Australian psychiatrist and researcher Professor Louise Newman, director of the Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology at Monash University, has long led the way on the devastating impact of detention on asylum seekers, particularly children.
She is spokeswoman for this open letter, signed by more than 200 prominent doctors, lawyers, academics and refugee advocates, that accuses that accuses the Federal Government of ignoring the harmful effects of this policy and calls for an end to mandatory detention.
The group of signatories so far includes: lawyers Julian Burnside, George Newhouse and Claire O’Connor, authors Thomas Keneally and Linda Jaivan, former Family Court chief justice Alastair Nicholson, former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery, QC; Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of New South Wales, John Dywer AO, who was also founder of the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance; and former Commonwealth Ombudsman Allan Asher. Read more.
They call on the Federal Government to:
- abandon and dismantle its mandatory detention policy and ‘offshore solution’ for asylum seekers
- cap detention at a maximum of 30 days, unless a court orders a longer period ofdetention for good cause shown, and
- adopt alternative solutions consistent with obligations under the RefugeeConvention.
Read Professor Newman’s latest call to action, distributed by GetUp, which has now generated more than 40,000 signatures in support. In it, she says the Government can no longer claim to be ignorant of the extent of harm this policy is causing and challenges health professionals, as well as legal professionals, people of faith, and academics, to “no longer remain silent when we know this is happening”.
Professor Louise Newman writes:
Over the past few months we’ve heard the shameful stories coming out of the Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into children in detention.
It wasn’t long ago that I was sitting in Fitzroy Town Hall, telling the inquiry how infants were failing to thrive in detention. Some of the children’s first words, when learning English, was “guard”. Not “mum”, not “dad’ – but “guard”.
Since then we’ve heard reports from doctors who worked inside the Christmas Island detention centre, that medication is often confiscated from newly arrived asylum seekers. Including the case of a three-year-old girl who suffered from epilepsy, and began to have seizures when her medication was taken from her.
We heard the story of a young boy, who was forced to lip read a dialect he couldn’t speak, after having his hearing aid taken. And how babies aren’t learning to crawl, because the ground isn’t safe for them to crawl around on.
It was this news that, when compounded with my years of experience working with children in detention, prompted me to convene an open letter with my colleagues, accusing the Federal Government of wilfully and deliberately causing harm to adults and children.
I’m writing to ask you to join me, and tens of thousands of others, in calling for an end to this inhumane policy of “deterrence”. Click here to add your name.
I first became engaged with the needs of children suffering from significant trauma back in 1999, when I was working with young children from the former Yugoslavia. More than a decade on, it has only become more evident and clear to me that the long-term detention of children is not appropriate under any circumstances.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed children being further traumatised in an environment that offers them no sense of security or safety. These young children are forced to deal with issues that are way beyond their years – issues that even adults would find difficult to contend with. Yet in spite of the incredible hardships they face, these children are still determined to get an education and contribute to our society in a meaningful way.
While I had seen these sorts of issues before, as an experienced clinician who works with abused children, even I struggled with the reality of seeing how our government’s policy of mandatory detention directly contributes to these children’s mental deterioration.
Add your name to the open letter, which accuses the government of ignoring the harmful effects of this policy, and calls for an end to mandatory detention.
The government can no longer claim to be ignorant of the extent of harm this policy is causing. And as health professionals, legal professionals, people of faith, and academics we can no longer remain silent when we know this is happening.
We must hold our government to account and refuse to accept harm to children and adults as part of an inhumane policy of “deterrence”.
Will you join me?
The letter included this PS from GetUp: This open letter was convened by Professor Louise Newman AM, and isn’t an initiative of GetUp. However as a signatory to the open letter, we fully support Professor Newman, and numerous others, in calling for an end to indefinite mandatory detention. Add your name here: https://www.getup.org.au/jaccuse