Letter from Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser

A letter from Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser


To End Detention of Children and Separation of Families in Australia

To: Prime Minister John Howard and Senator Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Immigration:            

Australia currently holds 94 children in Immigration Detention in Australia and 90 in the Pacific.

Villawood 32 children
Maribyrnong 1 child
Baxter 22 children
Woomera Housing Project 7 children
Port Hedland 15 children
Port Hedland Housing 2 children
Christmas Island 15 children
Nauru 90 children
(November 2003 figures from A Just Australia)

The oldest children in detention are living out their teens behind razor wire and electric fences. The youngest is a baby born a month ago, who was placed in detention in Baxter shortly after his birth. The physical, emotional and psychological damage detention inflicts on children is well documented and not in dispute. Some children in Australian detention centres have been unnecessarily imprisoned for years. In Sweden the maximum time a child is kept in custody is six days.


Detention of children is in several instances part of the enforced separation of families. Current solutions to the detention of children are inadequate and fail to fully protect children's needs and rights. Mothers and children are housed under guard in houses outside the centre while fathers remain inside. Boys older than 12 have been separated from their mothers and forced to live in the detention centre proper.


Under the regulations of the Temporary Protection Visa some families are split, with dependent children stranded in other countries, and their parents unable to find a solution that will reunite the family. These families live in uncertainty, fear and intense anxiety. Their children suffer in ways that would terrify any parent.


The detention of children and the Temporary Protection Visa, especially its effect on separated families, breach Australia's obligations under international conventions and protocols.


This is not how we as Australians want to treat families. The needs and rights of children must be put first. We the undersigned call for an immediate end to the detention of children. We call for an immediate change to regulations that enforce separation between parents and dependent children. We call for changes in legislation that will protect future children arriving unauthorised on Australian territory or in Australian waters. Damaging children is not acceptable to us as Australians.