On the same day the Coalition lost an elder statesman who spoke out about his party’s treatment of refugees, the Department of Immigration has released an independent report highlighting allegations of sexual and physical abuse on Nauru and recommending the government review a decision to remove 10 Save the Children staff from the island.
In a stunning turnaround, the Department has agreed to review the decision, with Secretary Mike Pezzullo telling media on Friday afternoon they would work “collabortively and colegiately” with Save the Children.
In Ocober 2014, then Minister Scott Morrison announced the Department would examine allegations of sexual assault in the centre, but used a media conference to focus on allegations against that staff were coaching self-harm, as well as encouraging protest activity.
But as New Matilda revealed last week, nine of the staff removed are now preparing legal action against the Commonwealth.
In a victory for those staff, the Review Morrison announced has failed to find any conclusive evidence indicating staff were engaged in facilitating protest activity, encouraging self-harm, or fabricating allegations of sexual abuse and assault.
The review was conducted by Integrity Commissioner Philip Moss.
The findings by Moss accord with revelations also published in New Matilda last week that the former Deputy Secretary of the Department Mark Cormack removed the 10 workers despite not knowing whether or not they had done anything wrong.
Moss also found a key intelligence report used by the Department to make the decision – and leaked to the Daily Telegraph – required further investigation, and delivered what appeared to be a subtle criticism of the Department’s handling of the incident.
“The Review considers that a better course of action would have been to direct Save the Children to remove the 10 employees, thereby alleviating any immediate threat, and conduct and investigation,” it said.
“Save The Children should have been afforded the opportunity to address the concerns raised about its staff members and Wilson Security could also have been given additional time to collect more information.”
“The Review notes that it has not obtained any information which substantiates the alleged misconduct in relation to the Save The Children staff members.”
In regards to allegations of data misuse by Save The Children staff it was more circumspect, and deferred to an ongoing AFP investigation into the matter.
The report has also referred serious incidents of assault and abuse to the Department for futher investigation.
This includes allegations made by five minors that “various security staff members” had:
• Offered them marijuana
• Offered them marijuana in return for sexual favours
• Committed an assault
• Offered to obtain items in return for sexual favours
• Been on duty while under the influence of alcohol
Fronting media, Pezzullo rejected allegations the release of the report had been timed opportunistically, on the day news rooms have been heavily focused on covering the death of former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.
“Any sort of suggestion we’ve just jacked this up on the fly is ridiculous,” he said.
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