Thursday 12 February 2015

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) welcomes the long-awaited release of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report, The Forgotten Children, from its Inquiry into Children in Detention, and looks forward to the Government’s response.

The APS calls for all children in immigration detention to be released immediately, including those on Nauru, which the report makes clear is a particularly harmful environment.
APS President Professor Mike Kyrios says, “The report makes for distressing reading and catalogues the wide variety of psychological harms detention causes children, as well their parents. Detention is no place for children." 

“Psychologists will be extremely concerned at the report’s findings, in particular that 34 % of children in detention centres had mental health disorders of sufficient seriousness that if they were living in the Australian community they would require treatment. Less than 2% of children in the Australian community have such high levels of mental ill-health,” he says.

The APS supports the Commission’s recommendation that children currently or previously detained at any time since 1992 have access to government-funded mental health support. This recognises the significant and ongoing adverse mental health consequences of detention 
The report’s other findings included:

  • Children had been in detention in Australia for 14 months on average. Australia is the only country that detains all children upon arrival, and the only one that keeps them there for extended periods. 
  • The parents of children in detention have high rates of mental illness. 30% of adults in detention have moderate to severe mental health conditions and of those adults who report torture and trauma, 38% had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 2014. This in turn affects their ability to parent their children.

The APS recognises that some children are being released into the community in the early months of 2015, but understands that children and adults living in detention in Nauru have no date for release and are suffering extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress.

The APS recommended to the Commission that all children be processed on the Australian mainland and, pending the outcome of their Refugee Assessment Status claims and security clearances, that they be placed in the community where they and their families could live as close to normal lives as possible. In line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have a right to remain with their parents unless contrary to their best interests.  

The APS endorses all the recommendations of the AHRC Report. The Government is obliged by its duty of care and Australia’s human rights laws to ensure the rights and health of everyone, but especially children in our care, are respected.

 APS Submission Children in Immigration Detention 2014

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For more information, or to arrange an interview call Rebecca Matthews on 03 8662 3358 or 0435 896 444, or email   Find the APS Media team on Twitter:  @APS_Media

The APS is the largest professional organisation for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 21,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to people’s lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.