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AASW supports High Court challenge to Border Force Act

Published: 27 July 2016

The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) welcomes the High Court challenge to the secrecy provisions under section 42 of the Australian Border Force Act 2015. National President Professor Karen Healy AM says that the legal challenge by Doctors 4 Refugees highlights how deeply unethical the secrecy provisions in the Act are to health professionals.

‘These provisions threaten jail for professionals who disclose information about the conditions and treatment of asylum seekers in immigration detention,’ said Professor Healy.

‘Social workers are professionally, ethically and morally committed to advocating for the human rights of the people for whom they work. This legislation not only undermines this but is also in direct breach of our duty of care.’

Since 2015, the AASW has demanded that the Government change the Act to ensure that social workers and other professionals are able to speak out about the conditions in detention and their effect on the health of children and adults.

‘We have been consistently warning about the harm done to children in mandatory detention, including the risk of abuse,’ Professor Healy said.

‘The situation has deteriorated in the last year and AASW members have been intimidated for speaking out about this abuse and the poor conditions in which children are being held.’

Professor Healy says social workers are ethically, and in some states legally, required to report child abuse and neglect.

‘Given the recent shocking revelations about the treatment of children in youth detention, how can the government call for a royal commission to stop this kind of abuse in Australia, and on the other hand have legislation that would prosecute professionals who raise similar concerns in offshore detention?’ Professor Healy asked.

The AASW strongly supports its members to legitimately and ethically report child abuse and neglect, and advocate on human rights of children and the most vulnerable.

The AASW represents 10,000 professional social work members, many of whom work directly with refugees and asylum seekers. As such they experience firsthand the distress and harm caused by mandatory immigration detention.

To arrange an interview with Professor Karen Healy, please contact Emma Pegrum, Media and Marketing Manager, on 02 6232 3911or 0408 200 191

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers