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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1578

Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minor Program

(Question No. 1321)

Ms Gambaro asked the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, in writing, on 29 November 2012:

Are there processes utilised by the department in determining discrepancies in relation to the age of young people arriving in Australia from refugee backgrounds; and if so, what are the processes.

Mr Brendan O'Connor: The answers to the honourable member's question is:

In 2010, the Department piloted an interview based assessment that has since been adopted that includes any evidence or information a client can provide relating to age. The Department consulted widely on this approach and developed the process with advice from the Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution (CISSR), now known as the Minsters Council on Asylum Seekers and Detention (MCASD). Prior to the pilot, the Department discussed the approach with the Ombudsman's Office, the Departmental Health Advisory Group (DeHAG) and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). The approach was endorsed by each body.

In making an age determination, the Department conducts a focused interview in all cases to assess whether a client is under or over 18 years of age. All interviews are conducted with the assistance of an interpreter in the presence of an independent observer and are digitally recorded, subject to the client's agreement. Clients are encouraged and supported to provide the Department with verifiable documents at any time. If credible new information is brought to attention, cases undergo an independent review.

The Department does not rely on bone scans and other physical investigations (such as dental examinations) for age determination. This approach accords with the findings of the AHRC's inquiry report 'An Age of Uncertainty'.