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Human Rights Commissioner condemns Curtin Det -

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TONY EASTLEY: Australia's Human Rights Commissioner, Catherine Branson has condemned the Curtin
Detention Centre in Western Australia, saying many of the asylum seekers there are suffering mental
trauma and languishing in poor conditions.

The commissioner recently visited the remote facility near Derby in WA's Kimberley region.

Catherine Branson is speaking here to reporter Stephen Dziedzic.

CATHERINE BRANSON: Look, it's a flat, dusty red place. There are high fences around it and what you
see when you look through these quite intimidating tall fences is just a selection of what I think
are called dongers, you know the temporary box-like housing.

A lot of red earth, it's hot. There is very little grass, very little shaded area and of course
limited facilities.

STEPHEN DZIEDZIC: What did the detainees there tell you?

CATHERINE BRANSON: People are being held there for long, long periods of time. This indefinite
detention, particularly in a remote place, is very damaging to their mental health. They spoke to
us about sleeplessness, about feelings of wanting to suicide. We know that there have been a
worrying number of self-harm incidents there including a man apparently who threw himself through a
glass window.

There have been mass voluntary starvation, people have been burning themselves with cigarettes,
cutting themselves with razors and they tell us things like we are dying from the inside out, we
feel that we are going mad, that they're suffering mental torture.

It is a harsh way to treat people who come here seeking asylum.

STEPHEN DZIEDZIC: What is your alternative? Should Curtin be closed and where should detainees be
moved to instead? When detention centres are opened in less remote locations, like Inverbrackie in
South Australia, it often stokes conflict and controversy in the community.

CATHERINE BRANSON: Hopefully it does stoke, sometimes stoke some conflict but the conflict tends to
settle down. I have visited Inverbrackie recently and there was very little evidence of the ongoing
tension that was seen there earlier.

But look the commission has long said people who come to Australia seeking asylum should not be
mandatory detained.

STEPHEN DZIEDZIC: Wouldn't that inevitably though encourage more people to take the journey by
boat?

CATHERINE BRANSON: Well, interestingly I recently attended a very high level international workshop
hosted by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and there was wide agreement there,
as there is international writing, that mandatory detention does not deter people coming for
asylum.

STEPHEN DZIEDZIC: The Government has moved the majority of women and children now into community
detention. Do you welcome that? Should the Government get credit for that and has the Government
moved quickly enough?

CATHERINE BRANSON: Yeah look, we applaud that and we have made that public many times. We urge him
to get all families with children out into the community. Also, if the policy of mandatory
detention can't be abandoned that he use his wide power to get as many people as possible into the
community.

TONY EASTLEY: Australia's Human Rights Commissioner, Catherine Branson speaking to our reporter
Stephen Dziedzic.