The Australian Psychological Society (APS) welcomes last week's announcement by the Foreign Minister and the Attorney General that the Australian Government has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
Ratifying the OPCAT is expected to improve oversight of places of detention, including immigration detention facilities, prisons, juvenile detention centres, and secure mental health, aged care and disability facilities.
It commits Australia to establishing a 'national preventative mechanism' to visit places of detention, make recommendations and report publicly on its findings and views.
The APS believes that this kind of transparency is an essential element in both Federal and State responses to the recent Royal Commissions on institutional child sexual abuse and youth detention in the Northern Territory.
APS President Anthony Cichello, says, "Many psychologists have worked in detention environments and can cite ample evidence from research and practice of the mental health impacts of the violence, neglect, harassment and abuse of human rights that can occur in closed, poorly supervised environments."
"While ratification is an important indicator of Australia's commitment to human rights, the real test will be in how it is implemented," says Mr Cichello.
The APS remains disappointed that the Australian Government has specifically excluded offshore detention sites on Manus Island and Nauru from its OPCAT jurisdiction, on the grounds that they are the responsibility of the Nauruan and PNG governments.
The APS believes that Australia continues to carry a moral responsibility for the safety and human rights of all asylum seekers detained offshore.
It urges governments at both Commonwealth and State/Territory levels to work together to ensure that the implementation of OPCAT is fully supported by the legislation, funding and operational arrangements needed to prevent abuse and neglect in all places where people are detained.
For more information, or to arrange an interview call the APS Media team on 03 8662 3358 or 0435 896 444, or email email@example.com. Find the APS Media team on Twitter: @AustPsych
The APS is the largest professional organisation for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 23,000 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.