Health professionals call for children out of detention

Issue 

Over 100 doctors, nurses and other health professionals gathered outside the Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth on November 13 to support the nationwide mobilisations of health workers against detention of children.

The movement has gathered under the banners of #DetentionHarmsChildren and #KidsOut when doctors in Melbourne announced in early October that they would not discharge children back into immigration detention.

Since then, health professionals and students all around the country - including Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin - have taken action to call for children to be released from detention.

Dr Andrew Martin addressed the Perth rally saying that "no period of time in detention is safe".

"Health staff regularly witness the breaches of children's rights and the widespread detrimental effects of detention on health and well being," he said. (See full statement below)

Paediatrics registrar Kristen Lindsay told the crowd that "children are precious" and "need to be protected no matter what".

She read a poem from a Somali refugee: "No one leaves home, unless home is the mouth of a shark/ You only run for the border when you see your whole city running as well/ You have to understand that no one puts children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land."

The Princess Margaret Hospital administration made a statement supporting "clinicians' right to advocate for the wellbeing of children in detention".

Acting executive Dr Gervase Chaney said "this action is consistent with our health service's values of compassion, respect, equity, integrity and excellence; and its commitment to improving health outcomes for all children and young people in WA".

Statement by Dr Andrew Martin

I think that the number of WA health professionals here today clearly demonstrates the agreed position that detention harms children, adolescents and their families.

The wars in Syria and Afghanistan have brought renewed global focus to the plight of millions seeking asylum.

No period of time in detention is safe.

Specialist colleges and international bodies including the United Nations Human Rights Commission continue to oppose detaining children and families.

Health staff regularly witness the breaches of children's rights and the widespread detrimental effects of detention on health and well being.

This is compounded by witnessed violence, a lack of stable education or appropriate peer interaction, and negative impacts on parental mental health and family stability.

Children and adolescents commonly present with bed-wetting, nightmares, psychological distress including anxiety and depression, developmental regression, self harm, anorexia and headaches.

All of these outcomes are a direct result of the children's detention experiences and cannot be rectified within a detention environment.

Mandatory detention is destroying children's lives and families with effects continuing years after their release.

As child health professionals and experts, we support the national call for compassionate legislative change to end their suffering.

No child or adolescent should be held in detention here or offshore. Detention is harmful and this should not be tolerated for children.