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AASW Senate submission strongly backs social workers on Nauru

Published: 19 May 2015

President Professor Karen Healy says that the treatment of the 10 Save the Children staff removed from Nauru was appalling.

‘They were effectively made scapegoats for the unrest on Nauru which was caused by the Minister’s issuing of a confrontational video and poor management by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection,’ said Professor Healy.

‘The AASW’s submission highlights that the abuse and neglect of children on Nauru were not isolated incidents but integral to the way the detention centre has been established.’

Professor Healy says the immigration detention centre on Nauru is designed to be oppressive and the human rights of children and adolescents are being violated.

‘The centre should be closed,’ she said. ‘While Nauru remains open, the oppressive conditions substantially increase the likelihood of child abuse including sexual abuse.’

The fact that professional social workers consistently reported allegations of abuse on Nauru was also brought to the attention of the Senate, in contrast to the Minister’s claims, Professor Healy said.

‘Serious allegations were reported by the social workers in Nauru to Save the Children Australia, which then passed the information on to the Government in line with their agreement.

‘That makes it difficult to believe that the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection only knew of the sexual abuse allegations when he asked Phillip Moss to conduct an inquiry.’

‘The violation of human rights in an offshore detention centre from which the media and the Australian Human Rights Commission is excluded makes the conditions on Nauru extraordinary,’ Professor Healy said.

‘The AASW strongly supports the obligation of its members to legitimately report child abuse and neglect on Nauru, and to advocate on the human rights of children and the most vulnerable. The Government’s attempt to restrain the ability of professionals on Nauru to speak out, by including secrecy provisions in their contracts and threatening persecution under the Crimes Act, is inappropriate and a breach of ethical responsibilities.’

To arrange an interview with Professor Karen Healy, please contact:

Emma Pegrum
Media and Marketing Manager
Phone 02 6199 5011 Mobile 0408 200 191

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers