Introduction: The purpose of this inquiry is to investigate the ways in which life in immigration detention affects the health, well-being and development of children. The inquiry will assess the impact on children by seeking the views of people who were previously detained as children in closed immigration detention and by assessing the current circumstances and responses of children to immigration detention.
Ten years ago the Australian Human Rights Commission released A last resort? the report of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (National Inquiry). The National Inquiry found that Australia’s system of mandatory immigration detention of children was fundamentally inconsistent with Australia’s human rights obligations. The National Inquiry also found that children in immigration detention for long periods of time are at high risk of serious mental harm.
Since the National Inquiry there have been significant positive developments including the removal of children from high security Immigration Detention Centres, the creation of the Community Detention system and the use of bridging visas for asylum seekers who arrive by boat.
Today, however there are approximately 1,000 children in closed immigration detention. This is a higher number than at any point during the period covered by the last inquiry, and the Commission’s monitoring work reveals that key concerns remain. With this increase in child detainees, it is time to look at this issue again. This inquiry will be able to discover what has changed in the ten years since the last investigation, and find out whether Australia is meeting its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The benefit of a national inquiry is that it gives a voice to children and families who are directly affected by detention. It also allows professionals, experts and others to have a voice through public hearings and submissions.