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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 147

Senator Brown asked the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, upon notice, on 16 November 2004:

(1) Did staff at Villawood Detention Centre advise detainees on 14 July 2004 that families with children would be sent to a detention centre in South Australia; if so, was the notification followed by a protest.

(2) (a) What protocols are in force to handle such protests; and (b) what eventuated in this case.

(3) If a detained sole parent is taken from the detention centre for any reason: (a) what provision is made for the care of his or her children; and (b) what protocols are in force for this situation.

(4) (a) Under what circumstances can a detainee be given medical or psychiatric treatment; and (b) who is empowered to decide on the necessity for, or type of, treatment to be given; and (c) is the consent of the detainee required.

Senator Vanstone (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) No.

All detainee families with children at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (VIDC) were provided with a brochure on the Port Augusta Residential Housing Project for information. Some families at VIDC were considered for transfer to Baxter Immigration Defence Facility (BIDF), primarily to create greater potential for use of the Residential Housing Project at Port Augusta for families likely to be in immigration detention for lengthy periods. This is consistent with Migration Series Instruction (MSI) 371, tabled by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs on 3 December 2002. Those families considered for transfer were consulted about the move prior to 14 July 2004. Of the families being considered, those who indicated they did not wish to go were not included in the transfer.

There was protest action following the transfers.

(2) (a) The Detention Services Provider has procedures in place for handling critical incidents, including protest action. These procedures are not publicly available because they relate to the good order and security of the centre and publication has the potential to compromise this. (b) There was peaceful protest action both inside and outside the VIDC on 14 July 2004 against the transfer of selected families to the BIDF the day before.

A small group of around 50 protestors gathered outside the centre, together with media representatives and departed just after 4pm.

Five detainees within the centre (none of whom was to be transferred to BIDF) participated in protest action. Although vocal, the protest was peaceful. It is noteworthy that none of the group transferred to BIDF was involved in the protest.

Apart from GSL officers speaking to the protestors, no other action was deemed necessary as a result of this peaceful protest.

(3) (a) In normal circumstances, the child or children of a sole parent would be expected to accompany the parent if he or she were taken from the detention centre. However, where it is necessary to separate a child from his or her parents, each case is assessed individually and depends on the possible length of separation. Care options may include placing the child in the care of extended family or another detainee family, or arranging foster care in the community through the relevant child welfare agency. (b) Arrangements exist with state welfare authorities for the care of unaccompanied minors. Consistent with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC), the Australian Government believes it will usually be in the best interests of the child to remain with their parents. However, where a child welfare agency recommends separation from parents this advice will be implemented to the extent possible.

(4) (a) Any medical and psychiatric treatment required by detainees is identified by qualified medical professionals. The medical professionals have regard, not only to the detainee's physical and mental health, but also the safety and welfare of other detainees, visitors and staff. (b) A registered medical practitioner or mental health professional. (c) Generally, where it is medically necessary to receive treatment, detainees do consent to treatment as recommended by medical professionals. There are, however, in specific circumstances, legislative provisions for non-consensual medical treatment where appropriate, such as state mental health legislation and regulation 5.35 of the Migration Regulations.