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Open letter to Australian leaders on children in detention

Attached is an open letter sent to Mr Abbott and Mr Shorten on Friday expressing concern for the children in the Australian Commonwealth Government detention centres on Nauru and elsewhere. Also attached is a list of the forty signatories who are New Zealand paediatricians and child health workers.

I am a paediatrician with a long-standing interest in child abuse prevention. I was New Zealand's first Children's Commissioner (1989-94) and in 2010 received from UNICEF the international Aldo Farina prize for advocacy for children.

--

An open letter to the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, Australia
Regarding children in Australian Commonwealth Government detention centres

From Dr Ian Hassall
and 39 others
The Hon Tony Abbott MP/ Mr Bill Shorten MP
Parliament House
Canberra 3 July, 2015


We, the undersigned are senior New Zealand paediatricians and child health workers experienced in the care of children and their protection from ill-treatment. We are concerned for the children detained by the Australian Commonwealth Government in the immigration detention centres on Nauru and
elsewhere.

The circumstances in which there is no prospect of appeal or release are inevitably detrimental to many of the children’s development and mental health because of the impact on them of the depression, anger and desperation of their parents and other adults in the camps.

Further, it is the world-wide experience that children in institutional circumstances such as these are unsafe. Some will suffer abuse.

The secrecy provisions in Part 6 of the Australian Border Force Bill 2015 which came into effect on 1 July will exacerbate these effects by severely limiting public oversight of conditions in the camps. In this respect, we support the open letter to yourself of 1 July, 2015 from our Australian colleagues, Dr John-Paul Sanggaran and forty others.

Our plea is that your Government should take steps to mitigate the plight of the children in its custody on Nauru and elsewhere. We respectfully suggest these initial actions:
• Provision for detainees of a realistic hope of resolution through processing as refugees. Without this, children are in the position of hostages in a policy aimed at deterrence which has some of the features of collective punishment, condemned in human rights instruments such as the Geneva Convention.
• Permitting public oversight of the conditions and effects on children of life in the camps through removal of the tight secrecy provisions in the Australian Border Force Bill and provision for independent monitoring and review.

Yours sincerely

Dr Ian Hassall, MB, FRACP, DCH
Paediatrician and children’s advocate
Auckland
Dr Fiona Miles, MB, ChB, FRACP, FFICANZCA
Paediatric intensivist, Starship Children’s Hospital
Auckland
Dr Alison Blaiklock, MPHTM, FRNZCPM, FAFPHM (RACP), G Dip FNP, G Cert Disas Refug Health
Public Health Physician, Hon. Senior Clinical Lecturer, Dept of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington
Prof Brian Darlow, MA, MB, BChir, MD(Cantab), FRCP, FRCPCH
Professor of Paediatric Research
Christchurch
Dr Rosemary Marks, MB, ChB, FRACP
Developmental Paediatrician
Auckland
Dr Greg Williams, FRACP
Paediatrician
Auckland
Dr Paul Trani, MD, FAAP
Dunedin Hospital
Dunedin
Dr Julian Vyas, MD, FRACP, MRCP (UK)
Consultant Respiratory Paediatrician, Starship Children’s Hospital
Auckland
Kati Wilson, MN
National Co-ordinator, Shaken Baby Prevention
Auckland
Dr Tonya Kara, MB, BS, FRACP
Paediatric Nephrologist, Starship Children’s Hospital
Auckland
Terry Sarten
Co-ordinator, Child and Youth Mortality Review
Whanganui
Prof Stephen Robertson, BMedSc, MB, ChB, FRACP, DPhil
Professor of Paediatric Genetics
University of Otago
Dr Kathryn Russell, PhD
Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Auckland
Dr Peter McIlroy, MB, ChB, DipObst, FRACP
General Paediatrician
Nelson
Dr Rebecca Hayman, FRACP
Paediatrician
Wellington
Dr John Garrett, BMedSci, MB, ChB, FRACP
General Paediatrician
Christchurch
Dr Hinemoa Elder, MB, ChB, FRANZCP, PhD
Professional Fellow in Indigenous Mental Health Research, Director of Te Whare Matai Aronui/ Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi. Eru Pomare Post-Doctoral Fellowship/ Health Research Council of New Zealand
Auckland
Dr Genevieve Ostring, MB, ChB, FRACP
Paediatrician and Paediatric Rheumatologist, Waitakere and Starship Children’s Hospitals
Auckland
Dr Jutta van den Boom, MB, ChB, Dr Med, Dipl Paed, FRACP
Paediatrician and Neonatal Lead
Auckland
Dr Tanya Wright, RANZCP
Child Psychiatrist
Auckland
Dr Philippa Loan, MB, ChB, MRCPsych
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Nelson
Dr Valerie Black, MB, ChB, FRANZCP
Clinical head, Child and Family Inpatient Unit
Christchurch
Dr John Gregson
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Wellington
Dr Denise Guy
Child Psychiatrist, President Infant Mental Health Association Aotearoa New Zealand
Wellington
Dr Andrew Cox, FRANZCP
Service Clinical Director, Kari Centre (Child and Adolescent) and Maternal Mental Health,
Auckland
Dr Chanel Prestidge, MB, ChB, FRACP
Paediatric Renal Physician, Starship Children’s Hospital
Auckland
Dr Kate Gibson, MB, ChB, MRCP, FRACP
Paediatrician
Christchurch
Dr Roger Tuck, MB, BS, MRCP, FRACP
Community Paediatrician
Whangarei
Dr Eva Cadario, MRC Psych (UK), Affiliate of RANZCP
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Auckland
Assoc Prof Ralph Pinnock, FRACP, M Clin Ed
Paediatrician, Department of Women and Children’s Health, Dunedin School of Medicine
Dunedin
Dr Ross Wilson, MB, ChB, DipObst, DCH, FRACP
Paediatrician
Wellington
Dr Tonya Dudson
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Hauora Waikato
Hamilton
Dr Bianca Sava
Child Psychiatrist
Auckland
Dr Karen Munro, MB, ChB, FRACP
General Paediatrician
Auckland
Dr Patrick Kelly, MB, ChB, DipObst, DCH, FRACP
Clinical Director, Child Protection Team, Starship Children’s Hospital
Auckland
Dr Jean Simpson MPH, PhD
Director, Child and Youth Epidemiology Service, University of Otago
Dunedin
Warren Lindberg, MNZM, M Phil
Chief Executive Officer, Public health Association of New Zealand
Auckland
Dr Louise Sivertsen
Paediatrician
Hawkes Bay
Cate Fraser-Irwin,
Chairperson, College of Child and Youth Nurses (NZNO)
Auckland
Dr Johann Morreau, FRACP, MNZM
Paediatrician
Rotorua


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