September 4, 2011

Children who are refugees and asylum seekers in Australia

On 27-28 August I had the opportunity to hear Dr Sev Ozdowski, former Human Rights Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner who was speaking in Bathurst. He was the author of the report titled: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention: A Last Resort? His report juxtaposes the Australian government's policies with the realities of children who are asylum seekers and refugees. It includes chapters on children with disabilities and the education of children in detention. Dr Ozdowski indiciated that although Australia is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Australia has not implemented relevant domestic legislation and doesn't have a Bill of Rights. He discussed how the average time in detention is over 300 days, and one child was in detention for over 5 years, then was told that there had been a mistake and the child was released. In his report, he described the long-term impact on the mental health of adults and children in detention, and the impact of children's loss of educational opportunities on their lives.