Jun 22, 2005

Get kids out of detention: Albanese

Get kids out of detention: Albanese

MEDIA RELEASE – Anthony Albanese MP – 22 June 2005

Anthony Albanese MP, Federal Member for Grayndler, spoke out again in Parliament today against the Howard Government’s current detention system.

During the debate about the Migration Amendment (Detention Arrangements) Bill 2005, Mr Albanese urged the Government to support Labor’s amendments, which would see changes in line with those initially proposed by Petro Georgiou but not conceded by Prime Minister Howard.

Raising again the shocking case of a brother and sister who were removed from Stanmore Public School on 8 March 2005 and placed in Villawood Detention Centre, Mr Albanese described the Department of Immigration as “out of control”.

Mr Albanese told Parliament:

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11.42 am)—I second the amendment moved by the member for Adelaide and I am very proud to do so. The Labor Party has previously put forward two bills in this House, in 2002 and 2003, which would have seen all kids out of detention. Today we have been flexible. In this amendment we have actually used the words of the member for Kooyong’s proposal because we believe that this is a critical issue. I give credit to the member for Kooyong, the member for Pearce and others, who have put a human face on these issues and who acknowledge that we are dealing with real human beings. Today I want to remind the House of a very stark reality of the impact of the government’s attitude towards detention and its immigration regime.

Last week I spoke about an incident where two young children were forcibly removed from their classroom at Stanmore Public School. Ji Hee Han Hwang, known as Janey, was born in Australia in 1998 and was enrolled in kindergarten in 2004. In Yong Han Hwang, known as Ian, was born in 1993, was enrolled in kindergarten in 1998 and was in year 6 at Stanmore Public School. On 8 March 2005, DIMIA officials went to their classroom, banged on the window and dragged them out of that classroom to lock them up in Villawood Detention Centre. The impact on those kids and on every kid in that classroom is a disgrace and should not be allowed to happen in Australia. That is the reality of the way that DIMIA is run in this country in 2005. It occurred without the presence of a legal guardian and without prior notice to the department of education. These Gestapo tactics might be defended by some opposite, but they are not the Australian way. It is completely unacceptable that two young children, one of whom was born in Australia, could be forcibly removed from their classroom. It is wrong that these children were removed in this manner and it is wrong that these children remain behind barbed wire.

The immigration department is clearly out of control. It has lost all sense of decency. It is fundamental that we treat children with kindness. All kids should be out of detention, out from behind barbed wire. Australia is the only country in the world where asylum seekers—adults and children—are detained for the duration of their processing. Currently 53 children are in detention centres, and on average they have been detained for over 12 months. Only half of these children have access to external schooling.

In late May 2005, three-year-old Naomi Leong was released after spending her entire life in Villawood detention centre. Her only exposure to playing with, and learning from, other children was when she was allowed to attend a child learning centre for three hours. While inside Villawood, Naomi would bang her head against the wall. Naomi was so isolated and alone and so confined that her only method of coping was to copy her mother’s emotional state. The psychiatrist who assessed Naomi and her mother has acknowledged that the family have been traumatised by their time in detention and that they are likely to be haunted by their experiences for the rest of their lives. It is blatantly clear that the detention of children is detrimental to their mental health, let alone that of their parents. A study by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists in May 2003 of children in remote detention centres found a 10-fold increase in the number of psychological disorders in children over a two-year period.

We asked those opposite to vote for this amendment because it is about family values. This is a test of how fair dinkum they are about family values. Labor has picked up the member for Kooyong’s wording in order to maximise the possibility of that occurring. These kinds of interactions are very real. That two children at Stanmore Public School were taken from their classrooms and locked up is an indication of how out of control it is. This is unacceptable in Australia in 2005. I commend the amendment to the House.