTEP:

Just a normal chair, or a stool sometimes. You

MRS SULLIVAN:

Have you got any examples where children were denied access to some resources

that you just mentioned?

MR HUXSTEP:

Children were denied access in several ways, not just directly but also

indirectly. For example, there was a child who presented to the medical

centre and it just so happened that her mother was a qualified doctor

in her country of origin, and the child had painful ear, so the child

was given a simple pain killer that evening and referred to the doctor

the next morning, who diagnosed an ear infection and put the child on

regular pain killers and antibiotics. It was a liquid antibiotic that

had to be refrigerated. The detainees aren't allowed to take medications

back to their rooms for fear that they will overdose or collect them or

whatever the rationale, and so therefore they had to come to the medical

centre four times a day to get their medications. That meant coming every

six hours with a small child with a sore ear who was crying in the middle

of winter at night time, waiting for two hours in a queue at the gate

in the freezing cold and it just happened to rain one night, and the mother

was terribly distraught. She said, "I'm bringing a sick child to

stand in a queue in the cold and the rain for two hours to get treatment,"

and I had no answer because it was true.

MRS SULLIVAN:

You heard comment earlier about medical records. Would you like to comment

on that from what you saw and what you saw given to people when they left?

MR HUXSTEP:

I wasn't directly involved in that role. DIMA, as it was known at the

time, seemed to have very strict control of what the nurses could find

out about who would be - whose release was imminent for fear that we would

tell them. So therefore that was kept in - behind closed doors. The records

were requested sometimes less than 24 hours before a Tuesday or a Thursday

morning, which was usually the release time for a whole range of people,

not always did any of them get out the next morning or some of them did,

some of them didn't, and that was - I took to be a way of us disseminating

this information. We didn't know who was going. So consequently the records

weren't always complete. I witnessed on many occasions information being

put into patients' notes and when I would check some days or weeks later

the information that I had put into patients' notes was gone and I would

put the same information back into the notes and on one occasion in particular

a statement I put into a patient's notes was removed on four separate

occasions.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Who was removing it?

MR HUXSTEP:

I don't know.

MRS SULLIVAN:

This was handwritten notes?

MR HUXSTEP:

No, it was a typed statement I wrote about an incident pertaining to one

particular detainee and I kept a record on the computer in the medical

centre which was password protected and each time I would check his notes

and the statement wasn't there I would print another copy, sign it, put

it in the notes. He was - I think during my second tour at Woomera he

was sent to the Perth Detention Centre and I checked his notes before

he left and the statement was not there and I put a fifth copy into the

notes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Can I ask you where the statements - where the files were kept, they were

accessible to everyone?

MR HUXSTEP:

They were at one end of the medical centre and there was a red line on

the floor and detainees and guards were not supposed to cross the line,

but I know for a fact that many times, particularly during night - during

the evening when there was one nurse on and we were outside doing clinics

in other compounds, that you could come back and find guards sitting there

unaccompanied in the medical centre, so I can only presume that they had

carte blanche access to the medical records. There was no lock on the

filing cabinets.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So they were checking - there was no possibility that a detainee was removing

the

MR HUXSTEP:

No, no, no, no, no.

DR OZDOWSKI:

What kind of incident it was?

MR HUXSTEP:

It was about him being injected with a sedative, being held down by guards

and injected with sedative by another nurse against his will.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Was it justified by his behaviour or under what conditions was the sedative

given?

MR HUXSTEP:

The information I had afterwards was that, no, it wasn't justified.

DR OZDOWSKI: Not

justified in medical terms. It was just

MR HUXSTEP:

No.

DR OZDOWSKI:

used for

MR HUXSTEP:

No.

DR OZDOWSKI: the

purpose of control

MR HUXSTEP:

It was - it was chemical restraint.

DR OZDOWSKI:

A chemical restraint. And what was the policy about using chemical restraints?

Did you have any kind of formal procedure?

MR HUXSTEP:

I never saw a policy on it.

DR OZDOWSKI: So

how was it happening? How were chemical restraints used?

MR HUXSTEP:

That was on the only incident that I saw. I have anecdotal evidence from

other nurses that were there previous to me that it happened on other

occasions, but the only incident that I'm personally aware of is in this

instance.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Did it need to be authorised by a doctor? The issue of the use of chemicals?

MR HUXSTEP:

The practice in any health facility is that if you need a doctor's opinion,

particularly on giving medications, that you ring the on-call doctor and

explain the problem to them and the situation and make any suggestions.

They will then prescribe a medication and the route and dosage to be given

and a second nurse will take the information - witness the information

over the telephone, and then it's written in the medication records as

a phone order, and it's given. Within 24 hours a doctor will then sign

that order.

The nurse that gave

the injection rang the on-call doctor at Roxby Downs who prescribed 100

milligrams of a drug called Largactyl to be given as an intramuscular

injection, and I cautioned the nurse to - that I thought the dose was

excessive, and I wasn't aware of it being given via that route commonly.

She gave it anyway and the detainee was so sedated he had to be brought

to the medical centre. The guards had used their plastic handcuffs called

flexicuffs. They had cuffed his legs together and his arms behind his

back and he was put face-down on a bed in the medical centre and I asked

them to please remove the handcuffs and move him onto his side in case

he vomited and aspirated.

There was much debate

about that and they finally did it. They cuffed him with his hands in

front of his body and sat him up. He then proceeded to vomit and I had

to suction his airway and apply oxygen to him and I rang an ambulance

and sent him to hospital, because I was afraid that he could - his health

status could decline.

DR OZDOWSKI:

But why he was given this sedative in the first place? Was he

MR HUXSTEP:

Because apparently - the story I was told was that he had been made aware

by the guards that his application for a temporary protection visa had

been unsuccessful and I think it was his second appeal and that he would

be going back home. So yelled and screamed a bit and he was put in solitary

confinement in Sierra compound and apparently he became quite demonstrative

emotionally and yelled a couple of times and banged his head on the wall

in frustration. So then the guards held him down and radioed for the nurses

to come. The nurse that I was on duty with at the time - I should say

the first time I went to Woomera the night shift was two nurses. Subsequent

to that it was one.

And I had been at

the detention centre at that stage about a week. And she said I should

stay in the centre and be available for the other detainees, that she

would go and sort the problem out. The guards that manned the Sierra compound

normally were from the group that were from the maximum security prison

in Brisbane and this nurse apparently is also a career nurse with ACM

from that facility. She went off and came back, rang the doctor. I listened

to the order and then she went and gave the injection.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And then the man was taken by ambulance to hospital, yes, your

MR HUXSTEP: To

Woomera Hospital.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And how long did he spend there?

MR HUXSTEP:

The best part of the evening and then he was sent back when he was assessed

that his level of consciousness had returned to an adequate level that

he could protect his own airway.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And where he was kept then after he was returned to Woomera?

MR HUXSTEP:

Back into Sierra compound in

DR OZDOWSKI: Into

the separate

MR HUXSTEP:

Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

isolation rooms?

MR HUXSTEP:

Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And how long did he spend in that isolation?

MR HUXSTEP:

As far as I know, he stayed in Sierra - I don't know about isolation,

but he stayed in Sierra until he was taken some months later off to

DR OZDOWSKI:

Perth.

MR HUXSTEP:

Perth. In the interim I think he spent some time in prison in Port Augusta,

I believe, because it was alleged that he was a participant in the riot.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Now, can we in a way change the topic now and I would like to go to the

issue of medical facilities. And in particular I would like to focus on

children and food for children. Quite often we heard that the milk formula

was not available for young babies or that it was available sporadically.

Do you know anything about availability of milk formula for babies over

there?

MR HUXSTEP:

Whilst I was working at the Woomera Detention Centre there was formula

available for the babies. There was - most of the time there was a midwife

available who looked after the post-partum mothers, the pregnant women

and the small - the neo-natal babies, small babies. The problem I found

with formula specifically is that after hours if the midwife wasn't the

nurse that was on duty on the night-shift that she would make up enough

bottles for the small babies in the camp and distribute them to the different

compounds and ask the guards to give them out to the mothers with their

numbers and names and the times that they should be given out.

And the guards weren't

always very vigilant in who they gave them to or how many or the times.

Subsequently some children missed out on their formula and then the mothers

would present to the medical centre the next morning very distraught if

they had hungry babies.

DR OZDOWSKI: It

was a regular occurrence or it just happened once by accident?

MR HUXSTEP:

It was very common and it didn't seem - because the guards would not always

be the same ones on every night shift. You could explain until you were

hoarse and put up instructions, very clear instructions in each compound

and it didn't seem to make any difference. They didn't take any notice

and they gave out the wrong number to the wrong people. Some mothers would

come and say, "My child is hungry" and they would just hand

them a bottle. They didn't know who they were or if they had a small child

or

DR OZDOWSKI:

And how mothers were warming the milk to give to the children because

usually you need to have a proper temperature and so on?

MR HUXSTEP:

The guards would - the guards in the building that they had in each compound

would put them in the - they had a microwave oven for their own use.

DR OZDOWSKI: Okay.

MR HUXSTEP:

And they would warm them in the microwave oven.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Okay. And when the formula was mixed was it done in hygienic conditions?

MR HUXSTEP:

As best as possible. We had a container and Milton to soak the bottles

and the teats in but we were using a sink, the only sink in the medical

centre and it only had cold running water and it was used for many other

purposes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

What other purposes?

MR HUXSTEP:

One of the jobs that the detainees - because as one of the previous speakers

said they were desperate to work and the only job really available there

was to work in the kitchen as a kitchen hand. So that was a very sought

after job. One of the - part of the screening process to work in the kitchen

was a health screening and to screen for any bacteria that they might

have they had to come to the medical centre and ask for a container and

have explained to them they had to provide a sample of their faeces to

be sent to pathology and screened for different bugs.

When they brought

that back half of that had to be decanted into a specific medium so that

whatever - you know, certain types of bacteria didn't die. So that was

all done at the same sink that we made up the milk bottles for the infants,

decanting human faeces from one container into another and send - packaging

them up and sending them up to pathology. It was the only place we had.

DR OZDOWSKI: And

the other specific food needs of children, were you involved - my understanding

is that sometimes doctors were prescribing special diets for children?

MR HUXSTEP:

Sometimes they were prescribing additional nutrient groups for children

and pregnant mothers and breastfeeding mothers, extra fruit, extra milk.

Often the food - I mean, I used - if I had to go into the kitchen the

smell made me nauseous. They were given quite often fried food, fish and

chips or, you know

DR OZDOWSKI:

Were there any special meals prepared for young people there?

MR HUXSTEP:

No, the children had the same as the parents.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And the same timing?

MR HUXSTEP:

The same timing. And the kitchen services were privately owned and operated

at the time I was there and these predominantly detainee labour which,

I believe, they pay the equivalent of a dollar an hour which the people

could go and buy phone cards for, and yet they were reluctant to provide

extra - appropriate food, more nutritionally beneficial food, extra fruit

or extra milk.

Indeed many - many

pregnant breastfeeding mothers would come and ask for a second glass of

milk and they would be in tears because the kitchen had said, "No,

one glass is enough per day". The same with children. The children

were only allowed to have one glass of milk a day.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Perhaps I will allow my Assistant Commissioners to ask questions.

MRS SULLIVAN:

I just wondered whether it's possible to list the three or four major

health issues for children that you observed while you were there and

perhaps compare that with the population where you're now working?

MR HUXSTEP: Yes.

They didn't come to the medical centre a lot. I think they were afraid.

Sometimes they would come with their parents. The older kids and the teenagers

sometimes would come in with non-specific problems and I think a lot of

the time it was just for a chat. We used to see bumps and scrapes, normal

kid things, they would fall over. Specific incidences, there were cases

of children, who in discussion with my more learned mental health colleagues,

were exhibiting behaviours and symptoms of depression and post-traumatic

stress disorder.

But for the main

part it was ear infections and runny noses and sore throats and, you know,

headaches and colds and flus and run of the mill things. As compared to

the general population I don't have specific numbers. I don't work in

an area now where I see a great - a great cross-section of the general

public with those sorts of problems, however, I think that the environment

and their mental state and the diet they were provided certainly didn't

predispose them to good health.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Did you see any inappropriate medication of children and young people?

MR HUXSTEP:

There were a great deal of people who were on anti-depressants.

DR OZDOWSKI: Including

children?

MR HUXSTEP:

I was trying to think when I was listening before, the age of the youngest

person I saw on an anti-depressant would probably be 10 or 11 years old.

The children seemed to be - seemed to absorb the mental state of their

parents and many of their parents were feeling helpless and hopeless and

demoralised and disempowered and I think that's how the children felt

too when you talked to them. It's just - it was just shocking.

MS LESNIE:

Did you ever see an example of a child who had self-harmed?

MR HUXSTEP:

Self-harm. Certainly teenagers, not - 15 or 16 perhaps would be the youngest

person I saw.

MS LESNIE:

And what was the procedure if a child had self-harmed? What happened with

that child? What if they went to the medical centre?

MR HUXSTEP: Their

immediate medical needs were met, that is if they were bleeding or - that's

usually - you know, they would cut their wrist or something. The only

time I saw that happen the cuts were superficial. They hadn't - they hadn't

cut any blood vessels so there was a dressing applied and they were referred

to see the doctor as soon as possible. And also when we had a psychologist

on site they were to see the psychologist. Failing that one of the mental

health nurses if there was one.

MS LESNIE:

Was there any sort of observation procedure for those children? Were they

ever put into an observation room?

MR HUXSTEP:

The same as the adults would be. I think that that was perceived to be

of more potential harm than good. The guards would certainly pay regular

visits to their - to their donga to check on them hourly and the nurses

would make home visits as regularly as they could, particularly the mental

health nurses would follow them up, you know, and call in several times

a day and through the evening. And the parents were made to be aware that

they should be vigilant.

DR OZDOWSKI:

The self-harm you were mentioning, did it involve suicide attempts?

MR HUXSTEP:

Not while I was at Woomera. I didn't witness anyone who made a genuine

suicide attempt, not a child.

PROF THOMAS:

You said there's a psychology service in the detention centre. What do

you think of this service? Is it adequate, effective?

MR HUXSTEP:

When the psychologist was there he was very good and he had an intern

with him who was very good, however, there wasn't always a psychologist

available. Indeed when the first - when I was at the early part of the

time I worked at Woomera there wasn't a psychologist and even the services

of the mental health nurses was arranged in a very ad hoc fashion. And

there was a period at one stage when I was there for two or three weeks

where there was no one with mental health training available.

PROF THOMAS:

When the services were available did you find any children using them?

MR HUXSTEP:

I wasn't directly involved but again in conversations with my colleagues

many of the people they spoke to were children. And one of the psychologists,

who has also talked to the Commission, told me when I was there that he

had at least six children that he was very worried about at the time who

were in detention.

PROF THOMAS:

Did you have any opportunity to observe the behaviour of the guards with

the children?

MR HUXSTEP:

Many occasions, and I should say that not all of the guards exhibited

unprofessional behaviour but many of them did and there were many instances.

I remember I had to go in to the main compound to do a medical clinic

one morning and because we were nurses we had to take a guard with us

for protection, I presume. And we were waiting our turn to go through

the gate to get in to the compound and there was a family returning from

the kitchen with their meals, and there was a child ran through without

waiting and when the guard yelled at him he said something rude to him

and kept going. And the guard said to me - he looked at me and said, "I

wish I could have five minutes alone with that little c-u-n-t". And

I said to him, "What would you do if you had five minutes" and

he made a hand punching - his fist punching his hand motion and smiled,

and the child would have been eight or nine or ten.

PROF THOMAS:

You say that after your work at Woomera you had problems with this stress

and had to have treatment. Did you get compensation or Workcare?

MR HUXSTEP:

I have paid for it myself and I've made a claim for compensation against

ACM, but that hasn't been lodged in the Court to my knowledge as yet.

PROF THOMAS:

Okay. Before you went to Woomera were you sort of prepared? What did you

expect about the place?

MR HUXSTEP:

I had seen reports on TV but I wasn't prepared for the physical environment

being as barren as it was. I wasn't prepared for the attitude of some

of the staff I had to work with. I wasn't prepared for being a trained

health professional having my judgment set aside because of security issues;

having my judgments questioned by people with no health training. I wasn't

prepared for the level of depression and hopelessness of the population

of the detainees, the desperation. The stories they told me were in many

cases just beyond belief of what they'd already suffered before they came

to Australia, and then to be put in to prison in the middle of the desert

away from society for an indeterminate period of time and told nothing.

People would come to me and say, why don't DIMA at least tell us what

is happening with our visa application? They don't come near us unless

there is a riot or there is a crisis and we don't hear from them. So I

wasn't prepared for that.

PROF THOMAS:

Were you given any training on cultural diversity?

MR HUXSTEP:

No. The only training I received from ACM, we were asked to watch a training

film made for American prison guards in the seventies which advised people

should they be taken hostage that they should not act like a corrections

officer but a normal person, and I thought that was fairly appropriate

because many of them didn't act like people most of the time.

PROF THOMAS:

But the place needs professionals like you in - health professionals

MR HUXSTEP:

Yes, they do.

PROF THOMAS:

doctors and so on. So what advice would you give to the people who are

about to take a job there?

MR HUXSTEP:

Don't go. They do need them but the cost of running Woomera, I think,

is undeniably huge. By DIMIA's own statistics up to 92 per cent of people

are successful with their visa applications so why are 100 per cent of

asylum seekers punished by being put in the gaol in the desert and for

an indeterminate period of time? I think it's fairly obvious, you know.

People who are accused of crimes, and people who have been convicted quite

often of crimes, are given much better conditions than the people who

come here seeking asylum after being traumatised in their own countries.

PROF THOMAS:

Thank you.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Did you witness any riots?

MR HUXSTEP:

Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI: What

is happening to children during such riots?

MR HUXSTEP: The

children weren't visible for the most part. I think the parents - the

smaller children, particularly, were locked up in their dongas.

DR OZDOWSKI: Who

locked them up?

MR HUXSTEP:

The parents - well, I presume the parents. We weren't allowed in to the

compounds or within, you know, close proximity to the compounds. There

were their lights on the compound. There were many, many, many, many,

many guards in full riot battle dress around the perimeter and we were

told that the use of the water cannon had been authorised, and they explained

the types of injuries that the water cannon can inflict, where it will

hit the skin and shear the skin off in great flaps. We were told that

we were not to treat any detainees that were hurt, only guards, and the

DR OZDOWSKI:

So what you are saying, guards had priority?

MR HUXSTEP:

We were told we were not to treat any detainees, only to treat guards.

A medical centre was set up outside the perimeter just up the road from

the detention centre, and guards who had been hurt in the melee would

be ferried up to us for treatment and either rest there or go back on

duty.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Who told you to treat only guards?

MR HUXSTEP:

The medical centre manager said that she went to a management meeting

with all the other department managers each morning, and also had the

centre manager and the DIMA manager present, and she came back from the

meeting and said that there was intelligence to the effect that there

was going to be a riot soon. If that happened, this would be the sequence

of events and we weren't to treat detainees, only guards.

MS LESNIE: Do

I understand that you - you set up a medical centre down the road so,

in fact, there were no medical staff on site if there had been some injuries?

MR HUXSTEP:

No, no.

MS LESNIE:

There were no medical staff?

MR HUXSTEP:

No.

MS LESNIE:

So if a child, for instance, had got caught by a water cannon what would

have happened to that child?

MR HUXSTEP:

A guard would have to notice it and bring them to us.

MS LESNIE: So

a guard could bring kids or anyone else to your medical centre down the

road?

MR HUXSTEP: Theoretically

but it didn't happen. No detainee was brought to us.

MS LESNIE:

And were there any detainees injured in that riot?

MR HUXSTEP:

I suspect so; however, I think for fear of punishment for a week or two

after the riot no detainee presented to the medical centre with any injury

which they claimed came directly from the riots. Sometimes they would

come in with a cut or a bruise or a sprain which obviously wasn't new

and they would say that they just hurt themselves playing soccer or something.

DR OZDOWSKI:

But you didn't observe the riot yourself personally so you don't know

what kind of

MR HUXSTEP:

I observed the main compound at different times through the evening from

a distance; the closest I got was about 150 metres. I observed detainees

throwing small rocks from the compound across the fences at the guards.

I observed guards and members of the Country Fire Service from South Australia,

who were also present with their fire truck and hoses, throwing rocks

back. The detainees were running round and round the compound with towels

and things around their head to preclude identification.

DR OZDOWSKI:

But you didn't see children or young men under 18

MR HUXSTEP:

I personally didn't see anyone that I would presume from their size to

be younger than a teenager.

MS LESNIE:

Could you comment on the impact that that had on children? Whether or

not they were there did you notice

MR HUXSTEP:

The immediate effect straight after the riot was that the children who

did come to the medical centre my perception was they were a lot quieter,

a lot more guarded in their - a lot less likely to make eye contact.

MS LESNIE: Was

there any effort to bring in child psychologists or other psychologists

just to assess the children after that?

MR HUXSTEP:

I believe a colleague of mine, who was a psychologist there at the time,

made that suggestion and he told me that the response at the time was

that they didn't feel it was necessary or that the cost was warranted.

MS LESNIE:

Was he a medical practitioner? When he said that he didn't feel it was

necessary

MR HUXSTEP:

Psychologist.

MS LESNIE:

He was a psychologist?

MR HUXSTEP: Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

There is a final question I would like to ask you. Usually when there

are incidents involving children in terms of South Australia, one should

file a report with the Department of Family Services in South Australia

reporting especially if a child was hurt. Could you tell me what was the

procedure of reporting such incidents and how effective were the investigations?

MR HUXSTEP:

The first time I arrived at Woomera was hot on the heels of a report a

nurse had made about a child who was allegedly sexually assaulted and,

apparently, the procedure up to that point had been that if a child had

been harmed or suspected of being harmed, that the Centre Manager was

to be notified and if any authorities - he deemed it necessary to notify

any other authorities, he would do so. However, after that incident and

his subsequent suspension, the procedure was changed whereby the nurse

was allowed, according to ACM policy, to notify FAYS first and then to

notify the Centre Manager.

DR OZDOWSKI: Okay.

MR HUXSTEP:

However, the colleague - the nurses that I worked with I don't think would

have been - had a problem with notifying FAYS even if that wasn't ACM

procedure.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So the records were made directly to FAYS and what FAYS was doing when

they received the record?

MR HUXSTEP:

They would follow up. That was dealt with between them and DIMA, I presume,

with the involvement of ACM and senior ACM people. I didn't see - I wasn't

privy to that sort of information.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Any final comments you would like to make?

MR HUXSTEP:

Just a general comment. I think the whole concept and policy of detaining

people in a prison, particularly children in the middle of the desert,

is inhumane. It's demeaning and demoralising, and I think it diminishes

all of us as Australians that it exists.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much, Mr Huxstep, for your evidence.

Now, could I ask

Professor Margaret Reynolds to come forward. Welcome, Professor Reynolds.

I would like to ask you to take an oath or affirmation.

PROFESSOR MARGARET

REYNOLDS [10.30am]

President, United Nations Association of Australia

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you. Could I ask you, for the records, to state your name, your

address, qualifications and capacity you are appearing in.

PROFESSOR REYNOLDS:

Yes. My name is Margaret Reynolds. My residential address is [address

removed]. I appear as National President of the United Nations Association

of Australia, but I am currently in Brisbane as an adjunct professor at

the University of Queensland in the Department of Political Science and

International Relations.

DR OZDOWSKI: Thank

you very much. Could I remind you that I made a number of orders relating

to protection of privacy of individuals and I would like to ask you to

refrain from identifying any individual asylum seekers or identifying

third parties during these proceedings? Now, could I ask you to make an

opening statement, please?

PROFESSOR REYNOLDS:

Yes. I appear on behalf of the United Nations Association of Australia.

We have in addition of 2000 members throughout the country. We produce

a weekly newsletter, Unity, which informs all Australians about the relationship

between Australia and the United Nations. We liaise with a range of non-government

organisations and refugee advocacy groups as well as individuals. There

has been a great increase in the number of organisations and quite informal

individual networks concerned with the treatment of detainees in Australian

detention centres.

Briefly, I wanted

to appear before you today to add to information provided in our submission.

In our submission of March 2002, we detailed our general concern about

the treatment of all people in detention, but particularly the impact

on children. Soon after - just a little before the preparation of this

submission we launched what we called the People's Commission. Now, the

People's Commission was our way of dealing with the many allegations that

were being made that were not, at that time, necessarily being fully investigated

and as an outcome of that inquiry, which was based mainly on people writing,

e-mailing or phoning us, we produced a report which was also submitted

to this Inquiry. And the report was called Desert Camps, Australia's Detention

Policy to Deter Asylum Seekers.

It contained primarily

detainees' stories, stories from a number of detainee advocates, those

who had visited detention centres, and a number of children's drawings.

This report was presented to Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for

Human Rights in Geneva, in April and it was also provided to Justice Bhagwati

at that time by her as background material prior to his visit to Australia

to look at, particularly, conditions of detention at Woomera. In June

when Justice Bhagwati visited, I also met him for the first time with

a number of non-government organisations.

That is the background

and the detail that I wanted to present to you today relates to efforts

that we have been making in the last month or so to deal with what we

are calling the culture of violence in Australian detention centres. There

has been a great deal of focus on the policy of arbitrary detention. There's

been a great deal of advocacy, and there's also been a great deal of effort

to try to open up the policy and to find out just what is happening. We

decided to partially switch our focus to deal with the culture of violence.

As an organisation we still are very concerned about the nature of arbitrary

detention, but we want to deal with conditions in detention centres.

We have - we've received,

as I said earlier, a number of allegations and counter-allegations. They

can only be allegations because we are not physically in detention to

verify these. But I'd like to just briefly refer, and I will provide these

to you, to three. One is very recent and occurred, allegedly, on August

- sorry, not August - it would have been March 27. On that day, it is

alleged that a number of ACM staff were transferred from one centre to

another and, on arrival, they entered huts, searching and up ending bed

linen and items in the huts. Water cannon was sprayed but not confirmed

whether it was at people or just turned on.

Some of the staff

drove 4-wheel drive vehicles around very fast. In one hut, there were

a number of boys, children, when the guards came in and opened the fridge

and threw the milk and sugar out on the ground.

When they complained

and said that these had been paid for they allege that they were assaulted.

One was beaten and then shackled and is reported to be badly bruised.

Another was hit and later had six stiches to his head. During this time

it is alleged that ACM staff were swearing and one boy is reported to

have told them that they must speak to them like a human being. That boy

was picked up and thrown outside. He was also hit, punched in the mouth

and guards asked him why he spoke this way.

They then entered

a place where 12 year old boys were playing a computer game and it is

also reported that the boys were struck and two boys were handcuffed and

the guards attempted to handcuff another boy. And so these kinds of allegations

proceed, and I won't read any more of that one.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Would you provide us later with details.

PROF REYNOLDS:

Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Or the dates and names, if you have it.

PROF REYNOLDS:

Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

But I would like to ask you to give it to the Secretary.

PROF REYNOLDS:

I certainly will. The other I will not read by virtue of time, but I will

provide to you, and I would like to submit it, and that is transcript

of a speech given by a nurse to a Children out of Detention group in June

this year, and published in Capital Women's Right 2002. It refers particularly

to her experience of personally witnessing a 12 year old spread eagled

against a wall unable to move under guard while guards laughed.

He was called names

and he was told if he didn't watch himself he would be going on a holiday

to Sierra, which I am sure as you know is maximum security. His response

landed him in maximum security under guard without his mother's knowledge

and without his understanding. He was treated for abrasions to his neck

from being dragged by the scruff. A complaint was filed but no further

action was taken apparently by DIMA or ACM.

These are just two,

and I will provide the third, these are just two of the allegations that

we have presented in a meeting with the Australian Federal Police, just

two weeks ago. We have asked the Federal Police to investigate the culture

of violence that is alleged continually and has been for over 12 months

now. We want to know and we have provided examples like this, the extent

of criminal assault in Australian detention centres.

At our meeting we

heard of a complexity of areas of responsibility between Federal and State

police, between the Department and the Contractor, Australasian Correctional

Management, not to mention a range of State Government departments depending

on where the detention centre is located. We raised the question of the

International Human Rights Standards for law enforcement which is produced

by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Centre for Human

Rights.

It is a pocket book

on human rights for police. And we talked to the Federal Police about

the need for this book to be a basis for a code of practice for those

guards dealing with their duty of care. We talked about monitoring of

just what is happening in regard to criminal assault within detention

centres and also data collection. And we have made recommendations to

the Commissioner that AFP initiate a survey of the extent of the cultural

violence in Australian detention centres.

It will not be possible

to investigate every allegation because there are so many of them, and

AFP are under resourced and they have other priorities that have been

detailed by the government in regard to anti terrorism and international

crime. But we believe that there could be a negotiated initial survey

of the culture of violence, a review of the areas of responsibility so

that there isn't this constant conflict of who is responsible, where does

information go when allegations are made, who is responsible for answering

these allegations.

A centralisation

of data collection, there is data about the culture of violence in Australian

detention centres in a number of different departments, and we believe

it should be centralised. We believe there should be independent monitoring

of that process including random inspections as recommended in the draft

optional protocol against torture. We recommended a code of conduct and

we recommended that these issues be placed on the next meeting of the

Australian Police Minister's Conference.

Just in finalising

my comments, could I say that for the first time there has been official

recognition that crime is occurring in detention. And this was in the

Australian on 3 August when Commissioner Mick Kelty withdrew Australian

Protective Services from bidding for the contract for the care of detention.

And he said in his reported remarks in the Australian, that he was concerned

that there:

Would be a conflict

between the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Protective Services

investigating crime in detention.

Thank you very much.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much, Professor Reynolds. Can I ask you to comment on two

additional matters, considering your broad international involvement.

Do you know of any other countries which do have a mandatory detention

system, especially a mandatory detention system which is similar in implementation

to ours?

PROF REYNOLDS:

I don't know of any other country that has non reviewable detention of

the scale of Australia's, nor the isolation - isolated nature of the detention

centres. In Europe it is possible for people to be detained but not in

such an arbitrary way for such a long period of time. And for children

the prime purpose of your Inquiry, to be detained in the manner in which

they are detained in Australia, is quite unprecedented.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you. And my second question, is that Minister Ruddock says quite

often, and the Department as well, that it is necessary to detain because

people are likely to abscond, and he quotes examples from the US and UK.

Do you have any empirical evidence about asylum seekers' families from

western developed countries and about absconding rates?

PROF REYNOLDS:

I don't have empirical data, but I do know that it has been claimed that

it is Australian government policy to release men on temporary protection

visas, and keep the wives and children as "insurance" because

if the women and children are detained the men won't abscond into the

community. I can't prove that, but I have heard it from a number of reliable

sources in the course of the last six to eight months. And the practice

would appear to be verifiable if you look at the numbers of male TPV holders

whose families have been held in detention.

DR OZDOWSKI:

But you don't know of any statistics dealing with families, asylum seekers

families because, for example, when I was meeting Immigration Officials

in the United States they were claiming that in terms of families the

rating of absconding is very minimal, almost non existent, but I am trying

to find this kind of material, would your organisation be able to help

me with it?

PROF REYNOLDS:

I certainly would like to try to help you with it, because I have

heard these claims, but I am not aware of where the detail is. One point

I would make, however, is that the numbers in Europe and the UK are so

great, whereas the numbers in Australia are so minimal, one could say

anecdotally that it would be far less of a problem in Australia. And if

the Europeans are able to cope with it, with their large numbers it indicates

a lack of, you know, international good practice for Australia to make

such a fuss about so few.

DR OZDOWSKI: Thank

you, Professor. Prof Thomas?

PROF THOMAS:

Do you have in your organisation - do you collect any sort of information

about the mental health of the children?

PROF REYNOLDS:

This intimation has come through to us usually second-hand, either phone

or email or letters. Just a few weeks ago, when there was the hunger strike

in Woomera, I had a phone call at that time from someone in Woomera who

was extremely concerned about the mental health of a number of children

who were trying to copy their parents in being on hunger strike but most

of the material that we get is second-hand and because of the nature of

the arrangements it is impossible for us to verify. We simply collect

the material and put it together in our initial report and we will be

continuing to do that over the coming months to bring out another report.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Is there any additional information that you've received since you've

done your own work and since the United Nations has also tabled a report

recently that you'd like to draw to our attention? I guess it is supplementary

information that might not be in existing documents?

PROF REYNOLDS:

Mainly the three items that I - these three items and other material that

has gone to the Federal Police that has similar confidentiality obviously.

We don't use names, clearly, except to hand to the Federal Police or people

like yourselves, and I can certainly provide the submission that was provided

to the Federal Police to this Inquiry.

MRS SULLIVAN:

That would be helpful. I guess in terms of your priorities as an association,

what would be your number one priority in terms of children in detention

centres that you would want to draw to our attention?

PROF REYNOLDS:

Well, our number one priority would be for children not to be in detention

and we are on record as wanting a change in the nature of mandatory detention

as practised in recent years. However, there are so many advocates working

along those lines that we felt compelled to look at the actual conditions

and particularly the level of violence. Now, the level of violence is

of concern for all people but the impact on children is quite horrendous

and in our report, Desert Camps, we included a number of children's drawings

and I took some of those drawings separately to Geneva to present to Mary

Robinson and people could not believe the detail and the way in which

children we so preoccupied with violence in those drawings.

MRS SULLIVAN:

So in terms of, I guess, your broader knowledge of violence in the community,

if we assume that some form of detention will remain, what's the pressure

point that we could alleviate to reduce some of that impact of the violence.

You know, you mentioned data collection and you mentioned AFP investigation.

PROF REYNOLDS:

Well, first of all there should be - I mean, each officer employed by

the privatised contractor should have to sign compliance with these standards.

I mean, they're all set out and no doubt you know them anyway, but, you

know, there's a whole section on the protection of juveniles. Children

are to benefit from all the human rights guarantees available to adults.

Detention or imprisonment of children shall be an extreme measure of last

resort and detention shall be of the shortest possible time. I mean, so

many Australian advocates have been saying this for months now and yet

the government remains committed to detaining children and when criticised,

all they can say is, "We must protect our borders." You know,

it is a nonsense statement and must be exposed as that. Detaining children

has got nothing to do with border protection.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Perhaps a last question as I know we've run a bit over time but just to

ask you: in your judgment, do the Australian Federal Police pursue all

assaults, claims lodged with them with full vigour?

PROF REYNOLDS:

I want to be very fair to the Australian Federal Police because I

believe that they are very professionally concerned about the situation

in Australian detention centres and that was certainly conveyed to us

by two senior officers. The fact that they received us, that they have

received our submission, indicates that there is concern. However, the

arrangements for investigation of allegations is very complex. You know,

some investigations no doubt are carried out by the Department, others

by the contractor, others by State Police, others by the Federal Police

and still others by child welfare departments.

It's so dispersed

that it is almost impossible, except through inquiries such as yours,

to really find precisely what is happening and who is ultimately responsible

because there are so many different agencies. The material - I mean, there

was a report that there had been some 6000 reported incidents at Woomera

in a single year. Now, not all of those necessarily related to assault

or self-harm but they were regarded as incidents. When you look at those

kinds of numbers, I mean, clearly there's got to be a different way of

processing those allegations and the time involved is just enormous and

more than any one of those agencies can cope with.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much, Professor Reynolds. I think we'll adjourn now for

15 minutes. Thank you.

PROF REYNOLDS:

Thank you.

SHORT ADJOURNMENT [10.57am]

RESUMED [11.15am]

DR OZDOWSKI: I think we are ready to start the second session of

morning hearings. I've been told by some people that they can't hear when

we are talking so we will have to ask everyone of us to sit closer to

microphones and to use them. My name is Sev Ozdowski and I am the Human

Rights Commissioner. To my left is Mrs Robin Sullivan who is Assistant

Commissioner for this Inquiry. She is also Queensland's Children's Commissioner.

On my right is Professor Trang Thomas who is also an Assistant Commissioner.

She is a specialist in psychology and works at the Royal Melbourne Institute

of Technology. Could I ask you to take an oath or affirmation?

FREDERIKA STEEN [11.15am]

SISTER DE LOURDES JARRET

ALEC SHABANZ

Romero Centre

DR OZDOWSKI: Could I ask each of you to give your name, address,

qualification and capacity in which you are appearing for the record?

SR DE LOURDES:

My name is Sister De Lourdes Jarret. I am a Sister of Mercy. My address

is [address removed]. I am a pastoral worker at the Romero Centre. I am

a retired school teacher.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you.

MS STEEN:

My name is Frederika Steen. I live at [address removed]. I am a retired

public servant, retired last March from the Department of Immigration.

I'm currently a volunteer working at the Romero Centre and I have a long

history of working with social justice issues, access and equity and in

the community.

MR SHABANZ:

My name is Alec Shabanz. I am a Bachelor of Science and Civil Engineering

and Master of Project Management. I am living in [address removed]. I

am also a volunteer at Romero Centre working with asylum seeker or TPV

holders.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much. Could I ask you to make an opening address and if

I could ask you to let us know a bit more about the Romero Community Centre,

what you are doing and also about your direct knowledge of refugees, specially

people who came through detention centres and people on TPVs.

MS STEEN:

I will make an opening statement to be complemented by what my colleagues

say. Firstly, could I offer the apologies of Rachida Joseph, the co-ordinator

of the Romero Centre, who has been struck down by the flu. She would have

been a most credible witness to what happens at the Romero Centre based

on a long, long history of working in a number of refugee communities.

The Romero Centre

had its origins in a Christian and human response to homeless TPVs found

wandering the streets of Brisbane. That's a bit over two years ago. The

response within the Catholic Church was to set up a help centre, a reception

centre, an on-arrival place where people could be processed, enter the

Australian community and from which services - helping services normally

provided by government - would be made available to the TPV holders.

In the case of Brisbane,

there was no access to major settlement services or to the infrastructure

which some refugee communities bring to welcome newcomers. There was no

community and ethnic Hazara community from Afghanistan, a very limited

one from Iraq and Iran, earlier waves being of a different composition.

The work that we

do at the Romero Centre is very much grounded in one grant from a State

government, the Queensland State government, which made $50,000 available

to employ a community development worker. That is the core around which

a tribe of volunteers with many high-level skills now operates. The credentials

of our volunteers come from work in business, in government, administration,

education and community work. The work that we do is well-described in

a brochure which I will table if I may. It is a hospitality and drop-in

centre. We have seen in our time more than 2000 TPV holder refugees land

here in Brisbane often after a long journey by bus from Port Hedland,

Curtin and Woomera.

It is therefore their

first bonding with the Australian community that happens and I am very

glad to say that we, the good people of Brisbane and of Australia, say

with all sincerity, "You are welcome. We're glad you are here."

Those words of kindness mean a heck of a lot given what they've been through.

Their arrival in

Brisbane is accompanied by a DIMIA made arrangement for one night's accommodation

for which they must pay themselves. The next day, at 10 o'clock if it

is a motel, they're basically on their own, and that's where the Romero

Centre and its many supporters provide assistance in finding low-cost

accommodation in dealing with the issues, the medical issues, the other

emergencies that do happen. It is a place of friendship and support. It's

a place where somebody who speaks English will help you buy the bus ticket

if you can afford it, to go to Sydney where your family or your friends

are. I can give many examples of the sort of emergencies that have had

to be dealt with because people were sent to Brisbane when, in fact, they

had family and friends in other capital cities.

Romero Centre is

a modest place. It operates from the basement of accommodation belonging

to the Little Kings Movement and it is provided to us rent-free. We are

able to help the newcomers when they move into flats - and it is always

low-cost accommodation and, in inner Brisbane, that means pretty grotty

and fairly expensive. The help we get from St Vincent de Paul and other

helping agents is absolutely incredible and astounding. That restores

your faith in human beings.

We offer an address.

People who have come out of detention who have lived in institutional

life for a while, have to pick up the reins of managing their own lives.

Getting mail, official mail in particular, is a problem if you don't have

an address. So the Romero Centre offers that service, the mail collection.

Advice is needed,

referral is needed, advocacy is needed, on a number of areas. We help

people and we provide a place where they connect with education services,

how to book a place in an English course which the Queensland Government

has made available through TAFE. Unlike other states, the Queensland Government

has not designated or made these TPV refugees a second class of refugee.

Access to State-funded service is available. So one of our roles is to

help people get enrolled in TAFE colleges to learn some English and some

other skills.

We provide information

and orientation which is desperately needed by people who have been stripped

of their skills, their independence, their ability to manage their own

lives. We do that in a fairly haphazard way as we can, when we can. It

is, at best, a very inadequate safety net under people newly arrived in

Brisbane who mostly do not have English.

The desperation for

finding employment is priority number one, other than just getting on

with their lives. We have done little, but something, by way of preparing

people to find jobs and sending them to places where they can get more

help. It is an area where they do not have access to Commonwealth services.

So at Romero Centre,

we provide advocacy, we provide training - cross-cultural training for

other agencies who, for the first time, are dealing with a new group of

people from Central Asia and the Middle East and mostly Muslims. We provide

a venue for Centrelink and Immigration and some other services to actually

deliver their services, and we are speakers for public information meetings.

That is a brief overview of what we do.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much. Could you say something about the numbers of people,

especially families with children, and unaccompanied minors you are meeting

in your capacity?

MS STEEN:

Yes. The unaccompanied minors are more easy to actually quantify and you

will get evidence from the school where they are registered this afternoon.

I think there are about 40 - 150 or so all over in the last couple of

years. Our contact with them comes and goes. They arrive at the Romero

Centre. At the moment, those boys who have turned 18 and who are therefore

no longer in the care of the State Minister for Family Services are coming

back to the Romero Centre for support and sometimes just company and comfort.

The numbers we have

dealt with: We have seen more than 2000 have come through Centre and register

here with Centrelink. But the majority have moved on. In spite of Mr Carr's

wish not to have them going to go to Sydney, that's where their friends

are. There is no Iraqi infrastructure here to support them, no migrant

services. They go to where they know they'll be welcome and that's with

friends and family. So there is a large emigration from those who are

landed here who actually have their visas validated, endorsed here, to

Melbourne and Sydney in particular.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So how long would they stay here on average?

MS STEEN:

We had a very quick turnaround for - if a bus load of 28 came in, it could

be that 24 left the next day or within the next 24 hours.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So in terms of your centre, what long-term involve group?

MS STEEN: Our

clients, the so-called TPV holder community is made up of mainly Iraqi,

Hazara and a few Iranian. We've seen a bit of erosion recently of the

Hazara people who are desperate at the thought of deportation and who

are relocating to Sydney where they have a better chance of finding employment.

I think our estimate is we have a community of about three or four hundred

clients with whom we are still in touch and we are striving very hard

at the moment to make sure there is some support, some contact with each

of those families, with each of those households. Often they are households

of young men.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Sure. Out of 300, how many of them would be children or unaccompanied

minors?

MS STEEN:

I'm not sure of the exact figures. We have no way of actually counting

them. My guess would be that we have - I don't really want to guess. It's

hard to guess. There are families who come intact; mothers, fathers and

children. There are families who come with children left behind in the

country of origin and there are lots of young men who have no families.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Could I ask you to let us know something about the impact of detention

on children, unaccompanied minors, as you observe it?

MS STEEN:

Yes, our observations include some very unforgettable incidents which

are damaging to children. You may be interested in those. A woman in the

ninth month of her pregnancy, apparently no medical assessment of her

fitness to travel, arrived exhausted, distressed and immediately asked

us through her husband to get them to fly them or to bus them to Adelaide

where she had a sister. An unborn child and a very tired and distressed

mother; we were rather fearful she might give birth at the Romero Centre.

There was no - to our understanding, there was no information that would

have made that young mother aware of the dangers of deep vein thrombosis

by travelling yet again or of dehydration.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Did that woman come from a detention centre?

MS STEEN:

Yes, she did.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Which one did she come from, do you know?

MS STEEN:

I think it was Woomera.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So she possibly passed through Adelaide anyhow.

MS STEEN:

She did pass through Adelaide, yes. But she got on a bus the next - I

think two days later and made that journey, long journey, back to Adelaide.

We've had an example of a baby born in detention, delayed in detention,

something which was outside the parents' control beyond the 28 weeks.

That child was not eligible for the baby bonus which would have made a

world of difference to the destitute young Afghan couple whose first child

was born in Australia in Broome. We've seen babies 10 days old arrive,

mothers exhausted. Again, a bus journey. We certainly have health concerns

about them and their children and we also know that the uncertainly of

where they sleep that night and the night thereafter really does weigh

on them.

Because of the shortage

of decent accommodation, families with young children have been booked

into what can only be described as a cheap flea pit nearby the Romero

Centre, which is well-known to the police, which has a resident prostitute,

drug dealing and dealing in stolen goods. We have avoided as much as we

can having people stay there. Sometimes there is no option. We had a mother

with three very hyperactive children arrive from Woomera. Her journey

was 28 hours by bus. Her husband was living and working in Shepparton

Victoria. She relocated to Shepparton by catching a bus on the Friday

she arrived at 7 pm and she was to be set off in Shepparton I think at

3.30 am on Sunday morning.

There was little

we could do except help her make that horrible journey. She was so distressed

and distraught at one stage she said, "I'd sooner go back to Woomera

than get on the bus with those kids again." And she wasn't a bad

mother. It was the circumstances. Our role in that is to do what we can

and we bought her some sedative travel mixture so the kids would go to

sleep at night on the bus. We had a very tragic arrival of a sibling group,

a 23 year old young man with his three sisters, two of whom were minors

under 18. They were sent to Brisbane - and I think it was Port Hedland,

when in fact the brother, their uncle, the brother of their dead father,

was already living in the community in Perth.

They wanted to go

back to Perth. They needed to be with family. That was obvious to us.

One of the young women was in an almost catatonic state not connected

with the world that she was in. It was a charity, Saint Vincent de Paul,

who helped them relocate to Perth, and that's a big money item. You asked

about the behaviour, and perhaps my colleagues can help describe what

it is

DR OZDOWSKI:

Can I interrupt you for a moment?

MS STEEN:

Sure.

DR OZDOWSKI:

How decisions are made? About where they go to when they are released

from detention centres?

MS STEEN:

My understanding is that the case officer who decides their case to give

them TPV or not would have known the circumstances of family already in

Australia. Sometimes the refugees if not asked specifically may not have

told them that, sometimes they have, and it should have been evident from

the files. There wasn't always close checking on that. The decision is

made by

DR OZDOWSKI:

The officer in Canberra who reviews the case.

MS STEEN:

I think that would be worth pursuing. I know that our colleagues in the

Immigration Department here in Brisbane were equally shocked at that sort

of dysfunctional movement of people who were already traumatised and who

are exhausted. So it's something on which we have complained a few times.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you.

MS LESNIE: Sorry,

just before - you say you have complained about it a few times. To whom

have you complained?

MS STEEN:

We sent a fax to the Immigration Department locally for forwarding to

the central officer where this is centralised, and we certainly discuss

it in the regular meetings we have with very professional colleagues from

the Immigration Department.

MS LESNIE:

Based in Brisbane.

MS STEEN:

Based in Brisbane. They're our first port of call. We ask them to take

the message back.

SR DE LOURDES:

With regard to the arrival, some young boys told me that they were given

their visa last November and they arrived in Brisbane in June. They say,

"Why do they keep us there? Why do they hold us when they told us

we had our visa? We're not criminals. We should have come long ago."

And they also said they are not told till early that morning to get their

bags and things and meet at a certain point so that nobody else knows

they're leaving because of the consternation it would cause for people

who have been in detention perhaps longer than the people being released.

DR OZDOWSKI: Ms

Steen, could you explain what's happening with this? Why people are saying

they do have a visa and

MS STEEN:

I've heard it from adults as well as from the unaccompanied minors that

when the decision is made, it is not automatically resulting in the action

to depart the centre. I do not know the reason or the explanation for

such a delay, but it causes additional stress.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Yes.

MS STEEN:

We certainly know of boys who travel together on the same boat from Indonesia

who were 12 months separated for a reason I cannot explain.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you. Sorry, Sister.

SR DE LOURDES:

Yes. Also a group of young boys - one lad would be about 6 years, another

little boy 5 and the two brothers perhaps 11 and 12, were just in the

centre a few hours and the 6 year old boy became very violent and he was

punching and kicking and hitting and thumping the 5 year old boy for apparently

no reason whatever, and I tried to separate them and the two older brothers

tried to pull this violent young boy away from his victim, but they couldn't

move him. He was just obsessed with beating and hitting this child, who

was very timid, and when the scene settled down the boy who was beaten

walked across and sat on a chair with his head down, accepted it all,

he didn't fight back.

The violence frightened

me, and to - he must have seen things like that for him to behave that

way. And also the wandering around. They just walk around the perimeter

of the room and once they arrive at our centre they seem not to know what

to do with freedom. They're just out of the centre, into a bus and then

they come into our centre and it's pathetic to see these beautiful young

children at a loss to know what to do but just walk around a perimeter

of the room, and

MRS SULLIVAN:

Who makes the contact with Department of Families, for example, for the

unaccompanied minors. Is it you people who do that?

MS STEEN:

No. Immigration manages that at the core and that's very well controlled.

So when an unaccompanied minor arrives, that connection is already well

in hand and you'll hear from Family Services I guess the arrangement they

have to out-source the actual care of the unaccompanied minors.

MRS SULLIVAN:

So you don't see that as an area of concern for you? You feel that most

unaccompanied minors do have adequate support from the Department?

MS STEEN:

Unaccompanied minors in Brisbane have been very well managed and looked

after. They have a most unusual network of support, constellation of events.

Because most of the boys have been of the Hazara people, a community group,

the Hazara Ethnic Society of Australia, whom you will meet this afternoon,

provide culturally appropriate support, language support, cultural support.

The Tiger 11 soccer team, which provides a social network, you'll hear

about that later in the day. The Milpera School, which is the place where

all the young men started their English language learning, and the catch-up

program of the education they couldn't have in Afghanistan, is most remarkable.

I'll put it on the record. People have described the Milpera School and

its wonderful staff as Mother Milpera and that says a lot because those

boys haven't got mothers here.

MRS SULLIVAN:

So when they move from Milpera to another school, you're still happy with

the kind of support they get?

MS STEEN:

I can't comment on the details of the care which the unaccompanied minors

get under guardianship. Others have a better handle on that and you should

actually ask the boys themselves.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Sure.

MS STEEN:

Our observation is that the whole task of caring for young people who

live in houses without an adult present - so no house parents - how they

have managed is absolutely to their credit, that they have survived, that

they have stayed in education, most of them, and that they have done well

is just absolutely to their credit.

MRS SULLIVAN:

What I'm trying to, I guess, look at, is whether that group of people

come to you for support or whether they're able to get adequate support

from their family services officers, for example?

MS STEEN:

I really can't answer that. They will come to wherever they feel they

are welcome and supported so they are coming back to us, some of the older

boys now. For a long time they were dispersed. Some of them were living

in distant suburbs, not close to each other. That was an issue we have

taken up and the boys themselves took up. They're now relocating in accommodation

which is more convenient to each other and to the services that they need.

So the total network or support, under all circumstances it does not come

anywhere near living in a family with your mother and father and at times

it has been very inadequate, especially for emergencies, out of hours

and weekend support for children.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Thanks.

MS LESNIE:

How do children but also families know to come to you for help?

MR SHABANZ: Basically,

when they're released from the detention centre if they come into Brisbane

the Romero Centre is the place they go to first. I think - I'm not exactly

sure - but they - by Department of Immigration probably has been sent

or sent there because there is no other place to go.

MS LESNIE:

So there's no Commonwealth

MR SHABANZ:

There is no Commonwealth facility. There is nothing. There is, basically,

arriving there and then Department of Immigration and sent incoming there.

They give them the temporary paperwork and so on.

MS LESNIE:

Does the Romero Centre get any Commonwealth government funding?

MS STEEN:

No way. In fact, the agencies which normally help newcomers have been

warned off. Some have it in writing from the Minister for Immigration

that they are specifically not to fund, and support, activities that benefit

people - the second class refugees - on temporary protection visas. Some

of them have alternative sources, multiple sources of funding and they

do what they can to support the work and complement the work that we do,

but there is no funding from the Commonwealth to support any of the so-called

settlement services for TPV holders.

MR SHABANZ:

And may I add a comment about some discrimination as well regarding this

refugee with the other refugees. As you know, they have three years temporary

protection visa so they're accepted as a refugee, but they are not treated

as a refugee. One of the examples is they are not allowed to study full-time

English or any other courses otherwise the benefit of their unemployment

benefit will be cut off.

MS LESNIE:

You mean for adults?

MR SHABANZ:

For adults.

MS STEEN:

For anyone over 18. A boy wanting to do university or TAFE courses is

absolutely limited by his special benefits regulations to studying only

for 15 hours a week. They're fairly greedy, they'd like to do much more,

but that's the limitation. They are also not able to complement their

meagre income by working part-time. Part-time would be just totally inefficient

because every dollar they earn they must report and it comes straight

off their special benefits. For the 19 year old whom we relocated to cheaper

accommodation in an Anglican hostel the other day for $50 a week, his

total income is, Sister?

SR DE LOURDES:

$220.

MS STEEN:

A fortnight. And he is now paying $50 a week for accommodation and before

that he was living in accommodation that cost him, I think, $80.

MR SHABANZ:

In addition to that discrimination I was mentioning, it's having access

to interpreter. Some area they have access but some area they don't. For

example to lodge the application for permanent residency they are not

allowed to have those services, so we basically rely on volunteer interpreters

to go with them and do that process. And the other issue is, basically,

as we discussed before, about the choice where they have to go to live

because as we heard about all these cases coming from Perth, going back

to Perth, coming from Adelaide, going back to Adelaide and so on, we have

many of these sorts of issues.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Can I ask you about access to the primary schooling here of kids on TPVs.

What needs to be done for a kid after they arrive here to go to a local

primary school?

MS STEEN: I

recently did it with a new arrival, a 10 year old, and there were no real

obstacles. There is an ESL teacher in many of the - our unit - in many

of the inner schools. The enrolment was not a hassle. The boy was on a

visa that gave him legal right to be in Australia and he was given access

to state education. Asylum seekers without a TPV are another matter.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Some six months ago I was told that Queensland had a special procedure

for kids on TPVs and the Minister was obliged to sign every one approach

of a child attending the school and that on occasion it was taking up

to three months before the Minister signed an agreement and kids had to

wait a long time. Is it still the situation here?

MS STEEN:

I think that situation was specifically in relation to asylum seekers

whose parents are in the process of seeking refugee status. While they

are processing and living in the community they have no entitlements to

anything.

DR OZDOWSKI:

I see. So it didn't apply to TPVs?

MS STEEN:

It was not TPVs, no. Again, State Government services and the direction

- the leadership - shown by the Queensland Government does not discriminate

against the education of children on TPVs, not to my knowledge.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you. Professor Thomas?

PROF THOMAS:

Of the children that arrive, do you observe anything special about their

behaviour?

MS STEEN:

Yes.

PROF THOMAS:

Apart from, you know, walking around - their mental health?

MS STEEN:

Let me give you an example of the politicisation that happens to children

who live in an abnormal environment in an institution called an immigration

detention centre. Sister de Lourdes was a witness to this, I saw it from

a distance. The two year old just arrived, his parents still disoriented

and exhausted: we gave them some toys to play with and for some these

were the first toys they had seen in a long, long time. Tell us what happened.

SR DE LOURDES:

The little boy picked up a giraffe and he held it up and he walked up

and down the room saying, "Freedom DIMA, freedom DIMA, freedom DIMA,"

chanting freedom as he had observed in the centre and I said to him, I

said, "You have freedom now" and it made no difference, he didn't

really understand.

PROF THOMAS:

He was a two year old?

MS STEEN: He

was 24 months old.

SR DE LOURDES:

A tiny little boy.

MS STEEN: And

I think they had spent at least nine months in detention. So politicised

at a young age. For the near adolescents, the young boys 10, 12, 13, the

copycat behaviour, the influence of the leaders in the detention centre

who are the spokesperson have drawn young boys into a very adult life.

It's as if they have lost, or missed out on, their childhood. Their innocence

is gone. We have looked into the face of one young man of 12 or 13 who

has attempted suicide three times - and he was very willing to tell us

what life was like.

The driving issue

for him on arrival was to get his friends out of detention. What could

he do? He would talk to the press, he would talk to anyone. He wanted

his friends out of detention. So what happened carries on and changes

their life. The politicisation is something that should never happen to

children. Their childhood was taken from them.

MR SHABANZ: Basically

the children over 5 years, what was my observation, is they are either

very aggressive or withdrawn. As mentioned before one, 12 years old, I've

seen myself, has cut basically his wrist a few times, hanged himself in

detention centre in Woomera.

PROF THOMAS:

Do you keep in touch with them - with those who stay in Queensland?

MS STEEN:

Yes, we do. Our volunteers provide a link and we make sure that somebody

visits, keeps in touch and the kids, of course, are caught up in school

and the services, the supporting services there.

PROF THOMAS:

So do you see an improvement in the behaviour over time?

MS STEEN:

Because children have no help in detention - and we're talking about children

who are in that abnormal environment for nine months, one instance 29

months. They've had no access to the debriefing and the counselling and

the medical and psychological support to deal with the journey of departure.

And I know of one little boy who has such nightmares about his father

being taken by the Taliban, about losing his father.

He has a recurring

nightmare. It is now so bad that it wakes the neighbours up in the adjoining

apartment, so it actually jeopardises their accommodation. That boy and

many others like him are bed-wetters. The trauma continues. It was what

happened in the home country, the dangerous journey and some children

were nearly drowned. Certainly there are tales of standing in water and

screaming. There are also the stories of what happened in detention so

it's a cumulative effect of bad experiences and being in detention for

those many months, and sadly it is many months, there is no help.

So when they finally

get here it's a very enormous challenge for the professionals to achieve

recovery, rehabilitation, and I don't think any of the services are well

enough resourced to do that. In our amateur way we do it with love and

care and follow up and attending to the obvious needs.

MR SHABANZ:

And the other issue is because the parents are not aware of these psychological

misbehaviours. They are not - they are not seeking any proper treatment

as well as for themselves because I observe the majority of them because

they are living on this sort of limbo situation, all the time government

talking they are going to send them back. Afghanistan is okay now and

so on. They are so depressed and basically they're not aware of that other

- some of them they're going basically towards alcoholism, some of them

they're basically releasing their anger on their children.

So basically there's

a whole issue involved basically coming from parents again to the children

so the parents they are not aware of the issue, parents they are not aware

of their own psychological misbehaviour or about their depression and

their anxiety and so on. They don't know about their children. So this

is basically - they carry on their life.

DR OZDOWSKI:

We will have to conclude this session in a moment. Are concluding remarks

you would like to say and if also you would like to provide us with further

information we will be willing to accept it in writing.

MS STEEN:

Good. We would certainly like to provide you some of the information with

which we've prepared for this morning. In summary what we would like to

see and to have happen is for there to be no detention centres, for no

children to be locked up. We cannot think of any good and rational and

reasonable reason to deprive children of their childhood and of their

freedom. We see the suffering, we fear for their future because we know

that the rehabilitation that must happen is likely not to be available

to them in the way that they need it.

We fear for our society

because for the first time a group of refugees have not been welcomed

in Australia. They have been dealt with in an alienating fashion. The

message that they have received is one of alienation. "We don't want

you". People like ourselves often feel a minority but we do think

that the mood in the Australian people is changing as they hear the stories

of what is actually done to men, women and innocent children who have

not committed a crime.

To be behind the

razor wire, to be contained, to be caged, is a most terrible thing for

a human being. Let me end on a bit of a note of humour. As part of our

social activities we organised a picnic for some of our families with

the volunteers who are linked with them last Sunday. And one of our colleagues

brought her dog along. Muslims and dogs normally don't mix well but it's

her pet dog and the dog came too.

She had the dog in

the car and the children were playing soccer and playing games and she

suddenly noticed that there was a group of children around the car. So

she went over and they said to her very, very seriously, and it wasn't

a joke, "Free the dog, free the dog". That says to me that the

scars of having been behind razor wire and caged and treated like an animal

and abused and told you're not wanted is a life-long scar. They will not

forget.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much to the Romero Community Centre. Thank you. Now, I

would like to ask Ms Camilla Cowley to come forward. Could I say welcome?

It's very good to see you and I saw Tiger 11 playing, I think, in Armidale.

It was a great social occasion over there so I will be really very glad

to hear your story. But before I will do it I would like to ask you to

take an oath or affirmation.

MS CAMILLA COWLEY [11.53am]

Tiger 11 Soccer Team

DR OZDOWSKI: Now, could I ask you to give your name, address, qualification

and capacity in which you are appearing for the record?

MS COWLEY:

My name is Camilla Cowley. I live at [address removed] in Brisbane. My

qualifications, I've spent most of my life working a family sheep property

and came to Brisbane two years ago. I'm a qualified primary teacher, came

to Brisbane two years ago, did a course at university in English as a

second language because I wanted to work with refugees.

So I am a registered

teacher with ESL qualifications. I'm registered in all the ESL units for

the - that the TPV children go to in Brisbane. I began working there and

that's how I met the unaccompanied minors and I'm now the manager of the

Tiger 11 refugee soccer team, which isn't quite why I came to Brisbane

but, yes.

DR OZDOWSKI: Did

you know anything about soccer before?

MS COWLEY:

Nothing at all. I know quite a bit now. I know how to abuse the referee

along with everybody else because the referee is always wrong.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Could you tell me how it's happened and could you tell us also about the

young men who are playing there. And I'm assuming they are only men but

please do not mention names.

MS COWLEY:

No. Okay. Well, we had, you know, spent all our lives on the land as a

family and the time had come when we knew that we could no longer run

that family property and we would be moving to Brisbane where our children

live. I have four children. I really was very disturbed about what I was

hearing about the whole asylum seeker detention centre issue. I wanted

desperately to do something to work with these asylum seekers, which is

why I came to Brisbane and did the English as a second language course.

I started volunteering

at Milpera School and I did actually have some work there, paid work there.

I wasn't there very long before I discovered that all refugees, whether

they come welcomed or unwelcomed, are very needy. But if you're going

to have a scale of need the unaccompanied minors were at the very top.

They had the most dreadful need of belonging somewhere, of having something

to replace the complete lack of family and the belief, the feeling that

they had that they were not wanted, that they were here under sufferance

and for as short a period of time as the government could get away with.

They needed a family.

And as I got to know them they - the one fond memory they had of detention

was playing soccer and their own world cup that they had in soccer in

the detention centres. And it seemed to have provided them with something

to cling to - to each other mainly. It was a way of clinging to each other

in detention and taking themselves out of, you know, the dreadful situation.

And I wanted to see if I could repeat that sort of community and support

here in Brisbane.

And if I can just

digress for a minute. One of the young men that I came to know first,

when I first met him all he could speak of was his friend who was still

in detention. They had arrived together and as you will probably keep

hearing there is - it's more like a lottery than any sort of, you know,

logic behind who does get accepted and who doesn't and often these rejections

are overturned by the Refugee Review Tribunal. But for these young guys

- I mean, it's dreadful for anyone to be in detention and I wish we didn't

have any detention for anyone.

But for these young

guys who didn't even have a Mum or a Dad or anyone to advise them they

were just so alone. And this guy's best friend, who he credited with having

really saved him, because this young fellow had been just so depressed.

He had come, as we all know, because of the dreadful fear, the dreadful

persecution in his background. His parents had sacrificed everything:

not just his parents but his extended family and even the village to get

enough money together to save him. The promise was we're taking your son

somewhere safe, somewhere where he will be respected and he will be supported

and he will be looked after. They didn't know where; just somewhere. It

was, as we know, an awful journey out here for all of them with the same

sort of stories of being abandoned on Ashmore Reef by the smugglers, of

not knowing whether, you know, what happens now, is this Australia, and

walking around that little Ashmore Reef.

You know, we just

can't really understand the trauma that these kids, all of them, but these

kids in particular, have gone through because they're so alone. So these

two young boys had clung together through that journey; they knew each

other; they knew they were both Hazara. They had the same stories, the

same reasons. When they finally were picked up from Ashmore Reef and arrived

they were put into gaol as they saw it. Well, it is. Some of the people

who have been in detention and also in gaol tell me that they'd rather

be in gaol; that it's better than being in Woomera or Curtin or Port Hedland.

This young fellow

just - he had great faith but he just completely despaired. After everything

he had been through, after everything his family had sacrificed, had it

been for nothing? He just could not go on. He couldn't eat; he just couldn't

think; he couldn't operate and this friend of his kept coaxing him and

coaxing him and coaxing him and finally got him out to join in the soccer

and he collapsed. He fainted on the dirt in the heat he just was too -

just too drawn by it all. And he told me that that was what really made

him decide that he had to change or he was going to die and that his family's

sacrifice would have been in vain. So he started to try to eat and he

started to join in with his friend in this soccer every day and he gradually

got stronger and stronger.

He is still the skinniest

little guy. So they were told they were to get their visas. The morning

they were to leave this good friend of his was not there and they didn't

know why. A group of them arrived in Brisbane not knowing why his other

friend who they credited with saving them because he was the one - he

was the life and soul of the party; he was the one who always got them

laughing; he was the one who inspired the soccer. But he hadn't been released

and nobody knew why. And they kept asking me, you know, to do something

about this guy. He turned up in Brisbane nine months later and they couldn't

believe it was the same person.

This was the person

who had inspired them all, who got them together to play the soccer, to

laugh, to have some fun in the dreadfulness of the detention. And when

he arrived he was so withdrawn he was almost completely silent. You didn't

see him smile let alone laugh. They just couldn't believe what had happened

to him. He often couldn't even get himself out of bed and get to school.

He always was sick or thought he was sick. He always wanted to go to doctors

and a lot of these things are common things. They are paranoid about their

health and I think there are a couple of things about this: Australians

don't want you; if you're unhealthy then they really don't want you so

you've got to be perfect.

You can't fail in

any way. You have to be the perfect specimen. You can't be ill. You have

to be very bright. You have to achieve. You have to - they have to be

perfect. Australians are allowed to be themselves, but these guys believe

they are not allowed to fall short in any measure. This young guy that

I was talking about - the soccer tour - this was some months after his

arrival and I had been really - and his friends were really concerned

about him. The soccer - coming back into the soccer, he started to come

out of himself again. And when we went on the tour much to the distress

of the bus driver and the coach and a few of the other adults, this young

fellow finally rediscovered himself and he was the life and soul of all

the high jinks that every young group of guys get together do - you know

come up with when they're on a bus together.

I thought it was

wonderful because we finally saw this guy the boys told me existed. So

it took him I suppose about eight months, eight or nine months, to get

back to anything like the child that these guys knew in detention but

that's where the soccer came from. Hearing all these sorts of stories

about them, they just needed that ability to gather at least once a week

as a family and it is their family.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Immigration is telling us that while in detention there is quite sophisticated

system of management plans for unaccompanied minors; that they have mentor

families appointed, or that they are having special officer looking after

their well being. Do they remember any of these issues when they are coming

out of detention?

MS COWLEY:

When you gain their trust - you see for these children they - many of

them emerge from detention not able to trust anyone they feel might have

any sort of authority at all because they are so afraid of saying anything

that may be reported back that may go against them n the future. From

what they've told me in detention there were some good guys and some bad

guys. One lovely young man told me about how he really was so upset about

the fact that so many guards abused them, swore at them, pushed them,

shoved them: not all, but this was a common thread from all the detention

centres that this happened.

The abuse, the racial

sort of abuse, the threats - that they were told, "If you misbehave

you will be taken" - this is from the Curtin one - "you will

be taken out and put in the prison tree where they used to shut the Aborigines

up years ago", and apparently they took some of the older detainees

out and actually showed them the tree. They came back told the young guys,

"Don't say a word. Don't ever complain. You don't want to be put

in there", and they still are terrified. I mean there's a part of

them that knows that that can't happen today, but there's a part of them

- I mean they're coming from a history where their rights as Hazaras were

always ignored.

So they have never

told me any story of being - feeling that there was someone who cared

especially for them in detention. They didn't get that feeling. The feeling

they got was that if they stepped out of line they would be punished and

they would be rather not be punished then or later. This stays with them

now particularly now. It's getting worse now for all these guys, unaccompanied

minors.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Why is it getting worse? Because their visa is coming to an end?

MS COWLEY:

Because their visa is coming to an end and because they are being told,

"Afghanistan is safe, you no longer engage

DR OZDOWSKI:

Protection.

MS COWLEY:

our protection." Yes. They are really frightened that if they say

anything now. They are really concerned now and this has really upset

me that even being identified as the Tiger 11 Soccer Club may endanger

them in the future because they will be identifiable. They won't be able

to just sort of disappear within the woodwork. One of our - they are all

extraordinary young people, they really are. The way they - and I've said

it before and I still say it, I'd be proud to have any of them as my sons.

They are extraordinary

young people given what they have come through and the lack of welcome

that they get here. And he has been in a way a leader and a spokesperson

for them and he told me, "It is too dangerous now to be a popular

refugee, Camilla. I don't want to speak any more. I don't want to be part

of Tiger 11 any more." He has withdrawn from all of that because

he is frightened and that's a common sort of thing.

DR OZDOWSKI:

How old are they at the moment? They are - they would be above 18 at the

moment or

MS COWLEY:

I've got - I just went through all my lists here and there are 14 who

are unaccompanied minors still.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Still.

MS COWLEY:

There's one - I don't know what you - I think they call him a detached

minor. He's actually came here with his older brother so he's not a ward

of Mr Ruddock but he is still - but he's under 18. Then we have five who

are now 18 but they were children in detention. They're now - some of

them are in transition in that they're still receiving some sort of guidance

from DOF. And we have four who are older than that but were under 18 when

they were in detention.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So they are basically at the moment most of them were classed as families

in the state

MS COWLEY:

No.

DR OZDOWSKI: No.

Not all of - so how is guardianship exercised over

MS COWLEY:

Through - the care of them was contracted out and Mercy Family Services

undertake the role of the care of their

DR OZDOWSKI:

Undertake the care.

MS COWLEY:

Their fear of authority I helped in a way to overcome that for them because

I did have connections with the Minister for Families in the State Government.

So I asked her if she would meet with them and she met with four of them

and they were very, very happy with their treatment from the Minister

and she invited them all back.

So we had 20 of them

come to a barbecue at Parliament House. And she began the proceedings,

the Minister, by saying, "You have heard in certain circles that

you're not welcome. I want you to know that you are very welcome here."

That made such a difference to those boys. Afterwards, on the soccer tour,

sometimes they'd be talking to people and they'd say, "Our friend,

the Minister, in Queensland." It means so much to them, but they

know that however much the Minister in Queensland may wish to support

them, and she has spoken for them in parliament, she has no authority

really. You know, their guardian is Mr Ruddock.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Were they able to trace the families over in Afghanistan or they are still

MS COWLEY:

They have no idea. None of them have had contact with their families since

they left. For most of them, the families were also fleeing at the time.

Their families were just - for a lot of them it had been a constant fleeing

from one place to another to another. For one family, two brothers here,

two young boys, it was fleeing from Kabul to Mazar-e-Sharif and, at the

time the boys were sent away, the family was fleeing also. They didn't

know where but they only had enough money to try and get the two boys

out. Some of them, their parents had been killed before they left.

Some of them, all

their male - immediate male relatives had already been killed before they

left. But for most of them, their families were also fleeing and it was,

you know, we are given the impression that these are a wealthy elite who,

at some safe place, just sat and planned their itinerary and where they

would go through choice. The boys' arrival here was the end result of

a desperate, last gasp effort. And it's - the reason it's the boys, I'm

not surprised. Coming from their history, you wouldn't send daughters

alone anyway on such a trip, but the strong need to have the family continue,

so the oldest surviving son is almost always what these guys are. They're

the oldest surviving son of the families who are trying to somehow or

other ensure the survival of the family and doing it through their oldest

son. But none of them know anything about their families.

PROF THOMAS:

Are you aware of any problems that they have in the community in general?

MS COWLEY:

The problems they have in the community are, well, we'll start with education.

The Queensland State Government has been really great. They really have.

They've been very supportive and I've been able to take the boys to talk

to them about housing, and about education, and about other sorts of issues.

They're very receptive. But anything that's commonwealth funded, they

have not access to which means we have students who have got to year 12,

and that's extraordinary, within two years with, you know, not much English

when they arrive.

They are in year

12 and they're doing quite well, extraordinarily well, given their circumstances.

But it doesn't matter how hard they work they cannot go to uni unless

they pay fees up front, the same as overseas students. And while they're

in - if they want to access TAFE courses instead - you know how you can

do your adult education through TAFE - they come up with that - against

that, not allowed to be studying full time once they're not children any

more, or you lose your special benefit. So education is a dreadful problem

while they've got a temporary visa. That's one.

The housing situation

has been very difficult for them. They didn't want - all of the boys that

I know, and that's, you know, I've - we've had up to 35 at some time.

We've got nearly that many still now with those older, etcetera. None

of them wanted to be in an Australian family. They wanted to be together.

One of the younger ones - he was only 12 when he arrived - and he was

put into a foster situation and he was miserable. And I can understand

that. The way the boys explain it to me, their first experience of Australians

is in detention, and the Australians in detention have not given them

a very good impression of what Australians think of them.

And they know they

can trust each other, and when they have the opportunity, they want to

be with each other, the only people they know they can trust. When they

first come out of detention, that is all they know they can trust, each

other. And their trust has broadened now to take in the people at the

Romero Centre and me, and others that they know really have their best

interests at heart. But to foster them, to put them in the foster situation

with an Australian family they don't know, it is just a dreadful thing

for them. So housing is a problem in that - I wish my kids had been as

capable as these young boys.

They have - never

having done it at home in, you know, in Afghanistan, they do everything,

cook, clean, shop, study, wash, iron, the lot. But, of course, you know,

this puts stress on them too. I mean, they're - I doubt they'd be very

many young Australians who are 15, 16, 17, who would be capable, or would

be expected, to do what these young guys are doing.

But what makes it

so difficult for them, more than anything else, is the temporary-ness

of their visa, the fear that is going with that, and their detention experience

made them believe that the Australian government is determined to get

rid of them, that the Australian government thinks they are criminals.

Their guardian - this is the thing it's hard to get your head around.

Their father figure, their guardian, is the one who calls them illegals,

queue jumpers, who says that people from Afghanistan can now go back.

They no longer engage our protection thing.

This is their father

figure. It's left them, I would say, scarred. It's going to be very difficult

to recover from psychological damage, torture, trauma, which most of them

arrived with in detention, and then it was continued. To recover you need

a safe and secure environment where you are valued, where you are loved,

where you are cared for. They didn't get that, and they still haven't

got that. They still haven't got any safety and security in certainty

of the future. It is impossible for them to recover from the psychological

damage that was visited upon them in detention.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Perhaps if I could ask you for concluding comments because we are coming

to the close of the session and possibly Mrs Sullivan would like to ask

you a question.

MS COWLEY:

Yes. Okay. Can I give you - before I leave, too, can I hand you something

that I'd written because I was afraid I would forget things, so

DR OZDOWSKI:

Yes. We'll be willing to take it into evidence. Thank you for doing so.

MS COWLEY:

Okay.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Any final comments?

MS COWLEY:

The final comment would have to be that I've come to know these young

guys over the last two years. They have come to trust me and they confide

in me. They are terrified of - the opportunity to meet with you for them

has been the first time that they believe someone in authority who is

on their side is going to listen. That's going to be of enormous benefit

for them. But for children to be in detention it - I mean, I'm not able

to address the legal sides, but I've read up as much as I can of it, and

we're just going against every international expectation and every convention

that we have signed as a nation.

These boys have also

studied this up. They can't believe that this wonderful safe place that

their parents have sacrificed everything for, that this wonderful safe

place places such little value on young people. I was also involved for

12 months, two days a week, with a family teaching a young woman English.

Her little children exhibit, to an exaggerated extent probably, what I

know is happening in all of the Tigers. There's a regression in these

little toddlers, four year old returning to bedwetting, continual nightmares,

attention seeking, that dreadful attention - negative attention seeking,

clinging dreadfully to mum and dad, won't trust mum and dad out of their

sight.

For the boys, the

hypochondria you'd have to say, is in a way attention seeking; the nightmares

that they have, the depression that they have, the desperate struggle

to gain control of their lives to sort of continue fighting against the

odds. They arrived the victims of torture and trauma. That torture and

trauma was reinforced in detention and releasing them with only temporary

visas is just continuing the torture.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much, Ms Cowley, for your submission and we'll take your

documents in to evidence. Thank you.

Now could I ask Amnesty

Schools Network to come forward? Welcome to all of you and thank you for

coming forward. It's really good to see you and good to see you involved

with such an important issue. Could I start by asking you to take an oath

or affirmation?

MS KIRSTEN HAGAN [12.20pm]

Amnesty Schools Network

MS MEG FOLEY [12.20pm]

Amnesty Schools Network

MS REBECCA ASHBY

[12.20pm]

Amnesty Schools Network

MR MATTHEW CLIFFORD

[12.20pm]

Amnesty Schools Network

MR RORY KILLEN

[12.20pm]

Amnesty Schools Network

DR OZDOWSKI: Well, thank you. Now could I ask each of you to give

your name, address, qualifications for the purpose of the record? Maybe

let's start with Kirsten.

MS HAGAN:

My name is Kirsten Hagan. I live at [address removed]. My qualifications,

I am a practising lawyer. I was also last year's youth representative

to the United Nations and I'm here actually representing the United Nations

Youth Association.

MS FOLEY: My

name is Meg Foley. I live at [address removed]. I am a year 12 student

at [name removed] and I'm here representing Amnesty International.

MS ASHBY:

My name is Becky Ashby. I live at [address removed]. I'm in grade 11 at

[name removed] and I'm here representing Amnesty International.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you.

MR CLIFFORD:

My name is Matthew Clifford. I live at [address removed] and I attend

[name removed] and I'm here on behalf of Amnesty International.

MR KILLEN:

My name is Rory Killen. I live at [address removed]. I'm here from [name

removed] and I'm representing Amnesty International Student Network.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you. Could I ask you now to make an opening statement and, in particular,

what I would be interested in is what experience you had with people who

had been to detention centres?

MS HAGAN:

I just wanted to introduce the opening statement. When the United Nations

Youth Association prepared the submission for the Inquiry into Children

in Detention, they felt it important that the Inquiry take in to account

the voices of children in Australia and Amnesty Queensland Schools Network

rose to this challenge and a number of students gave their views. And

we hope that while none of us here claim to be experts in a particular

issue, we do feel that youth is an important sector of society and does

have relevant opinions on this issue.

More than that, young

people will be living with the results of current policies, and these

young students here have been in the unique opportunity of being able

to see the impact of the current policies on their peers and perhaps hear

stories that their peers will tell them that they might not tell other

adults. So the four students can introduce themselves and explain their

relationships and concern for refugees.

MS FOLEY:

My initial experience is with writing to people in the various detention

centres and I've become very close friends with them and speak with them

every week. I also more recently have become involved with the Tiger 11

and a lot of other refugee youth.

DR OZDOWSKI:

When you were writing to detention centres how did you select people to

whom you were writing to?

MS FOLEY:

The first person that I wrote to Bellingen Rural for Refugees gave me

their number. I didn't know their name and I didn't know male, female,

age or anything. It was very hard for me but the first letter that I got

back was very moving, that this person could share with me their story,

and from that person I have become friends with others.

DR OZDOWSKI:

How many letters did you write before you received the first response?

MS FOLEY:

Just the one.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Just the one and how long did you wait for it?

MS FOLEY:

About two weeks or one week.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So not too bad.

MS FOLEY:

Yes, it was good.

MS ASHBY:

I've been meeting with refugees for about two years through Amnesty conferences

and QPASTT where I have social activities and camps. Most of my refugee

friends they are unaccompanied minors or some of them are out here with

their families and they are all on TPVs or most of them are, and they

are between the ages of about 11 and 21 - my friends.

MR CLIFFORD:

I joined Amnesty at my school in year 8 and I've been writing letters

on all different topics, but in recent years been attending events, conferences

and camps in relation to refugees and racism, and I have become - made

friends with many refugee people holding TPVs and other visas.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So you write also letters to Australian government on the issues?

MR CLIFFORD:

Yes, I have.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Have you received any responses?

MR CLIFFORD:

Pardon?

DR OZDOWSKI:

Have you received any responses to your letters? Not many?

MR CLIFFORD:

No.

MR KILLEN:

Mine is through ..... I've come in to contact with refugees through Amnesty

International who introduced me to YAN and it's many - my friends I've

met through social occasions and student conferences.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Tell me what kind of stories your friends are telling you about their

time in detention?

MS FOLEY:

Well, my friends that I know it's hard for them to talk about their detention.

It's a nightmare that they don't want to relive, and also I'm not that

close with them yet. As Camilla was saying you've got to build a trust

before they can tell stories. However, the people that I talk to in the

detention centres have told me of their experiences. They believe that

the worst thing about detention is the psychological trauma of waking

up and not knowing why exactly you are there, how long you are going to

be there for, and what is going to happen if you are eventually given

a TPV or sent back; so that is the worst.

Also, boredom, not

having formal schooling so therefore spending all day thinking about what

has happened to you and what can happen to you. Being called by numbers

makes them dehumanised, makes them feel like animals, not like individuals,

not like people - that, again, one of the worst things. Also, being surrounded

by depression - constantly depression makes them also depressed. By seeing

older people give up it shows them that the only way is to give up.

DR OZDOWSKI: Did

they talk anything about riots or self harm?

MS FOLEY:

Not particularly riots; self harm and depression just seeing people all

day just sitting and not doing anything was one of the things that just

- hearing crying and stuff but not riots as much. Also, finally, one of

the worst things is the physical and verbal abuse that they get from the

guards.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Do you have any examples?

MS FOLEY:

Not - one friend who has been in Port Hedland for three years has said

that he has been told that there is no place in Australia for you, continually,

so verbal abuse like that. They're the bad things. I talked with my friends

and I also couldn't think of any good things about detention so - but

they were treated with no respect which I think everyone has a right to

respect. They were given no privacy or consideration for their culture

or religion as there are various religions and cultures in the centres.

Some of their private belongings have been gone through and some confiscated.

I know my friends keep things in special bags and stuff and know that

check things and stuff.

Also, there is no

variety in their diet, in their food. One of my friends, a teenage girl,

was weighed every month while she was in Port Hedland. Her weight varied

between 23 and 25 kilograms each month but nothing was done to increase

her weight to a healthier weight. It was just taken and recorded. So,

yes, as far as - there is nothing socially or economically good about

detention centres.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Do any others of you have any stories from detention?

MS FOLEY:

I think we all sort of shared

DR OZDOWSKI:

Oh you shared, I see, and you have been delegated. What kind of problems

do they face after they are released from detention?

MS ASHBY: Once

most of them are released on to TPVs there is a lot of - to start off

there is a lot of racism in schools which they don't really want to talk

about to begin with, especially when you first know them because they

don't want to be seen as being ungrateful because they are just so glad

to be let out. But occasionally they let some things slip and you just

see that they're not really accepted by a lot of the Australian community,

like in schools, and they

DR OZDOWSKI: Do

you accept them at school?

MS ASHBY:

Well, I don't personally have any at my school but I have friends - well,

I have TPV friends that are at other schools and, yes, we often have social

DR OZDOWSKI:

So how are they treated at schools?

MS ASHBY:

Well, that's - they don't want to talk about it too much but they often

sort of - you always see that they say that they stick to their own groups.

It's also a language barrier but just because people don't want to go

and talk to them or be seen as

DR OZDOWSKI:

So there is not too much integration going on?

MS ASHBY:

Not within their schools that they've talked about.

DR OZDOWSKI:

What other problems do they face?

MR CLIFFORD: Well,

in relation to their schools I think one of the main problems is their

situation. They seem to be very, very happy about schooling and do really

well in it and try really, really hard. And one story of one of my friends,

he went out - getting really good grades and everything like that, he

went out to an open day, a university open day, and quite bluntly he was

told by one of the uni staff that he would not be allowed to go to uni

because he's on a TPV, and he has been going through depression and, you

know, finds it hard to wake up and get to school and all that sort of

thing, and it's just wasted - wasted all his talents and skills that could

be put into this nation.

DR OZDOWSKI:

I heard also that some of the TPV students decide to leave schools earlier

because of lack of uncertainty that they may need to go back to Afghanistan,

so consequently they prefer to go and work and earn some money rather

than to go to school. Do you know any kids who express similar views?

MS HAGON:

I think lack of - like, knowing they can't go to university after school.

It sort of tends to make them see that there's not a lot of point because

no matter how hard they try there's nothing they can do about it.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Professor Thomas?

PROF THOMAS:

Do you notice any kind of difficult behaviour, different from other friends

that you have?

MR KILLEN:

I find that most of my refugee friends - it's hard to gauge the effect

the detention centre has had on them. I mean, normal every-day situations

they're just normal friendly open people, but as you get to know them

better you start talking to them about their experiences as refugees.

They're willing to talk about their experiences in their home country,

their boat trip here, and the troubles they face now, but the one thing

that they don't talk about is the detention centre. So I find it really

had to find out what it's done to them. But it's the one - the single

experience that they all pointedly refuse to talk about and try to get

over.

PROF THOMAS:

But in terms of their temperament, do you find any difference at all?

MS TOLEY:

You have to be a bit more respectful around them. You can't push them

around because any little bit of violence - well, not even violence, but,

like, they feel that you're not joking. Like, that you have to take everything

seriously because if you push them around then they think it's serious,

so - yes, just the fact that you

PROF THOMAS: You

think ..... you have to like walk on eggshells when you're around them,

or not? So do they talk to you about their family?

MS TOLEY:

But, yes, again, some of them, if their family was killed or something

they don't want to talk about that, for obvious reasons. But otherwise

they joke around and - just like normal teenagers. But as soon as you

mention anything about detention they close down and shut up. Otherwise

they're just the same.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Well, as Queensland Commissioner for Children and Young People, it's great

to have our first youth delegation in Queensland. We must be doing something

right. I want to ask a couple of questions, not so much about the young

people who have been in detention, but about your peers. Now, you've obviously

taken the effort to come here today and to write a submission and to,

if you like, engage in action which involves you in interchanges with

TPV holders, but in terms of the peers that you have a school and in your

social settings, what proportion of them would share the views that you've

just expressed?

MR KILLEN:

I find that most of them - there are the people who very much support

the governments locking them up, but the majority of them either are against

it or generally don't have an opinion. I find that most people, if you

discuss with them the issue and the effect that it has, they say that

they don't agree with it.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Don't agree with it in terms of the broad issue or just in relation to

children in detention centres?

MR KILLEN:

I think that most of them haven't thought about the issue specifically

so it's a broad issue.

MR CLIFFORD: There

is a lot of misconceptions and just things they don't know and it's quite

amazing, like, they'll just say one thing, some little thing, and it will

just - you know, you just expect them to know these kind of things and

they don't. You know, you'll say something to them about it and, you know,

they kind of start to realise.

MS LESNIE:

What's an example of that?

MR CLIFFORD:

An example. I don't have an example, but it has happened.

MS LESNIE:

Okay.

MS TOLEY:

I think one example is that they all think that everyone is a Muslim in

the detention centres. So - and also another thing is that they think

that Woomera is the only detention centre. So there's a few things that

young people I think need to be educated about and especially the issue

of young people in detention.

MRS SULLIVAN:

On a scale of 1 to 10, where do you think this issue rates in terms of

young peoples' priorities?

MS TOLEY:

It should rate 10, but I think it rates about 1 or 2.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Right. Three at the most? Okay. And I want to touch on another issue that

you actually raised, and that is to what extent do you think young people's

views on this issue are lodged in racism rather than refugees?

MR KILLEN: Hugely

racist. Often when you talk to them - like, you'll discuss some logical

arguments, they'll put forward something that the government said, and

you might be able to argue against that, but then you'll argue it back

and back and back and ultimately it comes down to, "Well, they're

Muslim. We don't want them here," or "They're not going to fit

into our society." At the core of it that tends to be what it is.

MRS SULLIVAN:

A pretty common view.

MS TOLEY:

Yes, I think that's very common view. Racism is - and misconception is

one of the biggest problems.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Given that we've had a fairly strong history of multiculturalism in this

country, and we've had, if you like, waves of migrants coming over our

history, what's different about this issue from when Italians first came,

when the Vietnamese boat people came, when the Kosovars came? Are you

able to say what's different about it?

MR KILLEN:

I don't think it's necessarily different. It's just that the people who

are the outsider, the foreigner, has changed. When the Italians were coming

they were the foreigner, the outsider. At the very beginning, during the

White Australia policy, for example, the Asian was the outsider. But now

it's just - the focus has simply changed.

MS ASHBY:

Also I think after 11 September, which was a big tragedy, but a lot of

people have tended to go, "Oh, they're foreign. We don't want them.

They must be terrorists." And you start to try and argue and they

just go, "Oh, no. They're all terrorists."

MRS SULLIVAN:

I was going to ask you a question about 11 September, but you've jumped

ahead of me. So that issue is still under debate amongst young people;

the impact of 11 September?

MS ASHBY:

Well, our school didn't have it on all day, but I know a lot of my friends

I have at state schools, they had the TV on all day of that day just replaying

and replaying and they were so angry by the end of it they just wouldn't

listen to whatever I said or anything about that not everyone was like

that. They just ignore you.

MRS SULLIVAN:

So given your stage of life and given that you've now linked up with some

people roughly the same age as yourself, what advice would you give us

as your number one priority as people who are about to inherit the earth

as to what we should have as our priority for young people who have been

through this experience and who now I guess in some cases you've come

to meet?

MS TOLEY:

Yes. Do you mean, say, if they've been through detention or if they just

come straight from the

MRS SULLIVAN:

Well, either. I guess what we're looking for is some recommendations to

carry forward and we haven't had the opportunity to pick the brains of

young people very much, and we hear from policy makers and you've heard

from some teachers this morning and some voluntary workers. I'm trying

to, I guess, get a sense of whether your recommendations fall in line

with recommendations from some of those other groups or whether you'd

offer us something fresh and new and exciting to consider.

MS ASHBY:

Well, we've actually prepared a model, just as what we thought that if

we were the - you know, feelings on what we thought would be the ideal

system, sort of, so

MS TOLEY:

We do believe that there needs to be some sort of a process of checking

for health, so we think that a maximum of six weeks of secure community

housing, not detention. So - but with that housing you'd get psychological

torture and trauma counselling and basic language. And then after that

six weeks, or a maximum of six weeks, you'd be released on a bridging

visa into the community.

MS ASHBY: Which

that would be funded by the government. And the bridging visa would last

for probably a maximum of six months but it could be extended by judicial

review to make sure they get the most accurate decision possible. But

on this you'd get full work rights, you'd get English language classes

to help them settle into the community while they're waiting, they get

income support - like, they couldn't find a job or as well as, which would

be funded by the government, medical assistance including Medicare and

everything so they could get help, residence in settlement services, again

to help them settle into the community properly, school education definitely

and torture and trauma counselling would be continued from before.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Right.

MR KILLEN:

We also believe that after the six month period for processing, when they've

been recognised as refugees they would all be given a permanent protection

visa. We believe that the temporary protection visa should be abolished.

A refugee is a refugee and creating a class system based on arrival is

discriminatory and it's insulting to refugees and the people who want

to help them.

MR CLIFFORD:

After they've received their permanent protection visa we can't just let

them go into society. We want to be able to help them further with special

English classes and homework help if they're in schools, and definitely

some workshops on Australian society between Australians and them where

it will, you know - on an informal basis going through currency, certain

customs, not enforcing it on them but swapping their customs with our

customs to gain a respect for each other's culture, some slang words and

what kind of sports we play in Australia and I personally am sure these

people would like to be able to do that.

MRS SULLIVAN:

That's great, thanks. That is really comprehensive and succinct. I am

just not sure who is going to win the soccer games, but thank you very

much for that.

MS LESNIE:

Can I just ask a couple of questions about your model. How did you come

with the timeframe. Why did you decide on six weeks for the initial, for

instance?

MR KILLEN:

We chose six weeks because we have read - that is a figure - - -

MS ASHBY:

We have been told that it is that amount, that is how long it should take.

MR KILLEN: Approximately

should take. And we believe that if it needed to take longer, then it

could be extended by judicial review, or if it took shorter, that is much

better.

MR CLIFFORD:

That is just health and character checks.

MS LESNIE:

The sort of English classes that you refer to, the English classes and

the swapping of stories, why did you decide to leave that until the end

as opposed to when people arrived?

MR KILLEN:

We haven't ..... to the end because of special things that would be contrary

to our - - -

MS LESNIE:

Oh okay, I see. All right. So from the time of arrival basically, your

recommendation would be that essentially the asylum seeker kids and Australian

kids start talking to each other?

MS ASHBY:

Mixing, and so they can settle in better when they can finally - - -

MR KILLEN:

We chose those three, like the English classes, homework, and the workshop

on society, because those were the three major boundaries. They were stopped

..... from making friends.

MS FOLEY:

I think one of the main problems that has made like a war between Australian

youth and these other youth, is that they have never met a refugee young

person before. And so if we introduce them into the community from the

first stage that they arrive, we would put a face to the first stories

that they hear and stuff, and make them more personal, and therefore easier

to work with.

PROF THOMAS:

All of you clearly have a lot of thoughts and opinions about this issue,

but it is different from your friend that you said, some of your other

young people have racial fear of Muslims. Where do you think the difference

come from, the difference within your group and all of the others? What

benefit do you get that they don't.

MR KILLEN: We

have been in the right place and the right time, like we learned about

the truth. They haven't been exposed to the facts, they are just ignorant.

MS FOLEY:

Also parents, I think and media is one of the big things that I know -

like I question everything I hear on the media, and these people just

take it all, just take it all in and don't question it. And so also parents

they just hear what their parents say and just pass that on.

PROF THOMAS:

So if you want to change your friends, or the other people's opinion,

what do you think you would do?

MS ASHBY:

Get the knowledge up. Like a lot of them just simply don't know what they

are talking about.

MS FOLEY:

And also getting them to meet young people, and I brought Tiger 11 up

to my school, and before that had a lot of racial people comment to me

about my contact with refugees. But as soon as they met these boys it

was all gone, it was when can we meet them again? So getting them to meet

them and see them as people this I think needs to change.

DR OZDOWSKI: Well,

good luck with your work towards changing public opinion towards these

people, because I think it is a key to changing the whole system in Australia.

So thank you very much for your submission here, it was very refreshing

to listen to you. Thank you.

So now we will adjourn lunch and we will resume at 2 o'clock in the

afternoon. The session is closed.

LUNCHEON ADJOURNMENT [12.46pm]

RESUMED [2.00pm]

DR OZDOWSKI: Okay, I think we will start the afternoon session off

of National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, public hearings

in Brisbane. Could I ask Ms Ally Wakefield and Mr Damian Bartholomew to

come forward. Thank you very much for coming forward and also thank you

for your submissions. As you know the role of the Commission is to test

evidence provided in the submissions, so we will ask you a number of questions.

But before we do this, I would like to ask you to take an oath or affirmation.

ALLY WAKEFIELD

Queensland Program of Assistance

DAMIAN BARTHOLOMEW

Youth Advocacy Centre

DR OZDOWSKI: Thank

you. Now can I ask you to give your names, addresses, qualification, and

capacity in which you are appearing here for the record.

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

My name is Damian Bartholomew, I am a solicitor, and currently the

Acting Director of the Youth Advocacy Centre. I am located at [address

removed].

DR OZDOWSKI: Thank

you.

MS WAKEFIELD:

My name is Ally Wakefield, and I am a Counsellor Advocate for young people

working at QPASTT, which stands for Queensland Program Assistance to Survivors

of Torture and Trauma. We are located at [address removed]. I am a registered

psychologist, and also have qualifications in teaching English as a second

language, and community development.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much. Can I ask you now to make an opening statement? Now

maybe before we go to it I would like to ask you not to identify asylum

seekers in your statements, they wouldn't like to have their names disclosed.

And I also ask you not to identify third parties, and thus include former

employees at detention centres. Simply these people cannot be named because

they may not have the opportunity to respond to the allegations which

could be made against them. So if you please remember these rulings in

giving evidence. And I would like to ask you to give an opening statement.

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

Perhaps as an opening, what Ally and I thought we may do is give you some

indication of the agencies that we come from to give you some, you know,

indication of our background and how the submission came to exist.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Yes.

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

I am employed by the Youth Advocacy Centre. It is a community, legal and

welfare centre for young people aged between 10 and 16 who live in and

around Brisbane. We have two case work solicitors on staff. We also have

a social worker and a youth worker acknowledging that most young people's

legal problems don't exist in isolation of other social and welfare needs.

We also have a community

legal education solicitor, and a director. Half of the work that we undertake

is also in policy and law reform. We have a particular interest in ensuring

that young people's rights are protected. We have had some experience

particularly dealing with young people who are coming into contact with

them all, particularly in relation to youth justice issues and care and

protection issues.

And it was as a result

of our knowledge of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other

Conventions that apply to young people who are held in detention, that

we had a particular interest in relation to this Inquiry, and so it was

that we approached QPASTT to - came to an agreement that they would work

with us in the preparation of this submission. And perhaps if Ally wants

to give some explanation of how that process came about.

MS WAKEFIELD:

So at QPASTT we work with refugees, those on a permanent protection visa,

and also those on a temporary protection visa. And for this particular

Inquiry we ran some workshops with young people to ensure that the voices

of young people could be heard at this forum. The process that we use

to run those workshops was that we translated a flyer into the Arabic

and Dari languages, and distributed a flyer inviting people to come to

workshops to have a say about their experiences in detention.

We distributed those

flyers through out networks of young people and also with partner organisations,

and some of them have spoken this morning. At the workshops we had a QPASTT

worker present, also a bi-cultural worker from those groups, a qualified

interpreter and a worker from the Youth Advocacy Centre. And we ensured

that there was follow-up and support that was available, acknowledging

that the process of telling your story and experiences can often re-traumatise.

What came out of

the workshops were a number of stories and they are documented in the

submission. I guess what stood out for me was the particular emphasis

on the application process that is used in the Immigration Detention Centres.

And I will just read a couple of the quotes from our submission. Quote

A6.2, from a young person states:

That when we arrived

we were told that if we told a lie about our case we would be sent to

prison for 10 years.

Quote A6.3, it says:

That most people

come from small villages in Afghanistan and they are not ready for the

interviews when they first arrive. They are almost dizzy and still can't

walk properly on the land because they had been on a small boat for anywhere

between 10 and 30 days. Then the people try hard so hard to prepare for

the interviews. I think that they should be allowed a time at least to

ready themselves and should be given an information session about what

the interviews mean and why they are done.

And the third one:

It is so frightening

in the interviews, and people are unable to express themselves properly.

It is so complicated and alien to them that they cannot cope.

So I think this really

emphasises the confusion and the trauma that people are experiencing in

an intimidating interview process when they first arrive.

DR OZDOWSKI: If

I could ask you a bit more about your workshops. I understand that you

had two of them, did you?

MS WAKEFIELD:

That's right.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And one of them was for people from Afghanistan and the other one for

people from Iraq.

MS WAKEFIELD:

That's right.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Could you let me know a bit about how many young people attend that, what

were their ages and so on?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Their ages ranged from 13 to 21. There were six participants in total.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Six in both, or six in each?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Six total.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Total.

MS WAKEFIELD:

So three in each, male and female participants. We initially thought it

would be good to get large numbers of people to talk but I guess on thinking

later we thought it would be better to get a representative group of people

that are really willing to talk and feel safe and secure and able to do

that in a way. So we made that very clear when we were inviting people

to come to the workshops to only come if you really feel that you would

like to because, from my experience, a lot of people would like to talk

and tell their stories but they're still having ongoing fear and uncertainty

about the current and the future situation.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And all of them were TPVs?

MS WAKEFIELD:

That's right, yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And how long did they spend in detention?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Anything between one month and 10 months was the longest of that particular

group.

DR OZDOWSKI: When you look at that experience, was it closer to

those who were one month or those who were closer to eight.

MS WAKEFIELD:

It is hard to say.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Okay. Now, what kind of education did the young people have before coming

to Australia?

MS WAKEFIELD:

There is varied levels of education. I guess I am working with a lot more

than those six particular people in the community at the moment on a daily

basis, so I am constantly hearing the stories. And the education level

before they come to Australia can range from a few years to some of them

completing year 10, 11 or 12 in their home countries.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So most of them were literate in their own language?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Yes, most of them were that I

DR OZDOWSKI:

And what are they doing now at the moment?

MS WAKEFIELD:

The young people that I am working with now are mostly attending high

schools in Brisbane. As mentioned before, they go to Milpera English Language

School for intensive language assistance, and then they are attending

four major schools in the southern part of Brisbane.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And how would you assess your experience? How would you assess the impact

of detention on them?

MS WAKEFIELD:

I think the experience of detention and their experience of post-detention,

the crucial thing is the uncertainty that they are experiencing about

their current situation and their view of the future, and that comes out

in many ways but the most common ways that I have heard, just about every

day, one is through headaches, constant headaches. Another one is through

sleeping problems, either major problems falling asleep or staying asleep

and often wandering around in the middle of the night to try and sleep.

And also problems concentrating and remembering things. And also signs

of depression, so getting out of bed in the morning and actually attending

school and continuing to attend school with the uncertainty of their future.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Do the signs, as you describe, continue after they are released for an

extended period of time?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Well, at QPASTT I work with those on a Permanent Protection Visa and

a Temporary Protection Visa. So working with refugee young people across

the board, it is interesting to compare the different experiences. Those

on a Permanent Protection Visa I see as having a faster recovery from

torture and trauma because they have a sense of safety. They can go through

a process of remembering and mourning and then reconnecting but I found

with this particular group of young people on a Temporary Protection Visa

they have major problems trying to feel safe in their current situation

and so it is very hard to work from the framework that we have previously

worked from in terms of recovery so it hinders that recovery.

DR OZDOWSKI:

The children which took part in your groups, are they on their own or

do they have families here?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Two of them are with families and the other four are on their own, living

with other young people in the community.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Can you tell me what else they were saying about their treatment in detention?

MS WAKEFIELD:

There were a lot of stories about the physical environment of the detention

centre and the abuse that they received from those working in the detention

centre, particularly the degradation and the intimidation that was constant

and ongoing. Some of them mentioned regular musters, like a prison-like

setting where they were rounded up at an unpredictable random time and

forced to stand in a line and be counted. They were all allocated a number

and their names were not used.

DR OZDOWSKI: All

of them were from the same detention centre or they were from

MS WAKEFIELD:

No, they were from Port Hedland and Curtin.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Curtin, okay. So the musters, it was a major problem. What other problems

did they have?

MS WAKEFIELD:

They did mention restrictions on their ability to practise cultural practices

such as prayer and that they were often not able to have a private place

to pray or to spend time with their family and that it was a constant

crowded situation that they were living in. This often led to small arguments

and things that they acknowledge would normally have been resolved but,

because of the ongoing traumatic situation and lack of space, often erupted

into arguments and fights.

DR OZDOWSKI: The

Department of Immigration in its submission to the Inquiry provided a

list of activities which were undertaken both in Curtin and Port Hedland

centres. I don't know whether you have had a chance to have a look at

this submission from the Department of Immigration. It was sitting outside

of the door just on the table.

MS WAKEFIELD:

No, I haven't, sorry. But, in our submission, there were quite a few stories

that the young people said about equipment and sporting facilities that

were in the Immigration Detention Centres but often they were not able

to use those facilities or equipment.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Why were they not able to use it?

MS WAKEFIELD:

They were only allowed to use it at certain times or adults got preference

for use of those facilities.

DR OZDOWSKI:

What about excursions?

MS WAKEFIELD:

One of the young people did say that they had one day where they went

on an excursion out of the detention centre.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So one person had one experience?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Yes, that's right.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Not all people once a week or

MS WAKEFIELD:

No, one person, one experience.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And what kind of excursion it was?

MS WAKEFIELD:

It was outside with a group of people to a park and coming back - just

for the day.

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

Can I just respond in terms of that question in relation to the submission

that has been put forward by the department. One of the philosophies behind

the method that we adopted in terms of our submission came from an awareness

that many times there appears to be the bureaucracies have systems in

place that they believe are able to respond to young people's needs. It's

been the experience of our centre and the experience of QPASTT, both organisations

having a significant history now of working with young people, that although

bureaucracies genuinely believe that they have systems that are designed

for young people, that there is often very little process to hear whether

those systems are working for young people, and it is why we felt it was

so important to organise the workshops to get that feedback from young

people.

We are not disputing

whether or not some of those systems may be in place, but, certainly,

what was very clear from the workshops was that those systems weren't

permeating through and making any significant difference to the lives

of the young people in the detention system.

DR OZDOWSKI:

The Immigration official submission - if you have a chance, if the submissions

are available, I would encourage you to take a copy and maybe show it

to the young people so they could have a look and compare because sometimes

what you see in a bureaucratic form doesn't always meet the recollections

of people, and, from my point of view, it is important to be able to establish

whether there is a gap in this area. What about the schooling? What were

they talking about schooling in detention?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Most of them said that it was a very basic schooling that was offered,

learning the alphabet, and once they had learnt the alphabet, then it

was all too easy and that they couldn't see a need to continue going to

school, that it was a waste of time. So it was a very basic level. They

said that some of the teachers really did care about them and help them

but others didn't seem to care about their education.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Did some of them go to schooling outside the detention centre?

MS WAKEFIELD:

No, not that I know of.

DR OZDOWSKI: How

many hours per day was schooling taking?

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

I think in the submission one of the young persons referred to the fact

that they had an hour a day that they were able to access, but even then

they talked about the difficulties of utilising that education system

and how unfriendly it was for them, and how they didn't sustain in the

education system for very long.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So one hour per day to school and I assume it was possibly four days per

week, or five days per week?

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

I don't have a direct knowledge of that.

DR OZDOWSKI:

What were they doing outside of the schooling time?

MS WAKEFIELD:

There's lots of comments in the submission that just say that they were

pretty much waiting - this constant waiting - and some of them said that

they were sitting outside the DIMIA official office just waiting to hear

about the answer about whether they could be let out or would be sent

back. And I think all of the stories in the submission indicate that it

is very hard to concentrate on doing anything and, even if they tried

to entertain themselves and talk with other children and play, it was

very difficult for them to focus on anything because of this constant

anxiety.

DR OZDOWSKI:

DIMIA was also saying that unaccompanied minors are having their case

managed, that they are having constant supervision by a person who is

having the function of a guardian. They are also saying that in the immigration

in the detention centres, children do have access to trauma and torture

counselling. Did you talk about this issue with the young people?

MS WAKEFIELD:

I have talked about them. I think it is very difficult to engage in torture

and trauma counselling in an environment that is not feeling safe and

that the main issue for the young people while they are in there, and,

indeed, after they are let out, is this ongoing anxiety about their future

and their separation from their family. And although they may have access

to counselling in the detention centres, I think it is clearly very difficult

to access appropriate counselling when they are in an environment that

is so oppressive.

DR OZDOWSKI: Is

there anything which could be done in the detention situation to improve

wellbeing of children?

MS WAKEFIELD:

I guess what our submission is saying is that we think the actual detention

of children and young people in immigration is what we are against and

we think immediate release is the only option.

PROF THOMAS:

The young people that you have known these days, do you see improvement

over time now that they are out of the detention centres?

MS WAKEFIELD:

I wouldn't say that I see an improvement. I certainly see that the social

groups and the sporting groups that were mentioned this morning, Tigers

11, and the support that is in the community is very useful and important

for their well-being, but it is not so much so that it is constantly increasing,

because there are moments of increased trauma and anxiety particularly

with the political situation in the Middle Eastern countries at the moment

and the Federal Government's response at the moment and the constant changing

legislation that's happening as well.

So although there

are improvements I don't think that those improvements are necessarily

sustained. And I think these days with the permanent application processes

coming up it's actually increasing anxiety and depression levels.

PROF THOMAS:

Are you able to compare this group of young people from detention centres

with other young people who are - can be as the migrants, the refugees

who have not had experience of detention centres?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Yes. I am - I mentioned before but I would just stress again that those

that have been in detention do experience more post-traumatic stress disorder

symptoms and that they are constantly complaining of sleep headaches and

concentration problems. And although all survivors of torture and trauma

do complain about these symptoms over time those that are on a permanent

protection visa, there's a noticeable difference about a decrease in these

symptoms compared to this group on a Temporary Protection Visa.

PROF THOMAS: So

the counselling service that you provide for these how much do they get?

An hour a week or long-term or

MS WAKEFIELD:

The youth program is specifically focused on young people and acknowledges

the difficulty of young people accessing services particularly a mental

health service. So we offer a range of services including support groups,

a homework club, recreation and holiday programs and counselling services,

so that it's a more holistic approach to them accessing our services.

We offer as many sessions as they would like but we've found particularly

with those on a temporary protection visa the community approach where

trust building is a foundation or is the most effective.

To give you an example

the homework club that we've established is a practical way that we can

support those particularly on a Temporary Protection Visa. They are the

main ones accessing the homework club and out of that we can begin to

build trust and then they can begin to talk about sleep and headaches

and concentration and those things that I've talked about. And referrals

come - self-referral comes out of that process.

PROF THOMAS: Do

you have any experience with these groups but who have parents? As to

the parent/child relationship?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Yes.

PROF THOMAS:

Do you have any opportunity to observe them with their families?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Yes, we have - there are a few families that access QPASTT services

and often the children of the parents come to us and say that they are

very concerned about their parents and - so we have workers from QPASTT

working with their parents and workers from QPASTT working with the young

people and liaising with each other and we find that the parents of the

young people need a lot of support as well.

PROF THOMAS:

So your centre, you only concentrate on young people or do you also provide

services for the adults as well?

MS WAKEFIELD:

No, services for all - all refugee people.

PROF THOMAS:

So does it need a lot of encouragement to get the people to come, especially

the parents?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Yes, it does, because those with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression

it is even harder for them to actually attend appointments. There's also

financial constraints of actually getting to appointments and also that

stigma that is associated with help and with counselling and receiving

support. So there are lots of barriers to them accessing services. So

I guess QPASTT as a service is trying to be pro-active in its approach

and particularly with young people. We work a lot in the schools and where

the young people are at rather than expecting them to come to ask for

help.

PROF THOMAS: And

you are funded by the Commonwealth Government?

MS WAKEFIELD:

We have a range of funding, DIMIA, Federal Health, Queensland Health and

Brisbane City Council, but that's for the whole QPASTT service. The youth

program has been funded sporadically from project work and we've just

received our first core funding from Federal Health.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Did DIMIA write to you saying that you shouldn't be using DIMIA money

for support of TPVs?

MS WAKEFIELD:

No. We are actually one of the services that has been allowed to

DR OZDOWSKI: You're

allowed?

MS WAKEFIELD:

Yes.

PROF THOMAS:

So do you have any suggestion for minimising the impact of detention?

MS WAKEFIELD:

I might let Damian talk.

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

Well, I suppose the - our bottom line is what Ally, of course, says.

That having gone through and examined all of the feedback that we received

from the young people and then compared them with the chronic breaching

of the international Conventions; that we believe that it didn't appear

as though the government was in any way able to respond to the needs of

these young people and consequently release was our - what we believe

to be the only option.

But indeed if it

was to be that the young people were to stay in detention what appears

very obvious is that they need to have appropriate advocates, that they

need to have - there was a constant stream of information coming to us

through the workshops suggesting that young people didn't understand processes,

didn't understand information; talking about the fact they had to do appeals

themselves; that appeal times had passed up to 28 days; that no one was

able to take on board their concerns, their responses; that they weren't

having access to people whilst they were in detention; that the only people

they were able to talk to are - some of them said were other staff members.

So it was that complete

lack of confusion. So I suppose in a worst possible case scenario that

young people were to stay there, there needs to be some effective and

proper monitoring that needs to be going on within the detention system

and a recognition of the acute vulnerability of young people particularly

in this system and their need for appropriate advocates within it.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Mrs Sullivan.

MRS SULLIVAN:

When you started you quoted some references to the initial interviews

that the young people had. Did they articulate any circumstances where

they were treated differently from adults? In other words were there child

specific processes that occur? And the interview would be one example,

I guess, is whether they were treated differently in that interview than

adults are treated.

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

I don't know from the material that it's clear whether young people actually

identified that perhaps in relation to accessing services. Certainly in

relation to recreation equipment, etcetera, they talked about that notion

that there was equipment available but they seemed to only get it for

very limited periods of time. I suppose that when you're talking to young

people without actually bringing - I don't think the workshops were conducted

in a way that was designed to feed their answers or to get a particular

response.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Sure.

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

So it wasn't asking them to compare to adults. So they spoke a lot about

how difficult it was for them and their own experiences rather than actually

saying, "Well, there were people who were better off than us".

MS WAKEFIELD:

And I think there was one comment in there from an unaccompanied minor

that was saying, "I think there is supposed to be some sort of special

treatment for children but actually we didn't see that happening".

MRS SULLIVAN:

So they didn't express any awareness of some form of complaints mechanism,

for example?

MS WAKEFIELD:

There is a mention there that they could complain by putting a note in

a box about the day to day complaint system, but in terms of the uncertainty

of when their decision will be made and how they would know about that

there was no system that they were aware of. And it's been mentioned previously

in the day but there were comments in here as well about the suddenness

that the decision is made and they are told in the morning to pack their

gear and that they are actually leaving and that comes through quite clearly

that it was surprising when they received their decision.

MRS SULLIVAN:

So does your service provide any legal advice in the circumstances they

now find themselves?

MS WAKEFIELD:

No, we don't, but we do work with South Brisbane Immigration Community

Legal Service so we do all our legal referrals there.

MRS SULLIVAN:

When you're trying to find services for these people is the fact that

there are three tiers of government a problem for you? You know, Local,

State and Federal players in the game as well as non-government providers,

I guess.

MS WAKEFIELD:

I think the services that are providing most of the services for the

young people in the community now are the schools and the community organisations

which are working with a lot of volunteers and Mercy Family Services,

which is through the State Government. And Brisbane City Council were

supportive in terms of financially but I think it's difficult to have

a co-ordinated response of those three different tiers of government,

yes.

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

And whilst I think it is true that there is complicating factors by different

policies of different levels of government it's certainly true that QPASTT

and our own organisation has received different funding from the different

sectors and there have been different policies. And perhaps if we were

to be reliant upon the Federal Government for all funding and QPASTT was

to be reliable it certainly wouldn't be there.

And so we've been

very fortunate to have received support through the State Government and

also through Local Councils, including the Brisbane City Council.

MRS SULLIVAN:

We heard earlier this morning someone comment that they were very happy

with the support that unaccompanied minors were getting from the Department

of Families. Do you have any comment to make on that support?

MS WAKEFIELD:

We do work in partnership with Mercy Family Services and I think they

do try their best, yes, to support in terms of case work. And certainly

those that are under 18 do receive that extra case work. I guess those

that are just over 18 but are still in schools and are here alone so those

between 18 and 21 is probably the gap where there's really not as much

support happening. And they are probably the ones that access our service

more so than those unaccompanied in some ways because of that other support,

yes.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Thanks.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Any final concluding statement?

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

I suppose our overall concern is that the continued breach of the various

United Nations Conventions in these detention centres makes a mockery

of our signature on those of the government - of the Australian government's

signature on - as a party to that convention. We're extremely concerned

as to the - if indeed that Convention isn't honoured within the detention

centre as to what that means, not only to those young people within the

system but for young people generally in Australia and in particular,

other vulnerable young people such as young people in the care and protection

system and young people in the justice system, the mental health system.

I think we're also

- that our organisation was very concerned when we were listening to the

feedback from those workshops to see a startling similarity of some of

the information that we had gained and had been acquired by others in

the Forde Inquiry here in Brisbane - in Queensland in relation to the

abuse that had gone on in the youth detention system and the care and

protection system. And there was a startling similarity in some of the

abuse, the physical and emotional abuse that had gone on, and we were

aware of the frightening outcomes that we have seen as a legacy in this

State as a result of that.

We're extremely concerned

that that same abuse is being perpetuated on these young people and that

there will be a significant cost for this country and indeed for those

young people who have been in that detention and suffering all of the

trauma that has been outlined in our submission.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Well, thank you, very much to both of you for the time you put into the

preparation of that submission and for appearing here. Thank you.

MR BARTHOLOMEW:

Thank you.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Our next witness is Ms Rice, principal from Milpera State School.

ADELE RICE [2.32pm]

Principal, Milpera State School

GAYLE HOOD [2.32pm]

Home Liaison Teacher, Milpera State School

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you. Could I ask, now, for the record, to give your names, addresses,

qualifications and the capacity in which you are appearing here?

MS RICE: My

name is Adele Rice. I'm the principal of a government school called Milpera

State High School. It's Milpera with one R and it is a reception centre.

I hesitate, now, to use that word, since that's also a term sometimes

used for detention centres but its function is quite different from most

other schools. It is specifically to welcome and to receive newly arrived

immigrant and refugee young people between the ages of about 12 and 22

and its purpose is to prepare them for entry into other educational institutions,

usually high schools, but sometimes other primary schools. It has a very

strong education focus but a very strong settlement focus and I suppose,

at this current time, with this current situation, some of those functions

have had to be considerably broadened because of the nature of the people

coming. Will introduce my colleague?

DR OZDOWSKI:

Yes, please.

MS RICE: Yes?

My colleague is Gayle Hood who is Home Liaison teacher there and do you

want to just speak about your function?

MS HOOD: Yes.

My function is on the settlement side of the programme and so normally

I would support the students' health and well-being and personal development

and support their families. I would be liaising with the various ethnic

communities to see if their needs are fed back into the school and as

an information service to newly arrived migrants about the Australian

education system and community.

DR OZDOWSKI: I

understand that over the last two years you dealt with over 100 students

on TPVs?

MS RICE: Yes.

It's been a relatively small component of the programme and there were

27 students in 2000, 49 in 2001 and 15 or 16 in 2002 but it's very intensive

and very close so that, for each of those people, that contact has been

over a long period of time and since the services of the school are a

minimum of 25 hours a day - but because many of those people have been

unaccompanied young people, most men - unaccompanied young males, there

have been a lot of after-hours support and activities and a lot of documentation

and a lot of talking to those people.

In addition to the

100 people that we deal with, they're a small number of families. You

know, the bulk of those 100 people would be young Hazara men from Afghanistan

but there have been a few Afghan families who came a different journey

to Australia and there have been some daughters in those families but

not many and then there have been some Iraqi and some Iranian families.

So altogether, our personal experience would be over a couple of hundred

people and then we would also have the contact with the - again, usually

men, from the Hazara ethnic community.

I suppose the thing

for us is that, in terms of education, we've always seen the teaching

of English as a second language and the receiving and nurturing of immigrant

and refugee people - those services as resilience building so that those

young people can take advantage in the Australian community and participate

fully and so on. And in the past, that's always also been the aim of settle

services of DIMEA but where this is very difficult now for people in education

and the motivation and those kinds of things is with the whole policy

of deter and deny and detain because then the motivation for education

and resilience building is fraught with much more of a sense of hopelessness

and despair.

So our task in preparing

people to take their place in the community is much more difficult and

particularly with the very harmful messages from the community that do

a lot to destroy the self esteem and the self respect and the identity

of people when they are told and have been told constantly in the detention

centres, "You are not wanted here. Australian people don't want you."

And so then when there are a range of services, it's still difficult for

young people to go with those ups and downs and to overcome that kind

of very strong message and it's where we, as teachers, fly in the face

of those community attitudes and we're very grateful to our many partnerships

with QPASTT and other organisations who help us to repair that damage.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Could I ask you, perhaps, a question about standard of education of ex-detainee

kids. And again, I would like to refer to the DIMIA submission which is

saying that the aim is to provide education opportunities broadly consistent

with those available in the general Australian community, and that the

detention centres have good educational opportunities and they also say

that they are preparing kids to go to Australian schools on their release.

To what extent is this preparedness reflected in students which you are

rescuing from detention? Are they ready to go to the schools in Australia?

MS RICE: I

would not say that, in a single one of the students - and that would be

over a hundred - have I come across anyone that would have been prepared

to go into a regular school situation. Our students have come from three

different detention centres. So that's Curtin, Port Hedland and Woomera.

I only know one student out of that hundred who had access to a school

outside the detention centre and that was in Woomera and that was the

student in a family unit where the whole family had a very long detention,

very at risk. The child had tried to self-harm, both in Woomera and since,

and that is the only child that I know of that had any exposure.

The other messages

that have come through very strongly to me in Australian schools now -

most people born here and who have come through the system have had access

to computers and to technology. In my experience, not a single Afghan

person or Iraqi or Iranian person coming through detention had any access.

I hadn't seen the DIMIA proposal until just now and the way it reads,

it sounds almost like my school in terms of what it aims to do and - yes,

but I

DR OZDOWSKI:

It's quite attractive.

MS RICE: Yes,

yes, and then there is a disclaimer saying, however, teenagers didn't

appear to be interested. Now, from what I can see here, I wouldn't have

a shred of evidence to support any of the claims in that particular statement

but it is the first time I've seen it so I haven't analysed it and I think,

in terms of the actual state that the young people are in - you see, they're

not all the same to start with, even if they come from Afghanistan or

Iran or Iraq. In Afghanistan, there's been no education system for 23

years.

So you're looking

at people - some of them are very rural, very poor, not able to read or

write Dari. There were no Dari interpreters in these detention centres

so there's been a fair amount of difficulty with the interpreting and

translation of documents when they were not spoken to in their mother

tongue. Other students - and it's the same in terms of why they escaped

and why they were persecuted - they may have had educated parents. Books

may have been concealed, you know, under the floorboards of their house.

So there are great differences in the sorts of people who are coming.

You can't just say,

"All Hazara people are this," or "All Iraqi are that."

As always, it depends on that education and the status of the family in

the country of origin, certainly whether they've been urban or rural,

and certainly whether they've already been refugees for a long time in

another country of transit, say, the Iraqis in Syria, for example, or

some Afghans may be in Pakistan or whatever. So their pre-migration, pre-escape

educational histories are hugely complex and for us to deal with them

is hugely complex, so how you can write it all down in a page and say,

"We do all of this," but some of them didn't take advantage

of it, I think it's an over-simplistic proposition and not one that I

would be able to readily accept.

DR OZDOWSKI:

After you have some more time to reflect here on that submission or after

some of your students get access to it, we would appreciate any further

comments especially on accuracy of that submission.

MS RICE: Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Now, I would like to ask Mrs Sullivan to ask you some questions.

MRS SULLIVAN:

Given that complexity that you've just commented on, there has been several

statements made by the Minister that it's too difficult to cater for the

varying needs of these students in detention centres, hence, virtually

give up. Now, you obviously run a school where you face the same complexities;

can you give us a feel for how you deal with them both in terms of curriculum

content and process?

MS RICE: Yes,

I can. We do the initial assessment and we have a range of programs that

people can go into. I think though one of the elements that before you

even begin the educational process the person has to feel safe and I think

in the detention centres they didn't feel safe and there were also other

things that prevented them attending classes. For example, some things

like kitchen duties or classes only being on in the morning or classes

only being for those who were semi-literate or not literate, so I think

in terms of what we do is a very student-focussed kind of program and

it would be one that meets their needs, but then that is because we're

trying to create the kind of atmosphere of learning, an environment of

safety, one where there's a whole range of other programs so that that

person can be a contributing and participating member of society.

Contrasted with where

they've come from which is deter, deny, we don't want you, how then can

you learn in that kind of framework or circumstance? So it isn't just

what you teach or how you teach because we do have students who are so

full of despair that getting out of bed to come to school is still difficult

or we do have people whose bodies are in the classrooms but whose heads

are elsewhere. And often it's through the writing - some of the things

that the students can write that they can't speak in terms of these things

and so some of the examples would be, for instance, we had some boys who

were on Ashmore Reef and they were there for four days and five nights

and the plane didn't come and they were with other people and there was

no food and no water and they made a pact to walk into the sea if the

plane hadn't come.

We didn't know any

of this. You don't present on arrival and say, "I have this enormous

trauma and here it is." It comes out little bit by little bit. It

might come when you take the first enrolment data like date of arrival

in Australia which is normally fairly automatic and people will look at

each other, "What day do you put? Do you put the day you put your

foot on here or do you put the day that you were released from detention?"

And the other thing is that they think that that time in detention they

were not treated as human beings and so that message or that ability to

want to learn, because learning takes concentration, it takes motivation

and it takes teachers and it takes materials and it takes resources, all

of those things.

And even with - and

I think we provided compassionate service and we're not social workers

and we're not counsellors - we do use QPASTT to support that - but we

still have people who are physically present but who are not there. We

still have people, as they say, here we smile with our lips, we don't

smile in our hearts. And you have people who don't know where their families

are, their families don't know where they are and they're too afraid to

try to make any contact because of the reprisal. We have students who,

in the detention centre when there were visitors coming, they would be

issued clean clothes or underwear or pot plants would be put out and when

the visitors go those things are put away.

All of these things

for young people - we're talking about people under 18 or up to the ages

of 22 - they're such profound experiences and it's ongoing and so when

I heard you saying in the previous submission about improvement and do

things get better and so on it's up and then it's down, it's up and then

it's down. It's very difficult to stay up and one of those things is the

notion of temporary protection. Protection is a bit of a misnomer because

it's not protection at all, but temporary is crucial to the educational

component for the simple reason that education is for life, education

is to get you a better life, qualifications. But if you are temporary,

and then you are temporary again, and then you're in a country that changes

the laws and shifts the goal posts, so one minute you do meet the refugee

criteria, but you're not certain whether you're going to meet it again.

It takes that aim

and goal of education, of being a contributing person, it robs them of

motivation, it robs them of power to face a future, so whereas we can

provide the programs, and I could say that on the whole the average length

of time for the temporary protection visa people going through Milpera

has stayed within the average range, which means there's a lot of ability,

there's a lot of resourcefulness, there's a lot of intelligence, there's

a lot of capacity and the other thing that they have that a lot of people

don't have, particularly the Hazara, is a great gift for oral language

and one that I haven't experienced for a long time.

So it really upsets

me when that can be used against them. As in the recent case with the

father of the children who were in the recent media attention because

our boys have heard that man speak. They know that he is an Afghan. They

know that he is Hazara. He speaks their language, but when they hear the

Minister and the media saying he may not be Afghan at all that strikes

at their heart. If you say to any of our kids, "What was the worst

thing about detention," it's, "Miss, they said I was Iranian"

or "Miss, they said I was something else," that denial of self.

And now that they're in our community I never thought after 30 years of

working in this field, in this country, I never thought I'd hear a young

person in our contemporary society denying who they are because they don't

feel safe and some of our in high school have.

When people say,

"Where do you come from," some of them have said, "Miss,

I said, Spain, because I didn't want to say," so it's that name calling,

it's the abuse and it's the perpetration of these things that education

is one thing, but you need to be in a reasonable shape to take advantage

of it.

MRS SULLIVAN:

One of the elements that appears to be missing in the curriculum in detention

centres is any reference to Australian identity, knowledge about Australia,

so there appears to be a basic curriculum of literacy and numeracy to

some extent, but that's where the curriculum begins and ends. Do you want

to comment on that?

MS RICE: Well,

I suppose it's if you're teaching it's just so complex. If you're teaching

English as a second language in that kind of thing there is an affective

domain, so (a) you want to know you're going to be there; (b) you're going

to have to know that you're going to use it for a purpose; and (c) it

has to be about something. And the content about the Australian community

or Australian mores or customs or whatever may well be an appropriate

vehicle, but if the reading and writing is at the level of the alphabet

how are you going to convey this other body of knowledge? Who's going

to do the linguistic analysis of the demands that that subject matter

makes on the learner? And I'd suggest that wasn't done or I don't know

anything - no evidence - you know, of that.

And it might be all

right to say to people, "Yes, well, you know, if you are in a detention

centre then you need to know these things about the host community,"

but that's if a detention centre is in the real spirit of detention and

the things that the Minister writes which means it's administrative detention

only. But I would suggest that if you are encircled with layer upon layer

of barbed wire; if you are mustered in the middle of the night; if you

are under lock and key, then it's more like imprisonment than it is like

administrative detention. And so it's like saying to people, deprived

of their freedom in gaol, "Well, we have this lovely curriculum for

you; would you like to learn about us?" when all you're learning

about us is we don't want you here.

So, you know, that

seems to me to be a great irony that they could even be considering some

of those things, but we certainly didn't see any evidence of that in our

students.

MRS SULLIVAN:

When the students come to you from detention centres what sort of records

do they bring with them, if any?

MS RICE: There

are no records. There are no health records, and, in fact, our school

based youth nurse talks about the lack of immunisation and I will just

go through some of those particular things. It's the sleep thing again,

either too much or too little, part of which is linked to depression,

but part of which comes when you go to sleep at night, if you can, you

have no idea what's going to happen through the night. You don't know

if you will be disturbed in the night; you don't know if you won't be

disturbed in the night; you don't know if you will be told you're gone

in the morning; you have no idea on an hour-by-hour basis what is going

to happen to you and so those sleep patterns are broken and they're very

difficult to resume in a safe kind of environment on release from detention.

Some of the other

things in terms of that: the health in detention, there's no process of

immunisation and there are no medical records. So even sometimes where

people have older injuries and Gail has particularly worked with a student

who arrived with a particular health problem and I will just ask her to

talk about that particular case.

MS HOOD: Well,

there have been quite a few already - distinct ones - maybe

MS RICE: Yes,

but you can't say the name.

MS HOOD: This

particular student was visually impaired when he came from a botched operation

that he'd had in Afghanistan. He went through this entire detention process

trying to access medical help and they do write that medical help is available

there. In his words he was told to go away. When he persistently tried

to they told him to "shut up and go away." So he had nothing

done about a detached retina. Once he arrived at our school we started

the medical process and he's had a few operations and his retina - well,

he still has problems with it, but at least he doesn't have the discomfort

of a very itchy and painful eye and intense headaches. He couldn't even

get a Panadol in the detention centre to deal with the pain in his eye.

MRS SULLIVAN:

What about what we'd call ascertainment of students with disabilities?

Is there any evidence that students with forms of impairment have been

analysed?

MS RICE: No

evidence. There are no records at all. There's just a visa and the visa

has the date of arrival in Australia, the day they were released from

detention and that's it.

DR OZDOWSKI: Did

you write to the detention centre seeking the records of students you

receive? Did you request some other

MS RICE: No,

as a school we've never had any direct contact with detention centres.

We have had regular meetings with officers from DIMIA particularly with

regard to the unaccompanied minors and I would have to say you know very

fruitful meetings with local DIMIA officers. There have been occasions

when local officers haven't quite - you know when things have really affected

students such as their reaction to letters that arrive in - to other members

in the community: that can cause great consternation and anxiety and panic.

Everything panics

you when you're on a temporary protection and I think that's the one thing

that, you know, before you were talking about comparing with different

groups with ..... of African or former Yugoslav or earlier waves of Indo

Chinese or Salvadorian; once they met refugee criteria and, yes, you are

a refugee, you were permanent. Now, you meet the refugee criteria but

you are not permanent. And in my experience and with the evidence that

the boys have given us, they could put up with almost anything if at the

end of it there was a permanent visa.

But we have seen

recently them having to re-apply because, you know, the political situation

has changed, the rules have been changed and as an adult in the community

having worked in this field for a long time I no longer have confidence.

I no longer trust. I no longer can say to them with authority, "Well,

if you do this and if you don't get a criminal record and if you do this

and you meet the criteria, you will be okay": that's not the current

experience. And so if there is that notion that the temporary visa can

be taken from you at whim if somebody can prove that Afghanistan is a

safe place even for Hazara people who have been persecuted for a long

time, it's this kind of thing.

It's the ongoing

nature of the temporary visa and the suffering and the despair that that

entails that is a permanent problem and will prevent these people from

fulfilling their human potential which is considerable. And there's the

full range as there are for all people; they're no different from any

other wave of people coming into the country in that way. But we have

had no direct contact with detention centres themselves, but we do have

direct contact with DIMIA officers, with Family Services, with Mercy Family

Services, with QPASTT, a full range of services.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Did you raise with DIMIA the issue of certificate and the documentation

coming from Woomera before?

MS RICE: Well,

it came - they came from the different detention centres and with the

- I don't know that that evidence

MS HOOD: DIMIA.

I asked for records. We've approached DIMIA for records.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Yes, and what did they say

MS RICE: For

health records.

MS HOOD: .....

directly to the detention centre.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Yes, and what did they respond?

MS HOOD: They

sent us very basic on arrival information so that was information that

they had got from their first interview with DIMIA.

MS RICE: The

difficulty too with those first interviews is that they were often done

without an interpreter. And hence when the application, the re-application,

for temporary visas go in and we then have the South Brisbane Legal Service

come and work with the boys in the school with a Dari interpreter to do

that second form. Then there's also that great fear that information you

gave in the first instance may not tally with the second instance, you

know that kind of thing if the interpreting - if they didn't understand

the question the first time. But from the immunisation point of view,

I think we have mentioned that that if, you know, that's something that

should be done not just for their sake but for the good of the nation

and that these records and health records should be available.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Yes, those sort of things.

PROF THOMAS:

You said earlier about the difficulty of providing education to these

young people inside detention centres because of their low level of concentration,

motivation and so on: so how do we solve that problem? If the government

provide good education and they don't attend then, you know, what is the

motivation then for ACM to provide good education, good schooling facilities?

MS RICE: Well,

I suppose my point is that it is difficult to do. It is not impossible

to do, but whether they have the will to do it or not is the other thing,

and whether it then talks about whether detention is an appropriate place

for young children in which to learn or whether ACM should be negotiating

that with the local school in all cases, and whether there should be specialist

ESL teachers or there should be special needs teachers because I hope

I didn't say that it was not possible. But I think there are a lot of

circumstances around the notion of detention and detention that is in

a prison model because there is no doubt that that is how the students

feel because I'll just quote you something that they have written:

When we came here

we were put in detention centres. We were treated as criminals but we

should be encouraged as human beings. They - the authorities - claim that

we do not belong to Afghanistan until they can prove it and they keep

us for a long time in detention.

Well, I think with

those kinds of ideas going through your head, to be then if you're 17

or something, to be sitting down maybe doing the ABC is highly appropriate

or equivalent. And as I understand from the documentation from the Human

Rights Board, the education offered should be appropriate. And if you're

a secondary person, it should be secondary education and if it needs to

be vocational, then it should be vocational in type so I - for one thing

I think learning in detention when there is no mother, no father, no proper

health care, those kinds of things would make it very difficult but I

think that maybe the solution lies in not detaining young people or not

detaining them in places that are in the desert, isolated places not near

to educational facilities that could be used.

Although I do know

in Victoria where Maribyrnong is located, the Education Department is

not allowed to provide services in that detention centre. But they are

things that could be worked on if people were detained in places that

were less isolated and less like prisons.

PROF THOMAS:

So do you think that it is a better model if they are sent out to normal

school in the community?

MS RICE: I

think - yes, I mean I think if they were living in places that were more

normal in every way because after all their only crime is that they were

unauthorised entry and they came by boat. Now, if they came by boat then

detention in the desert is our government's response. If you come unauthorised,

and you come by plane, then you are living in the community in the city

in which you arrived and you can have access or apply to schools. Now,

some states might have been denying refugee claimants education but through

advocacy with the Children's Commission and so on that can be turned around

and schools do have to accept refugee claimants of school age for schooling.

DR OZDOWSKI: Any

concluding statement?

MS RICE: Only

that if this Inquiry is really looking at the adequacy and appropriateness

of detention centres for young people, for children, for those under 18

- and I would suggest we go up to under 25 - I think our position as educators

and as people who are used to working with newly arrived refugees and

enabling them in time - not immediately but in time to become contributing

and useful members of the host community, that detention in isolation

desert places that only exacerbate things like their mental and emotional

health problems is not an answer that is in the interests of the nation.

And I would think the policy would need to have a lot more empathy and

that our leadership would need to have a lot more compassion.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much for your submission. Thank you to Milpera State High

representatives.

MS RICE: Thank

you.

DR OZDOWSKI: Could

I ask now Mr Hassan Ghulam to come forward.

Do we have Mr Ghulam

of Hazara Ethnic Society here? Welcome, Mr Ghulam. My name is Sev Ozdowski.

I am the Human Rights Commissioner, and with me are two Assistant Commissioners

assisting me with this Inquiry. To my right, is Professor Trang Thomas,

who works at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and to my left

is Mrs Robin Sullivan, who is also the Queensland's Children's Commissioner.

Now could we ask you to take an oath or affirmation, before we go any

further?

MR HASSAN GHULAM

Hazara Ethnic Society

DR OZDOWSKI: Now did you request that your evidence be given in

camera, or you don't - - -

MR GHULAM:

It can be in camera. I have no problem.

DR OZDOWSKI:

No, no, we would prefer to do it in public.

MR GHULAM: Yes,

okay.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you. Now can I ask you to state your name, your function, and your

address for the purposes of the record of the Inquiry.

MR GHULAM:

My name is Hassan Ghulam. I am the President of the Hazara Ethnic Society

in Australia Inc. My address is [address removed].

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you, Mr Ghulam. You are aware of the privacy orders I made. I would

like to ask you not to mention any names in giving the evidence.

MR GHULAM: Okay.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Now could I ask you to make an opening statement, and I would like to

ask you about your involvement with children who are on TPVs in Queensland.

MR GHULAM:

I am originally from Afghanistan myself, and I'm also a Hazara. I have

lived in Australia for almost 17 years. About three years ago, when the

waves of refugee arrived in Brisbane, I got involved with these new arrived

refugees, and they were mainly from my previous country, Afghanistan,

and they were Hazara, the majority of them. I was happy to see them out

of terrible situation in Afghanistan, and when I paid more attention,

I noticed many things changed, and the very very first thing I have noticed,

they were very fearful. Never mind what was their age. They were very

fearful, and living in outskirts of Brisbane in a so-called bush, and

I invite a few of them to come and stay with me, and they had fear to

stay, and they were asking me, "How come you are living here just

by yourself?" I said, "Australia is not Afghanistan, there is

no civil war, no killing, etcetera, etcetera; it's safe. It's not like

that." When I got more and more involved with them, that was in [address

removed], a very small room. In those small rooms, 3, 4, sometimes 5 and

6 of them were living in a very cramped situation. The condition okay,

but the reason why they were keeping so close to each other, it was because

of the traumas they have seen in Afghanistan, the traumas they are going

through during their trouble from Afghanistan to Australia, and the third

one was trauma in detention centres.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Could you tell us a bit more about situation of Hazaras in Afghanistan,

how it was under the Taliban rule, and what is the situation now?

MR GHULAM:

I have to make a little bit of a historical link to the issue of Hazara.

Our problem, particularly in Afghanistan started since 1747, when King

Ahmad Shah Durani declared that part of our world Afghanistan. Afghanistan

means the country of Afghans. Afghan in Persian and Dari is equal to Pashtun,

the country of Pashtun. All other ethnicity in Afghanistan at that time

was denied the right to be the citizen of the country. Ever since, this

has been used and used, again and again by different rulers in different

historical times to discriminate. The very severe discrimination against

us was in 1893, when King Abdul Rahman Khan invaded Central Afghanistan,

and we, the Hazaras, are Turkic Mongolian tribes living in central part

of Afghanistan with other cities included, like Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat,

Kandahar, Kabul, and Enrahzni. So against us, the King carried war for

three consecutive years, and, in this war, we have lost 61 per cent of

our population, as a direct impact of war, as well as indirect impact

of war, which was starvation, typhoid, sickness, and disease, etcetera.

From that time, our

people start moving out of Afghanistan, so the problem of refugees from

Hazara background, it is old. And this is the direction they have moved

was towards North Afghanistan towards west to Iran, as well as towards

south to Pakistan. Some of them even joined the British Army and fought

for British Army in Basra, which is today's Iraq, and when they saw there

that they are fighting against their religion, they give up fighting and

settled there, but all of us, we never had a geographical space that we

could call it a second home. We were wanderers, almost like gypsies. So

discrimination in Arab speaking country has been exercised against us.

Discrimination in Iran has been exercised against us, because they were

claiming and still claiming that we are the children of Genghis Khan,

and Genghis Khan has destroyed Iran, therefore we don't deserve any compassion

or an opportunity to work, etcetera.

DR OZDOWSKI:

It is a long memory, isn't it.

MR GHULAM:

Well, it is, and in most cities in Afghanistan goes historically a very

long time back. What has happened during the time of Taliban, and also

before the time of Taliban, Shuri Mazare, who was ruling before Taliban

in major part of Afghanistan, they have carried war against the Hazaras.

In Kabul, and west of Kabul, there is enough evidence from the ABC TV,

as well as radio, BBC, all of them, the massacres of Afshar is very well

known. On the other side, one side the Shuri Mezare was attacking the

Hazaras; on the other side, the south side, the Taliban. So we were cramped

in the middle of very strong fighting forces. As a result of that, only

40,000 is known to be missing. No one found their bodies. Recently, after

the attacks of the United States on the Taliban position, they have discovered

mass graves of Hazaras even in Houst, which is close to Pakistan border.

So discrimination has been exercised against our people historically for

a very long time, and therefore, we did not have a chance, except twice

in the history of Afghanistan that we have a bit of a chance of breath.

When Afghanistan

got its independence from the British during 1919 and 1923 or '24, King

Amanullah Khan issued a decree. By that decree, he banned slavery. At

that time, the majority of Hazaras who were in main cities living there

were slaves. So it is not going very back, 1924. That is the time. And

also that was a bit of a breathing time. Another time was in 1963, when

there was a bit of democracy. For the very first time, they allowed us

to enter schools, have an education, but development projects was denied.

The tax remained as it was, during the Prime Ministership of Shah Mahmood

Khan, he put tax on Hazaras to pay back a tax from dogs.

So during the kingdom

of Amir Dost Mohammad Khan, whose mother was a Shiite, he imposed triple

tax on the Hazaras and Shiite. So these kinds of discrimination, it has

a long history, but beyond that, the land, fertile land of Hazara in Uruzghan,

where recently the Americans bombed the wedding, that area belongs to

the Hazaras. Amir Abdul Rahman Khan gave that land totally to the Pashtuns.

So during the history, all fertile land, as well as other possible golds

and silvers which the people had, was given to the Pashtuns.

DR OZDOWSKI:

How safe is situation now for Hazaras? Is it possible to go back in relative

safety?

MR GHULAM:

No. For three reason it is not safe. Firstly, the large member of Shuri

Mazare's fighters and officers, they are the ex-killers who are part of

the so-called army. I mean, not an official army that they are getting

training. The only official army which has been graduate is this 350 a

couple of weeks ago. But the others who are fighting and they are in some

kind of alliance with the government. It is common knowledge that Awalaki

was for a period part of Taliban. There are other tribes even, Hazara

tribes, who are Sunnites. They were working with the Taliban and, before

that, with Shuri Mazare. All of them, they are in power and they have

gun.

The other thing is,

if the people will be sent back from here, if they are able to find their

houses, first there is no wall, no roof, and secondly, it is occupied

by someone else. There is no rule of law to say, "He is the legitimate

owner. You have to get out. He has to come in." And there is no force

to force that law. Beyond that, in the constitution of 1963, there is

one paragraph saying everyone who lives in Afghanistan is an Afghan. You

see, not saying a Hazara, not recognising a Tajik, not recognising a Uzbek

or a Turkmen. So everyone becomes an Afghan, and we are not Afghan. Afghan

equal Pashtun. Right.

So even that democratic

constitution has main defects like this. And according to this definition,

many times the Shuri Mazare as well as the Taliban, as well as the Hulkies,

the ex-communists, they said, Tajiks has to go to Tajikistan, Uzbek has

to go to Uzbekistan, Turkmen has to go to Turkmenistan and Hazara has

to go to graveyard. You see, this

DR OZDOWSKI:

Could we - yes, thank you for the historical thing and I know I ask you

for it. But now, if we could go to the detention and what are you being

told by young people who are coming out of detention and settling here?

What experiences?

MR GHULAM: The

very, very first thing is the dash of hope. They are coming to Australia

with very high hope because they have heard Australia is a democratic

country, nice, beautiful, etcetera, etcetera. When they are on board of

the ship, but before that, there is one major trauma. Those ships broken

and the people were in the water. They have been staying in the waters

for hours and hours while navies come, looked at them and went away. They

didn't pick them up. There is a group of people here in Brisbane who were

in the water for more than six hours and screaming and crying.

So one trauma, you

can drown any moment and you will be dead. On the other side is the dash

of hope when they are coming into Australia, instead of giving a greeting,

welcome to Australia, here is a cup of tea, against the cultural, you

know, habit that we are used to even in Australia is like that, you know.

Without a cup of tea, you are not welcome here. Why are you coming here?

You so and so and so. All of this has been said and repeated over and

over and over. That is a disappointment.

Beyond that, when

they go inside these rooms, so where is the freedom? There is no freedom.

They are not asking for more food or clothes or this. They are also items

to be mentioned, but their main cry is freedom, to have access to go out

beyond these fence and wall. They are - early morning they are coming.

ACM guards are coming very early, taking the blankets away, hitting with

the baton on the walls which is a mix of

DR OZDOWSKI:

What do you mean, taking blankets away?

MR GHULAM:

Yes. Corrugated iron and they are hitting, heavy noise and taking the

blankets away, taking the books off people, throwing it over the window.

You know, get up. And then they are coming, starting all sorts of search

and all sorts of accusation, which is, for a young person of 13, 14 or

even 16 years of age. That time, there is a volume of anger to resist

because this is no more different that Taliban activities.

DR OZDOWSKI:

How often are such searches are taking place?

MR GHULAM:

From the people, I have heard it is a regular occurrence, probably every

two weeks, every week, sometime more often. If there is a bit of tension,

it's much higher, the occurrence.

DR OZDOWSKI: And

it's happening during the early hours of the morning?

MR GHULAM:

Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

During early hours.

MR GHULAM: Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

What else is happening in detention centres?

MR GHULAM:

Well, access to education is not available. There is not books - enough

books, education material for children, toys to play, or any activity

which should encourage them thinking is not there. The only thing which

they are encouraging is obey. Listen what I am saying, do that, nothing

else. And the resentment among children is so high that they are shouting

and screaming, and every time they see an ACM officer they like to throw

the cups on him and they are getting angry.

One of the young

boys who is just 13, he told me, "Uncle, I went to the medical and

I asked for treatment of my toothache." He said, "Your file

is no more there." "I knew that. Yes. My visa is coming. This

is the last night I am here. When I pass that officer I give him really

a hit on his face." You see, they are creating an environment that

human is to hate another human. That is the problem. Some of those guys

who has so much aggression and anger inside them, if they will see an

officer outside, they think he will offer them a cup of tea? No way.

From my point of

view, instead of adding and supporting a peaceful society, they are creating

a society of conflict. And the burden of those issues is with children

for many years. Just on the way coming back, a young fellow, I asked him,

"How are you?" He said, "I like find someone who can kill

me and I am happy and I don't have these burdens." This is exactly

the statement, less than half an hour ago, on the way coming here.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So the conditions do continue after people are released.

MR GHULAM: Yes.

Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Why it is so?

MR GHULAM:

Well, there is a system of propagation of fear and that is, "We are

not extending your visa. You have to go back home. You are this. You are

that. Instead of seven days in Indonesia, you spend more time." All

of this, and when it is coming via media as a so-called deterrent policy,

it goes into the mind of children as well. "Oh, they are going to

send us back, back to Afghanistan. Oh." You know. So the whole nightmare

repeating itself over and over and over. And this is done directly by

Phillip Ruddock. He, him personally, saying it over and over and over.

And I have said it many times, psychologist has to go and make a judgment

about this person.

DR OZDOWSKI:

So assuming they stay permanently in Australia, what's their future?

MR GHULAM:

Well, the restriction which is part of their visa, access to education

after being in high school, maybe year 10, is very restricted. It's nothing

from year 10, because they don't know after three years of their visa

what is going to happen. If they are sent back home, they better stop

studying. They have to go for some cheap labour job and they did. Few

of them, very bright kids, willing to study, started through a very hard

period, but now they have been disappointed because of a letter they have

received, and they are looking for casual jobs. For a young

DR OZDOWSKI:

What type of a letter?

MR GHULAM:

A letter - someone met a senator during a trip in New South Wales, and

the senator was nice and kind. He said, "I will talk to Phillip Ruddock,

see what your situation like." And he got a letter from Phillip Ruddock

and that letter come to the hand of these young fellows and they are very

disappointed.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And so what did the letter say?

MR GHULAM:

The letter saying there is no chance as a whole. It is not giving any

hope, and opposite, destroying hope. And for an 18 years old, or 16 years

old, to go for a casual job, the hourly rate is very low. Right. And so

their future, even if they are going back to Afghanistan, is no good -

if they stay in Australia is no good because they will be added in the

queues of unemployed, unskilled, you know, with psychological problem,

with traumas, etcetera, etcetera.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Do they have any contact at that stage with the families or friends in

Afghanistan?

MR GHULAM:

No. There is no post. There is no telecommunication. If there is a telecommunication

it's very expensive. During the time of Taliban few agents of Taliban

they have been using mobile phone and very expensive, but that mobile

phone system also was a trap. Who has member of the family overseas? If

he or she has a member of family overseas it's a good point then they

can blackmail to get money. But there is no telecommunication as such

right now and those who have access to it must be part of the government

or part of the UN.

DR OZDOWSKI:

You possibly deal with families of Hazaras who were released from detention

centres. We had quite much evidence about families disintegrating in detention

centres, that families can't function normally in detention centre.

MR GHULAM: That's

right.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And that traditional family roles were destroyed. Could you see some recovery

happening after they are released?

MR GHULAM: Well,

detention is always there. When you go and see and talk the very first

few days the husband and wife they are happy that they are out of detention

centre, but immediately they start talking, yes, you know, the other family

is left behind - the mother or so. And the night when I left I cried so

much and she cried so much. All of this is coming part of that but if

there is less activity for the husband to go out, if there is less activity

for the wife to do, they are in a very small closed environment where

the husband is not used to stay during the day, during the sunshine inside

the house. So detention is growing, and detention starts from the very

early days; when my father said yes, you know, to marry you I was not

happy. So it goes back and then creates a lot of dust.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And it impacts on children?

MR GHULAM:

Yes.

DR OZDOWSKI: And

it continues.

MR GHULAM:

As an example, in Woomera they are putting in a housing unit five families.

There is one refrigerator only for water. There is one basin to get some

water - washing, hand or drinking water. A family of three children, husband

and wife, they have had two double beds, one on each side of the room,

a small corridor that one child could sleep there. And there is no door;

there is no privacy. If you talk something the other family can hear.

The other family can hear what you are saying. Also in terms of transferring

depression from one family to another it is very easy. They are one small

unit, five families. I asked the country was very wide like Australia,

mountainous, the people were happy to go out, you know, bring a bucket

of water but there is nothing like that. So very depressed I have heard

from the families that those units in Woomera for families is terrible.

DR OZDOWSKI:

And how are unaccompanied minors doing here?

MR GHULAM:

Sorry?

DR OZDOWSKI:

How are kids who came without parents? How are they doing here?

MR GHULAM:

There are services in Queensland which is really helping.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Which is helping?

MR GHULAM:

Yes. From QPASTT, from Milpera State High School and also other schools

where they go, and also a number of volunteers who are coming and we have

got some other sporting activities which is helping the children, but

still the biggest happiness is they see light, there I am going. I am

finishing this school; I am going to high school; from there I have a

chance to learn a profession or become Mr Somebody. Then they have a target

to reach and they will invest time and effort, otherwise they are hitting

a - you know, wall, concrete wall and that's no good.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you. I will ask Professor Thomas to ask some further questions.

PROF THOMAS:

What do you observe in terms of the impact of the experience of detention

centres on the young people that you have contact with now?

MR GHULAM:

Yes. About three weeks ago one of the teachers in Milpera State High School

she told me Mr - or the young kids are he's very fine, he's playful but

when I am giving him difficult, sad questions that he should think, he's

not thinking. I said why. He said maybe, I don't know why he's not thinking.

I thought about it again and I checked with some others because if soon

they start thinking they refresh their memory, and the very first memory

is detention centre. Beside that is oh, cutting, you know, slashing their

wrists or try to hang themself and Alum Dar who run away lately - Alum

Dar is still there, you know; the other friend is there. I have no friends

in outside. All my friends are in gaol. You see, these are the facts which

stops - a child is happy, physical activity, this, this, this they are

doing, but when there is a time to think usually they go down. This is

my experience, not with only one or two, but many of them. Even those

who are very happy, laughing, smiling, jumping first weeks, later on -

and even to the level of loss of memory to that level.

PROF THOMAS:

So does your community give these young people in areas of cultural activities

or support?

MR GHULAM:

What we are trying to do is we like to be available. We are not fully

trained people in terms of counselling and psychology, etcetera, etcetera

so, therefore, we are not allowing us to interfere. What we do is we make

ourselves available. If you have worries we are here to talk. Occasionally

we are organising some social activities, some lunches and then talks;

talks about Afghanistan, inviting lawyers to talk about visa and they

are coming free of charge and giving us information. But those information

all again because of this restriction - restrictive law. It's not making

them happy.

Music of Afghanistan,

the last 20 years it is a very sad music. It's not providing happiness.

Drama, comedy is not because the Taliban banned it and this new government

is also very much pro Sharia, pro this, pro that. You know, there is nothing

really to lift the heart of these people, you know. The only thing is

a bit of soccer and running. We do what we can do. We have an art class

to teach them some painting because some of them are good painters and

some calligraphy, etcetera, but we are facing all the time the same dilemma

of these three years, and this TPV visa, no future.

We can't solve that

problem and we can't tell a lie, you know, but only occasionally or many

times I try to be the representative of their anger in public places when

I'm talking and I'm experiencing that anger in the very severest form.

And they see that I am some kind of uncle for them and I'm happy about

that. That's all that I can do as a person, and as an organisation we

are a small organisation. We have lots of things including Nauru's refugees.

They are sending us letters, faxes. Letters are coming to the Australians

and they can't read it. We are translating and all of them is so sad,

you know. A person he was on 5 milligrams of sleeping pills, now reached

this day 280 milligrams of sleeping pills so.

PROF THOMAS:

How big is your community here, the Hazara community?

MR GHULAM:

We are around 140 Hazaras close to Brisbane but we have other members

of our community in Gatton and Caboolture, Kilcoy which is about 50 kilometres

- 60 kilometres away from here. And some of them are agricultural workers

who are moving around and a large number of them working in abattoir.

Australian workers are working three days one week, four days another

week but these people they are working seven days a week just because

they want to forget what they know.

MS LESNIE: Could

I ask whether the kids that you talk to feel like they suffered any discrimination

because they were Hazara? Is there anything particular about being Hazara

that makes life difficult for them?

MR GHULAM: By

us knowledge is transferred, you know, from elderly to the young ones

to the young ones, and we have got also lately I call it the bible of

Hazara. And the bible of Hazara is a history written by Mula Faiz Mohammad

Hazara, and he was the registrar of King Abdul Rahman Khan. He was recording

the daily events, and that daily events he was talking how they were treating

the girls of Hazara when kidnapped and brought to Kabul. One of those

stories is; they were stretching the branch of trees, and tying up the

leg of a girl, one on this tree, and the other on the other and leaving

the trees to go. So this makes the conscience of young Hazara about their

history. When they are coming and facing a case officer, they talk, "I

am Hazara." This he want to express a discrimination, which is a

long history. But in Western style of refugee political activity, etcetera,

etcetera, the law requires what is you are individual political activity,

which has created problem for you.

And most of them

they are not literate. They say, "What did I do? Nothing. Look, Taliban

killed my uncle, my brother, my this, my that." You know, so discrimination

in that sense of Western culture to become a refugee because of your political

activity, or change of religion, or something is not the case with the

Hazara. But it is the history Tajiks hurt them, Pashtuns hurt them, then

they are two major force throughout the history since 1747.

And therefore, reconciliation

we have asked many times - many, many times. The leader of Hazara, Mr

Mozari, has said many times, "We are not better than anyone, but

we are not lower than anyone." You see. And that cost him his life.

The Taliban killed him. So, you know, many people if we will be going

through it is a lot.

MS LESNIE:

So the children in detention - the Hazara children in detention do they

- do they feel comfortable in that environment, or does the fact the Hazara

make it?

MR GHULAM:

In comparison to Afghanistan, there isn't such a thing, because they are

Hazara in detention centre they will be treated badly. But there is a

question. First refugees arrive Hazara, "You looking like a bloody

Chinese. How come you are from Afghanistan? You are not?" Even one

- among our tribes, there are tribes who have blond hair and blue eyes,

and he says, "I am a Hazara." "Rubbish. Look at your eyes.

You are not a Hazara." And that means your mother had a relationship

with someone else, and because of that he gone into some kind of a bad

depression. So if that would have been in Afghanistan, that guy could

be dead, you know, but here Australian law does not require to act like

that, so he gets depressed.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you very much. Would you like to make any concluding statement,

because we are out of time.

MR GHULAM:

Yes. I do like to make a suggestion. The future of Afghanistan is not

clear. The war is not over. It is a very complicated area; geographically,

strategically and also militarily. There is no hope of end of war. Recently

I have had a call with someone and he told me from the outskirts of Herat

all the way to Kabul. There are hundreds of commandants who are controlling

that road. And from there to there is 1000 kilometres. There is no safety.

If they know there is 2000 Afghani in someone's pocket, they will kill.

So my conclusion is; there is no safety, there is no security. Americans

have one clear target, and that clear target is to eliminate Al Quaeda,

and some Taliban. After that, what is going to happen, it is none of their

business nor a piece of cake that they want to share. And the same as

with British. So therefore there is no socioeconomic responsibility right

now, and beyond that, United Nations is a self-serving organisation. They

are taking money. They are using 80 per cent of their budget as so-called

administrative thing. So whatever billions are promised, those billions

are disappearing before leaving UN.

So therefore there

is no economic activity as such to provide jobs, and income and security,

and there is no constitution, there is no law, and the President of Afghanistan,

he has American bodyguard. If he has a social base in the country to protect

them, and to be respected, at least should have an Afghan bodyguard. But

he can't trust, and the people they don't provide it. So this is the situation,

and my request from everybody in Australia and outside Australia; the

very urgent thing is the people in Nauru. The second urgent is people

in detention centres. We have about 718 Hazaras in Nauru, and also about

60 - 64 in Woomera, and also in other detention centres. This excuse is

that he is a Pakistani. He spent 7 days or 8 days in there, and all leave

all of them there are simply excuses. They are not really solving the

problem or they are carrying the justice. They are the miscarriage - mistreatment

of the refugees. Thank you very much.

DR OZDOWSKI:

Thank you, Mr Ghulam.

Now, we will be having

a break, and after the break we will have one more session which will

be in camera, and so I will have to ask everyone but witnesses to leave.

Thank you very much for your attendance.

[3.43pm]

ADJOURNED FROM PUBLIC HEARING INTO IN-CAMERA SESSION

Last

Updated 9 January 2003.