Investigation Into Allegation Of Sexual Assault By Staff On Nauru Did Not Substantiate Claim, Says Save The Children


The NGO responsible for providing casework, child protection, and advocacy services inside the detention centre on Nauru has confirmed it investigated allegations a staff member sexually assaulted a female asylum seeker in March.

In a brief statement to New Matilda, a spokesperson for Save the Children said the organisation had investigated the allegation but was unable to substantiate it, and that the complainant had not pursued the matter further.

The allegation came to light in a submission made by another contractor, Wilson Security, as part of an ongoing Senate inquiry into the Nauru detention centre.

An incident log included in Wilson’s response to questions on notice from the inquiry revealed allegations of sexual assault and abuse have continued to be recorded in the detention centre since former Integrity Commissioner Philip Moss visited the island and completed his review into widely reported earlier allegations.

The incident log revealed a series of new allegations, including one from March 12 of this year, in which a female asylum seeker lodged a complaint that she was sexually assaulted by a Save the Children staff member.

According to the documents provided to the Senate by Wilson Security, the firm had no further information about the allegation, which was “managed by Save the Children”.

“The allegation was investigated and could not be substantiated, and was not pursued by the complainant,” a media spokesperson from Save the Children told New Matilda.

“The protection of asylum seekers is always Save the Children's top priority and our colleagues on Nauru go through stringent Australian police and working with children checks before they can become a member of our team there.”

The spokesperson was not able to provide further details about the nature or seriousness of the allegation.

Protestors on Nauru

The Senate inquiry has also received evidence from former Save the Children social worker Viktoria Vibhakar, who warned Nauru did not have sufficient child protection standards in place, and lacked the “working with children checks” that would be expected for Commonwealth contractors in Australia.

Save the Children requested the Senate inquiry not publish Vibhakar’s submission, which it alleged was inaccurate. When Vibhakar’s submission was eventually published, the organisation provided a response, highlighting its own  background checks and standards for employees.

The document provided to the Senate by Wilson shows that other staff – either employed by Wilson or its subcontractors – have faced disciplinary action since the review.

Six days before Moss’ review was published by the Department of Immigration, Wilson recorded allegations a staff member threw a rock at an asylum seeker, leading to the termination of their employment.

Eight days after the review was made public, an officer was alleged to have made “sexual gestures towards an asylum seeker”, resulting in their resignation.

The Department of Immigration accepted all of the recommendations of the Moss Review, which found credible evidence of sexual assaults in the detention camps, and that guards had traded drugs to detainees in exchange for sexual favours, among other things.

New Matilda contacted the Department of Immigration for comment on Wednesday afternoon, at 1:59pm. As of Friday afternoon, no response had been received.

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.