Protecting the lonely children

30 Jul 2014

This paper makes recommendations regarding the welfare of refugee and asylum-seeking children.


Unaccompanied children are some of the most vulnerable in our society and throughout the world; they have been forced, separated or orphaned from their families through reasons of violence, fear and persecution.

Yet many Australians would not be aware of their predicament; with no-one to advocate for their needs, their stories are rarely heard. The Taskforce has found that the current system of guardianship and care of unaccompanied children is failing on many fronts. It is convoluted, inequitable, grievously lacking in transparency and accountability and it is a system which can be cruel.

Unaccompanied children are receiving vastly different treatment and care, depending on a multitude of factors; how they arrived; the ‘stream’ through which they are ‘processed’; the timing of their arrival; the competency of the various bureaucrats assessing their age or conducting interviews (often while no independent advocate is present such as during enhanced screening, at Christmas Island and certainly during these latest ‘on-water transfers’ for example); the quality of the detention they’re locked up in; and the outcome of the ‘care lotto’ should they be fortunate enough to get that far.

Shamefully too for Australia, some have been sent to detention camps offshore, and uncounted others have been forced back to the homelands from where they have fled persecution, before even being given a fair chance to tell their story and have their claim for asylum justly processed.

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