The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been urged to examine allegations of abuse in immigration detention centres as whistleblowers continue to come forward in the wake of the Moss Review.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has written to the Commission’s Chair Justice Peter McClellan asking him to consider including Australian funded detention centres in the inquiry, citing the Moss Review and The Forgotten Children report as justification.
“Last year I became aware of a number of serious allegations of abuse against women and children in the Nauru detention centre and reported these directly to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Minister Scott Morrison,” Hanson-Young said in the letter.
“In light of these serious allegations and the Australian Government’s culture of secrecy surrounding these centres, I urge you to consider investigating sexual abuse within institutions run and funded by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
“I believe that this abuse against children falls within the ambit of the Terms of Reference of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.”
The Royal Commission has so far looked at evidence of abuse in the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Jewish community, the YMCA, Scouts Australia, the Salvation Army, and Knox Grammar School, among others.
The Commission has also held 3,096 private sessions and made 510 referrals to authorities and police.
Hanson-Young’s call for the Commission to include an examination of abuse in detention centres comes the after the Moss Review, released in March, presented evidence of multiple sexual assaults in the Australian-funded detention centre on Nauru.
While it did not make a definitive finding in regards to the various allegations, the report noted that witness statements generally appeared to be credible and reliable.
Since the Review’s release, former staff members working in the centre have gone public with their concerns.
Ex-Save the Children employee Viktoria Vibhakar, who worked in a child protection role on Nauru, told Lateline one young girl became suicidal after she was allegedly sexually assaulted.
“The Department of Immigration did not agree to remove this child from detention until well over seven months had passed from the start of those sexual assault allegations,” Vibhakar said.
Vibhakar and other staff also told of sexualised behaviour among young children in the centre.
Leaked transcripts from the Moss Review obtained by New Matilda showed former Minister Morrison was “shit worried” about the Nauru centre and that asylum seekers who took part in the Review allegedly faced threats of reprisal.
In February, the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) Forgotten Children report recommended a Royal Commission be conducted into the use of mandatory detention, and allegations of sexual assault against children.
Earlier in the year it was revealed that anonymous Save the Children staff who made a submission to the AHRC’s inquiry warning of sexual assaults in the camp were being investigated by the Australian Federal Police.
It is understand that interviews in relation to this investigation have now taken place.
As New Matilda revealed in March, staff ordered off the island have begun preparing for a legal fight with the Commonwealth.
Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton this week reiterated that he would not tolerate sexual assaults in Australian detention centres.
“I have instructed the Department to do whatever they possibly can both domestically, within the detention network here, and with our partners in the Regional Processing Centres, to make sure the standard of care is as high as it possibly can be,” he told ABC radio.
But Hanson-Young said the government was more concerned about protecting itself than protecting children.
“As a member of the Australian Senate, and as a mother, I believe these children deserve the protection and justice that would come from the work of your Commission,” she said in her letter to Justice McClellan.
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