30 March 2017

The Senate and Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into Serious allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect of asylum seekers in relation to the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, and any like allegations in relation to the Manus Regional Processing Centre is due to report today - 30 March 2017.

In its submission to the Inquiry the Australian Psychological Society (APS) recommends that community-based alternatives to detention are prioritised, especially for children, as part of a system-wide reform of the detention network and refugee policy more generally.

The APS is available to comment on its submission to this Inquiry.

Key points from the APS submission include:

  • The APS has particular concerns about asylum seekers being detained and ‘processed’ offshore due to the history of escalating mental health issues resulting from offshore detention, including suicide attempts and serious self-harm incidents. 
  • The remoteness of offshore locations restricts access to mental health and other services, as well as compromising ethical delivery of such services and links to community resources; networks and legal assistance are severely limited in detention centres in remote locations.
  • The APS is concerned that the detention environment itself constitutes a source of trauma and abuse, with self-harm and suicidal behaviours commonplace among detainees.
  • Earlier research found adults and the majority of children in a remote immigration detention setting to be regularly distressed by sudden and upsetting memories about detention, intrusive images of events that had occurred, and feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  • The APS believes there is an escalating need for a just and lasting resolution to the current situations on Manus and Nauru.  There are increasing reports of worsening mental health issues, abuse and self-harm, particularly in Nauru, and these distressing events are often witnessed by others, including children, who are particularly vulnerable in traumatising environments.
  • The APS is also concerned about recent reports of disturbing instances of sexual assault of women in Nauru and physical abuse of people seeking asylum. Such reports are echoed in the observations of APS members.

APS submission to the Inquiry

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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 media@psychology.org.au.  Find the APS Media team on Twitter:  @AustPsych.


The APS is the largest professional organisation for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 22,000 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.