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Monday, 11 August 2003
Page: 13270


Senator Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, upon notice, on 19 June 2003:

With reference to the suicide of Afghani asylum seeker Dr Habib Vahedi, who died in Murray Bridge, SA, on 3 February 2003:

(1) Was there no evidence available to the Minister, the Government or the Port Hedland detention centre authorities that Dr Vahedi had psychological problems.

(2) (a) What did the Minister mean when he was reported in the Advertiser on 8 February 2003 as saying, 'that his suicide could well be for a whole host of reasons and that people should have got him appropriate support and counselling'; and (b) with reference to that quote, to which people was the Minister referring and to what counselling.

(3) What information does the Minister have to show that the Minister or the department had no knowledge, either before or since 8 February 2003, of Dr Vahedi's potential for suicide.

(4) Can the Minister give Senator Brown an assurance that his department has no such information.

(5) What medical or social support services were afforded to Dr Vahedi in South Australia.


Senator Ellison (Minister for Justice and Customs) —The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Upon arrival in detention, a standard risk needs assessment was conducted in relation to Mr Wahedy. Mr Wahedy was identified as not being at risk of self-harm.

On 28 November 1999, a refugee action group recorded that, in their opinion, Mr Wahedy was in need of assistance as he was feeling traumatised, was not sleeping and was worried for his family. The Registered Nurse employed by the detention service provider noted these comments and advised on 29 November 1999 that there was no evidence of this at his initial interview at the centre with nursing staff, nor on any subsequent visits.

During his time in detention there was no evidence that Mr Wahedy was suffering from psychological problems, despite ongoing contact with medical staff.

Privacy and confidentiality restrictions prevent the Department from being provided with information on whether Mr Wahedy accessed medical or psychological treatment or counselling while in the community. This includes any use of the services of the Association of Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors (ASeTTS).

(2) The circumstances of Mr Wahedy's death are currently being investigated by the State Coroner's office. It is inappropriate to draw conclusions as to the reasons for his death in advance of the formal coronial process which is examining these issues.

As a temporary protection visa holder lawfully in Australia, Mr Wahedy had access to the mainstream medical and psychological support services available to Australian nationals, including access to Medicare. The Government has no obligation to provide support and counselling services beyond the level available to Australians.

However, as with all TPV holders, on release from detention, Mr Wahedy was provided with an information package that included detailed information on how to access specialised counselling from the Association of Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors (ASeTTS) or access any other health services, should he wish.

Individuals who feel they are in need of medical or psychological support services should themselves seek assistance. If other people with whom Mr Wahedy associated in the community believed that he was in need of such assistance they would have been in a position to encourage his use of the relevant services, or to draw the attention of the appropriate professionals to his situation.

(3) See answer to part (1).

(4) See answer to part (1).

(5) See answer to parts (1) and (2).