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Labor calls on Ruddock to mothball Woomera & get children out from behind the razor wire

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JULIA GILLARD M.P. Shadow Minister for Population & Immigration


28 March 2002


A visit to the Woomera Detention Centre today prompted Julia Gillard, Shadow Minister for Population & Immigration, to renew Labor’s call for Woomera to be mothballed and for children to be removed from behind the razor wire of highly secure detention facilities.

Ms Gillard visited the Centre together with Senator Rosemary Crowley, Senator Geoff Buckland, Member for Watson, Leo McLeay and the State Member for Giles, Lyn Breuer.

The delegation was able to inspect the Centre as well as meet with representatives of the asylum seekers.

The Woomera Detention Centre was only ever envisaged as a short-term option to cope with an unexpectedly high number of unauthorised boat arrivals. However, it has now been in use for around two years and some asylum seekers have been in the Centre for that entire period. The facilities at Woomera are not suitable for holding people for such a long-term period.

Minister Ruddock could mothball Woomera tomorrow and relocate asylum seekers to other detention facilities which have more than enough capacity to accommodate these asylum seekers.

Labor again calls on Minister Ruddock to take this step. Given the recent disturbances at the Woomera Detention Centre and the inadequate nature of the facilities it would be best for the asylum seekers involved to be relocated. It would also be best for taxpayers for the Government to stop spending money on a facility that is never going to be of long-term use.

Julia Gillard and the delegation were also able to inspect the alternate detention trial at Woomera in which women and their children are living in ordinary style accommodation.

The trial is clearly a success and is a model for ensuring children are not held behind razor wire.

Whatever view one takes of asylum seekers who come to Australia, the children are the innocent ones caught up in a situation not of their making. On Australia Day, Labor Leader Simon Crean called on the Howard Government to get unaccompanied children out of detention centres and into appropriate foster style arrangements. Simon Crean also called for accompanied children to be allowed to live with their mothers in an expanded version of the alternate detention trial.

My visit today has reinforced my view that Woomera is no place for a child to grow up. Minister Ruddock should act immediately to get children out. Labor stands ready to work with the Minister in a bipartisan way to get the children out from behind the razor wire.

With demonstrators already gathering outside the Woomera Detention Centre for the planned Easter protest action, Ms Gillard has called on the protesters to make their point peacefully and to act to ensure the minimum amount of disruption to asylum seekers within Woomera.

It would be a tragedy if an asylum seeker, a protester, a staff member or a police officer were hurt. Those who feel strongly enough about the treatment of asylum seekers to travel to Woomera should also ensure that their care and concern for asylum seekers is shown by having a peaceful and calm protest.

For further information contact:

Jamie Snashall, Advisor 0438 396 298 Julia Gillard, MP 0417 361 637