Sister Brigid Arthur
Last week, Sister Brigid Arthur took the cause of four children held in detention to the High Court of Australia. Sadly, the children, Sister Brigid and all Australians lost on Thursday 20th January when the Court decided that the continued detention of the children was lawful under the Migration Act.
The Court’s decision was made against an acknowledgement that detention is known to cause serious harm to children. We may use the word “detention” but these children are imprisoned, and that is in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Children. It is also contrary to the recommendations which came from the Human Rights Commission Inquiry in 2004. That inquiry discovered appalling instances of physical and psychological harm inflicted on children byÂ migration detention.
If the High Court is bound by the Migration Act, that Act must be changed without delay, otherwise it remains the excuse for our government to continue the abuse and neglect of children in these centres. The states of Australia long ago legislated to protect children in recognition of their vulnerability, but our Federal Government continues to sanction the daily neglect and abuse of children in detention in this country.
The Migration Act says that imprisonment of these children, whose families are seeking asylum, is lawful as a last resort. Sister Brigid went to the Court with an offer of alternative accommodation for these young children. How then can continuing to detain these children be said to be an option of last resort?
If we are silent on this issue as a community we are condoning a system which injures children while hiding behind the rule of law. The system can be changed. Now. We can ensure that this happens by joining the advocacy of Sister Brigid and making our voice heard in the same way as we would if these were the children of our own family.