Submission to National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from The Australian Psychological Society

Allan, Amanda, Davidson, Graham, Tyson, Graham, Schweitzer, Robert, & Starr, Rosemary (2002) Submission to National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from The Australian Psychological Society. Australian Psychological Society.


Executive Summary The Australian Psychological Society categorically condemns the practice of detaining child asylum seekers and their families, on the grounds that it is not commensurate with psychological best practice concerning children’s development and mental health and wellbeing. Detention of children in this fashion is also arguably a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. A thorough review of relevant psychological theory and available research findings from international research has led the Australian Psychological Society to conclude that: • Detention is a negative socialisation experience. • Detention is accentuates developmental risks. • Detention threatens the bonds between children and significant caregivers. • Detention limits educational opportunities. • Detention has traumatic impacts on children of asylum seekers. • Detention reduces children’s potential to recover from trauma. • Detention exacerbates the impacts of other traumas. • Detention of children from these families in many respects is worse for them than being imprisoned. In the absence of any indication from the Australian Government that it intends in the near future to alter the practice of holding children in immigration detention, the Australian Psychological Society’s intermediate position is that the facilitation of short-term and long-term psychological development and wellbeing of children is the basic tenet upon which detention centres should be audited and judged. Based on that position, the Society has identified a series of questions and concerns that arise directly from the various psychological perspectives that have been brought to bear on estimating the effects of detention on child asylum seekers. The Society argues that, because these questions and concerns relate specifically to improvement and maintenance of child detainees’ educational, social and psychological wellbeing, they are legitimate matters for the Inquiry to consider and investigate. • What steps are currently being taken to monitor the psyc hological welfare of the children in detention? In particular, what steps are being taken to monitor the psychological wellbeing of children arriving from war-torn countries? • What qualifications and training do staff who care for children and their families in detention centres have? What knowledge do they have of psychological issues faced by people who have been subjected to traumatic experiences and are suffering high degrees of anxiety, stress and uncertainty? • What provisions have been made for psycho-educational assessment of children’s specific learning needs prior to their attending formal educational programmes? • who are suffering chronic and/or vicarious trauma as a result of witnessing threatening behaviour whilst in detention? • What provisions have been made for families who have been seriously affected by displacement to participate in family therapy? • What critical incident debriefing procedures are in place for children who have witnessed their parents, other family members, or social acquaintances engaging in acts of self-harm or being harmed while in detention? What psychotherapeutic support is in place for children who themselves have been harmed or have engaged in self- harmful acts while in detention? • What provisions are in place for parenting programmes that provide support for parents of children under extremely difficult psychological and physical circumstances? • What efforts are being made to provide parents with the opportunity to model traditional family roles for children, such as working to earn an income, meal preparation, other household duties, etc.? • What opportunities are in place for the assessment of safety issues such as bullying, and sexual or physical abuse of children or their mothers in detention centres? • How are resources distributed to children and families in detention centres? • What socialization opportunities are available either within detention centres or in the wider community for children to develop skills and independence, engage in social activities, participate in cultural traditions, and communicate and interaction with same-age peers and adults from similar ethnic and religious backgrounds? • What access do children and families have to videos, music and entertainment from their cultures of origin? • What provisions are in place to ensure the maintenance of privacy in a manner commensurate with usual cultural practice? • What is the Government’s rationale for continuing to implement a policy of mandatory detention of child asylum seekers that on the face of it is likely to have a pernicious impact on these children’s mental health? • In view of the evidence on the potential long-term impact of mandatory detention on children, what processes may be followed by Government to avoid such a practice and, more importantly, to develop policies and practices that will have a positive impact on these children’s psychological development and mental health?

Impact and interest:

Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

85 since deposited on 18 Apr 2013
5 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 59163
Item Type: Report
Refereed: No
Additional Information: Detention of children of asylum seekers in Australia : The Australian Psychological Society’s position statement submitted to the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. Melbourne : Australian Psychological Society
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Refugee, children, detention, policy, asylum seeker
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Health Clinical and Counselling Psychology (170106)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Social and Community Psychology (170113)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2002 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Deposited On: 18 Apr 2013 01:29
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2013 19:12

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page