Protecting asylum seekers: personal safety and security, and allegations of
The establishment of this committee followed the release of the Moss
Review into conditions and circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru
(Moss Review), and focussed on claims of sexual and physical abuse of asylum
seekers, and the conduct of staff engaged to work in the Regional Processing
Centre (RPC). The committee also notes the work of the Australian Human Rights
Commission, whose report on children in detention pre-dates the Moss Review, and
highlighted the conditions in the RPC on Nauru.
This chapter will set out information and evidence received relating to:
the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) report, The Forgotten
the Moss Review, with particular regard to its establishment,
conduct and responses to it; and
evidence received during the committee's work, including:
safety and security of women in the RPC on Nauru, with particular
regard to sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and threat of sexual violence;
the safety and security of children, with particular regard to
allegations of abuse and neglect, and the impact of the unnatural environment
of the RPC on children; and
general safety concerns over conditions in the RPC.
The Forgotten Children report
On 3 February 2014, the President of the Australian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC) launched an inquiry into children in enclosed immigration
detention. Over several months the inquiry received 239 submissions, conducted
five public hearings and 13 visits to 11 immigration detention centres, and
conducted interviews with 1,233 current and former detainees.
The AHRC's report, The Forgotten Children, was provided to the
government in November 2014, and tabled in the Senate on 11 February 2015.
The AHRC made a number of findings and recommendations in relation to
children in detention generally. Its overall conclusion was that '[t]he
mandatory and prolonged immigration detention of children is in clear violation
of international human rights law', particularly the Convention on the Rights
of the Child (CRC), because of the 'profound negative impacts on the mental and
emotional health of children which result from prolonged detention'.
The AHRC found that:
Despite the best efforts of the Department of Immigration and
Border Protection and its contractors to provide services and support to
children in detention, it is the fact of detention itself that is causing harm.
In particular the deprivation of liberty and the exposure to high numbers of
mentally unwell adults are causing emotional and developmental disorders
The AHRC went on to record a number of specific findings in relation to
the situation of children in detention with regard to such matters as
education, health, mothers and babies, unaccompanied children, trauma and
abuse, and the continuing impacts of detention on children once released.
With specific reference to the detention of children on Nauru, the AHRC
expressed concern that such detention was mandatory and was not time limited,
observing that '[c]hildren on Nauru are suffering from extreme levels of
physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress'.
The report canvassed a range of aspects of detention on Nauru, including
physical conditions, education and health services including mental health,
child protection and allegations of abuse.
The AHRC expressed particular concern about the regime governing the
transfer of children to Nauru, including that Australia did not give
paramountcy to the best interests of the child in decisions to transfer
children, in contravention of Article 3(1) of the CRC.
The AHRC found that 'the inevitable and foreseeable consequence of
Australia’s transfer of children to Nauru is that they would be detained in
breach of article 37(b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child'.
The AHRC recommended that all children and their families in immigration
detention be released into the Australian community within four weeks of the
tabling of the report, and that the Migration Act 1958 be amended to
set strict limits on the detention of children.
The Commission also recommended that:
It is recommended that no child or parent be taken to a
regional processing country where they will be detained unless that country can
provide a rule of law based regime for their assessment as refugees and unless
the conditions of detention meet international standards.
Responding to the report upon its tabling, the Attorney-General said
that the government was 'disappointed and surprised' that the review was not
undertaken during the tenure of the previous Labor government, and stated the
government's view that following 'significant progress and improvement in
policies and practices since the inquiry was initiated...[a] substantial number
of the recommendations from this Report simply reflect existing government
policies and practice and therefore offer little in the way of new insights or
The Attorney-General emphasised that the AHRC's concerns regarding the impact
of prolonged detention on children were now being addressed by removing 'all
eligible children' from detention.
The government did not accept the AHRC's findings that the Commonwealth's
detention of children placed it in breach of the CRC, describing this analysis
as a 'longstanding point of difference between the Government and the
With regard to the AHRC's observations about the detention of children
in Nauru, the Attorney-General stated that:
To the extent that the Commission has sought to extend its
inquiry to an evaluation of the regional processing arrangements occurring in
the Republic of Nauru, it remains the position of the Government that these
arrangements are beyond the jurisdiction of the Australian Human Rights
Commission; a position that has been made clear to the Commission for the
duration of the Inquiry. The Commission has not been invited by the Government
of the Republic of Nauru to undertake any form of visit or inspection of its
regional processing arrangements.
The committee notes concerns that the visa fee for foreign journalists
to visit Nauru increased from $200 AUD to $8,000 AUD, with the result that
journalists have not been able to visit or inspect the Regional Processing
2014 allegations and the Moss Review
In the month of September 2014, a number of information reports had been
submitted to the department by service providers alleging inappropriate sexual
conduct at the RPC on Nauru. Between 26 and 30 September, the Australian media also
carried a number of reports of alleged sexual assault, trading of sexual
favours for marijuana, and acts of self-harm at the RPC. Between 26 September
and 10 October 2014 the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (the
minister) further received correspondence from Senator Hanson-Young containing
allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct at the RPC.
On 30 September 2014 an intelligence report was provided to the
department by a service provider in Nauru (Wilson Security), alleging the
possible misconduct of contracted service provider staff including allegations
of a breach in security and unauthorised disclosure of information, as well as
concerns about the veracity of service provider reporting.
The department advised that on 2 October 2014 the minister discussed
these allegations in a meeting with the then Commander of the Joint Agency Task
Force and the Acting Secretary of the department. The attendees agreed that an
independent review into the allegations and the actions taken by staff of
contracted service providers should be commissioned by the department.
On the same date, the department issued a notice to Save the Children,
pursuant to its services contract, to remove ten employees from the RPC, and
referred material to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in relation to an
alleged unauthorised disclosure of information by a Save the Children staff
The Moss Review into recent allegations relating to conditions and
circumstances at the RPC in Nauru (the Moss Review) was announced by the
then-Minister for Immigration on 3 October 2014.
The Moss Review covered the period between July 2013 and October 2014
and identified two main aspects for investigation:
- claims of sexual and other physical assault of
asylum seekers; and
and behaviour of staff members employed by contracted service providers.
Mr Moss provided a progress report to the secretary of the department,
Mr Michael Pezzullo, on 28 November 2014.
The final Moss Review was provided to the secretary on 9 February 2015, and a
redacted version of the report was published on the department’s website on
20 March 2015.
The Moss Review made various determinations in relation to the
allegations examined. Its key findings included the following.
The Moss Review became aware of two specific allegations of rape of
adult female asylum seekers, one of which had been reported to Nauru police.
The other, made by an asylum seeker against a contracted service provider staff
member was made only to the Moss Review and the alleged victim requested that
it not be referred to the authorities.
Other allegations of indecent assault, sexual harassment and physical
assault were made to the Moss Review, some against contracted service provider
staff members, and some of which had been reported to authorities. The Moss Review
found that an allegation of women being asked to expose themselves to sexual
exploitation in exchange for access to showers and other facilities was likely
to have been based on one particular incident involving an adult female asylum
seeker. The Moss Review found that there was insufficient evidence to confirm
claims of sexual favours being sought from asylum seekers in exchange for
contraband, but it was possible that these behaviours were occurring in
relation to access to marijuana.
The Moss Review concluded that there was a level of under-reporting by
asylum seekers of sexual and other physical assault, generally for family or
cultural reasons but also due to concerns about the consequences of reporting complaints
for their asylum claims, or due to a belief that nothing would be done about
their complaints. Despite this lack of confidence, the Moss Review assessed
that when formal reports were made, they were appropriately dealt with for the
most part by contracted service providers. The Review concluded, nonetheless,
that the arrangements for identifying, reporting, responding to, mitigating and
preventing incidents of sexual and other physical assault at the RPC could be improved.
The Moss Review found that many asylum seekers were apprehensive about
their personal safety and privacy, which was heightened by the living
arrangements at the RPC. The Moss Review concluded that ensuring asylum seekers
are, and feel, safe is important and should be a primary consideration in
decisions about facilities, infrastructure, policing and staffing, as well as
training and supervision of contractor staff, particularly Nauruan staff.
The Moss Review observed that the protection of minors in the RPC was of
the highest importance and priority.
In relation to claims that some allegations of abuse had been fabricated
or exaggerated by asylum seekers, the Moss Review found the asylum seekers it
interviewed generally credible and their accounts convincing, but said it could
not establish the veracity of their allegations, or discount the possibility of
The Moss Review found no information indicating conclusively that
contracted service provider staff members had facilitated protest activity,
encouraged self-harm or fabricated or manipulated allegations of abuse, nor any
information substantiating the specific allegations of misconduct against Save
the Children staff members. The Moss Review drew no conclusion in relation to
allegations of unauthorised disclosure of information, noting the AFP
investigation underway into these matters. The Moss Review recommended that the
department should review its decision to require the removal of the Save the
Children employees from the RPC.
The Moss Review observed more broadly that the RPC would operate more
effectively if there were greater partnership and integration between the
Nauruan Operations Managers, the department, and its contracted service
providers. The Moss Review recommendations included that the department
should enhance its coordination role, improve training and supervision of all
contracted service provider staff members, strengthen the role of and
cooperation with the Nauruan police as distinct from the contract security
presence, and build the capacity of the Nauruan workforce at the RPC as well as
perceptions and understanding of the Nauruan staff and community.
The Moss Review made 19 specific recommendations in response to the
above issues, including those noted above and also addressing inter alia:
improving decision-making in terms of taking into account the
personal safety and privacy of asylum seekers;
review of relevant policies and guidelines including in relation
to sexual harassment and relationships, reporting and responding to allegations
supporting the Government of Nauru to enhance its legal and
policy framework, and the capability of relevant authorities, to investigate
and respond to cases of sexual and other physical assault, and for child
enhancing operation and management of the RPC through a more
joined-up approach and better working relationships between relevant Nauruan
authorities and contracted service providers; and
enhanced efforts by the department and contracted service
providers to ensure that Nauruan staff members are treated with respect and
that there is courteous regard for the Republic of Nauru.
The recommendations of the Moss Review are attached to this report at
The committee notes that it asked for an unexpurgated, unredacted copy
of the Moss Review, but the department declined to provide it.
Claims that the Department of
Immigration and Border Protection was aware of abuse
The committee was presented with evidence from a number of submitters,
particularly former service provider employees at the RPC that the government
was aware of the abuse of children well before it publicly acknowledged the
allegations, and launched the Moss Review, in September 2014.
Several submitters raised an incident which occurred in November
2013, in which an asylum seeker child was allegedly indecently assaulted by a
cleaner engaged by Transfield Services at the RPC. Ms Kirsty Diallo, at that
time engaged as a child protection worker by Save the Children Australia at the
RPC, submitted that her manager confirmed to her in December 2013 that the
incident had been reported to then Minister for Immigration and Border
Protection, the Hon Scott Morrison.
She described the government's failure to protect the child or take action to
mitigate potential threats to children at the Centre, along with the minister's
continued approval of the transfer of children to the
RPC, as 'gross negligence', expressing her belief that '[i]t seems in
Nauru...that the Australian Government has been complicit through inaction in the
institutional abuse of children'.
In relation to the allegations relating
to the trading of contraband for sexual favours, Transfield Services confirmed
that those allegations had become known to the company in January 2014, and would
have been reported to the department, as well as the Nauruan police, at that
Dr Peter Young, former IHMS director of mental health services, told the
committee that the department was informed of instances of sexual abuse of
children by a contractor in Nauru in early February 2014.
One Save the Children Australia child protection worker cited a case study
involving serious concerns about the sexual abuse of an adolescent female,
which was made known to the department from March 2014: while the matter was
investigated, the Save the Children Australia expert believed that insufficient
action was taken to protect the asylum seeker for many months.
A Save the Children Australia case manager submitted that allegations of sexual
harassment of minors by staff at the RPC had been reported in April 2014, and
would have been known to the department within hours of the reports being made.
A number of other submitters referenced the 'Open Letter to the
Australian people', publicly released on 7 April 2015 by a group of 24 current
and former RPC employees.
The authors state that the government and the department had been aware of the
sexual and physical assault of women and children for at least 17 months, 'long
before the Moss Review was ever commissioned'.
At the committee's public hearing on 9 June 2015, Mr Pezzullo confirmed
that 'going back to September of 2012, we have incident reports that are
germane' to the matter of alleged abuse at the RPC.
Queried as to why a formal review was not commissioned by the department until
October 2014, Mr Pezzullo stated:
I will have to give you somewhat of a second-hand account
because I was not the secretary until 13 October  but I have certainly
seen the chronology and the matters that were in the mind of the then
secretary. For a period of time after he vacated the office, there was an
acting secretary between Mr Bowles and myself of roughly a month or so—I would
have to check the detail. There was a concerted period from mid-September to
mid-October whereby written allegations were coming in, some directly to the
minister, some directly to [the] department, some to a combination of both. The
then minister, Mr Morrison, and the then acting secretary, Mr Cormack, thought
it prudent to ask me as the incoming secretary: how do you think it should be
handled? You are going to be the secretary.
It was certainly the acting secretary's call. He was the
person in office, but I must say with my very strong support and endorsement,
to commission someone with Mr Moss's background, reputation and series of
accomplishments to look into these allegations that had come forward in that
concerted period. I do not have the date in my mind. It was from early to
mid-September 2014 to early October 2014. You asked the question why was that
not done before? The answer is: I do not know. I can ask some questions and
speak to people but I just do not know. Perhaps the concentrated nature of the
allegations or perhaps the fact that they all came in a short period of time
might have focused people's minds; I just do not know.
Responses to the Moss Review
On 21 March 2015, the day after the public release of the Moss Review, the
Prime Minister the Hon Tony Abbott MP told the media that:
...we welcome the Moss Review. We've accepted all of the
recommendations and we make the point that there is absolutely no place in any
institution with which the Australian Government has any association whatsoever
for the kind of activities that were found. That's why we've accepted all of
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and the secretary of
the department told the media that the government was working with its
contracted service providers and with the Government of Nauru to examine and
implement the recommendations of the Moss Review.
In its submission to this inquiry the department confirmed that, after
consulting with the Government of Nauru, the government had accepted all 19 of
the Moss Review's recommendations, and had developed a 'comprehensive action
plan' for their implementation. The central themes of the action plan included:
efforts to strengthen the delivery of services to asylum seekers,
including through the revision of relevant guidelines, procedures and policies;
enhanced communication between stakeholders, including greater
transparency about the role of the service provider and enhanced training and
development of Nauruan staff, and working with the Nauru police force to
address the issue of under-reporting of incidents;
more robust frameworks to underpin operations at the RPC,
including for child protection, by adding child protection provisions into
relevant Nauru legislation, developing a child protection framework to
accompany existing policies, and the provision of specialised child protection
training to all staff and service providers who interact with children; and
strengthening training opportunities and staff capability,
including development of more specialised training on Nauruan culture, and
expanding training opportunities offered to Nauruan staff.
In their respective submissions to the committee Transfield Services,
Wilson Security and Save the Children Australia all stated their support for
the findings and recommendations of the Moss Review, and their commitment to
contribute to their implementation as appropriate.
The removal of and allegations
against Save the Children staff
In its submission, Save the Children stated that it was 'pleased, but
not surprised' that the Moss Review found no evidence that Save the Children
staff on Nauru encouraged self-harm, fabricated abuse allegations or
At the committee's public hearing on 19 May 2015, Save the Children
Australia Chief Executive Officer Mr Paul Ronalds outlined the events
surrounding the removal of the Save the Children Australia staff from Nauru on
2 October 2015. He stated that no reasons were provided by the department for
the order to remove the staff, and that Save the Children Australia's offer to
temporarily stand the staff down, conduct an internal investigation and consult
further with the department, in line with previous practice, had been flatly
refused. Mr Ronalds also said that the department repeatedly refused to provide
Save the Children Australia with any documentation of the allegations against
Mr Ronalds further advised that at no time were the staff members in
question approached or questioned about the alleged misconduct prior to the
order to dismiss them:
There was absolutely no degree of procedural fairness
involved in this at all. The allegations were not put
to our staff; staff did not have a chance to answer any of the allegations or
anything like that.
One of the removed Save the Children
staff, former senior caseworker Ms Natasha Blucher, described the personal impact
of these allegations:
At that time I was distraught at
the allegation, because you can imagine that I and my colleagues were terrified
and we were desperately attempting to convince people not to harm themselves. I
attempted to convince seven men who had stitched their lips to unstitch their
lips and write a letter to the Refugee Council in lieu of that and had
explained to them that stitching their lips was not in their interest, that the
department would not listen to them if they did that and that there were more
appropriate ways to do that. I was signing incident reports desperately
supporting caseworkers to try to give them strategies to talk their clients
down from self-harm or from suicidal ideation, and I was going to bed at night
terrified that I would wake up in the morning and find that more clients had
harmed themselves. And then to be told that I was accused of having tried to
facilitate that was beyond comprehension.
Mr Ronalds offered this assessment of
the circumstances surrounding the allegations:
The Moss report is very clear. I
have read it through and on a number of occasions in detail. Neither Wilson
Security nor Mr Moss found that this so-called intelligence report
constituted evidence. On that basis there is no evidence of wrongdoing by Save
the Children staff. Having said that, clearly there was a view, and it is
documented again in the Moss report, by the department and some departmental
officials that Save the Children was acting beyond a purely professional
capacity in this way. I refute that. I have only seen the most professional
behaviour by our staff in relation to their activities. If I am asked as to why
that is the case, I think Mr Moss's recommendation goes to one of those. There
is a misunderstanding about what it means to provide professional welfare
services in a context like Nauru. Absolutely I expect our staff to be
advocating on behalf of individual asylum seekers for improvements in the way
they are being engaged with that would ameliorate the harm. That is absolutely
what I expect and I think that is what the department would expect.
The department's submission described the Moss Review as having made 'no
conclusive findings' in relation to the allegations against Save the Children Australia
staff. While advising that the government accepted all of the recommendations
of the Moss Review, the department did not provide any information on how it
would implement Mr Moss' recommendation that the department review its decision
to order the removal of the staff, including providing them with the
information the department relied upon and offering them an opportunity to
respond. The submission stated that the department would await the outcome of
Australian Federal Police investigations into alleged unauthorised disclosures
by Save the Children Australia personnel before 'considering further action'.
In a supplementary submission to the committee on 13 July 2015, Ms Blucher
advised that following some months of communication with the department about
the implementation of the Moss Review's recommendation, she was advised by the
department in May 2015 that it had commissioned a review of its decision in
regard to the removal of the SCA employees, which was being conducted by Mr
Christopher Doogan, a former Registrar of the High Court. Following further
correspondence, in June 2015 the department advised Ms Blucher's lawyers that
Mr Doogan would not be making any adverse findings against the Save the
Children Australia staff and therefore they would not be interviewed by him,
nor would they be provided with the terms of reference for his review.
In a response to a question from the committee, the department
stated on 17 July 2015 that Mr Doogan's report, Review of
Recommendation Nine from the Moss Review, had been delivered to the
department on 29 June 2015. The department said it was 'considering
the findings and recommendations contained in the report'.
At the committee's public hearing on 20
July 2015, the secretary of the department advised that it was his intention to
publicly release Mr Doogan's report, subject to any necessary redactions, once
the department's consideration of its response was completed. The secretary declined to confirm
whether Mr Doogan's report contained any adverse findings against the Save the
Children staff. When queried as to whether they were entitled to an apology, the
secretary said '[t]hey are certainly entitled to any due process that arises as
a result of my consideration of the Doogan report, and they will be afforded
that due process'.
Post-Moss Review evidence received by the committee
The committee received a substantial amount of evidence which both referred
to and provided information beyond the evidence considered by the Moss Review.
Specifically, this section will address the concerns raised by
submitters and witnesses regarding the safety and security of women and
children, and will discuss allegations made regarding sexual harassment, sexual
exploitation and threat of sexual violence against women in the RPC, the safety
and security of children, and general safety concerns.
Many of the submissions received referred to unsafe conditions, with
fear for personal safety and the safety of others a significant issue for
The committee heard evidence that safety fears were pervasive throughout the RPC,
with women particularly afraid of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
The committee received a substantial amount of evidence in submissions
and correspondence relating to safety and security concerns, which was accepted
on a confidential basis.
While many submitters were still concerned about publicly reporting
these concerns, the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN)
told the committee that the release of the Moss Review resulted in reports of
abuse being put forward which had not previously been heard:
Following the release of the Moss Review, DASSAN advocates
have received a dramatic spike in reports of sexual and physical abuse at
Nauru. Asylum seekers have stated that they finally feel their stories will be
believed by the Department, and that they may now be kept safe from further
Sexual harassment, sexual
exploitation and threat of sexual violence
The committee received very concerning evidence relating to sexual
harassment of young girls and women in the RPC.
Professor David Isaacs told the committee that living conditions for
women and children 'are unsafe and put vulnerable women and children at
considerable risk of assault'.
He further stated that there was a high level of risk in the design and
provision of accommodation: 'The living conditions on Nauru put children at
high risk of suffering physical or sexual abuse'.
Reasons for the lack of safety for women and children are discussed below, but
tended to include: lack of privacy, crowded accommodation, and the inability
for vulnerable women and children to be removed from dangerous situations.
Ms Caz Coleman, the former Transitional Contract Manager for The
Salvation Army at the RPC, told the committee that sexual harassment was a
concern from the beginning of the centre's operation:
Despite having an adult male cohort, the issue of sexual
harassment or assault was an obvious reality to be aware of in the early days
of operation. It is not uncommon in such environments for sexual exploitation,
harassment or assault to occur regardless of the cohort of clients.
Ms Coleman continued that:
...the issue of domestic and family violence, sexual
exploitation, harassment and assault and child protection matters were obvious
from the outset of the centre establishment in Nauru.
Former Save the Children employees told the committee that female asylum
seekers regularly informed them of sexual harassment, with a number of examples
provided to the committee of threats of sexual violence, ongoing sexual
harassment and fear of abuse within the RPC.
Ms Viktoria Vibhakar, a former Save the Children Australia employee,
outlined an instance where a female asylum seeker made allegations of sexual
harassment by a particular group of men and said she felt unsafe. The woman
requested a move to a different location away from that group. Ms Vibhakar told
the committee that the request was denied:
DIBP had to approve all accommodation changes and...they would
not approve such a request unless there were a series of incident reports
documenting harassment. It is of concern that a woman is required to experience
multiple episodes of sexual harassment before she can be moved to a safer
At a public hearing, Ms Vibhakar gave a further example of an instance
of sexual harassment and the inability to remove the alleged victim from the
situation. Ms Vibhakar told the committee that claims of sexual harassment made
by a 16 year old girl were investigated by the Nauruan Police Force, but the
harassment by Commonwealth contracted employees did not cease.
Ms Vibhakar said that the inability for vulnerable women and children to be
removed from unsafe situations had a significant impact on mental health as
well as personal safety:
It is notable that, despite reporting, police involvement and
child protection intervention, Diana was subject to multiple incidents of
sexual harassment. There was no option to remove her from this unsafe
The children who have been assaulted and mentally harmed from
detention in Nauru remain with no remedy or relief.
The inability for vulnerable women and children to be removed from
unsafe situations is clearly at odds with best practice that would apply in an
Australian domestic context. Similarly, Ms Kirsty Diallo told the committee
that the process for dealing with sexual assault reports was inadequate, and
different to the process conducted in Australia:
The process in Australia is that, when someone reports a
sexual assault, they would initially be taken to a hospital, usually, and there
would be a forensic examination offered. When they arrive at the hospital they
would meet with a qualified social worker or psychologist who would provide
assistance, support and crisis counselling in relation to the event of the
assault. Then a specialist unit that investigates sexual assault would be
called in if they wanted to follow through with a forensic examination. That is
just not available in Nauru. Following that, most victims would be offered
ongoing sexual assault counselling. Again, that is not available in Nauru.
Ms Vibhakar told the committee that the inability for parents to protect
children from harm in the RPC was having a significant detrimental impact on
parental and child mental health. Ms Vibhakar said that there was no option to
avoid the alleged perpetrators of abuse within the RPC:
...in the detention facilities asylum seekers have no ability
to avoid such individuals and therefore the ability to adequately protect
themselves or their family members from abuse. This has contributed to the
severe mental distress that parents experience as a result of their inability
to remove their children from people who they believe to be unsafe.
The committee received evidence raising concerns about the capacity of
the Nauruan legal system to provide protections against domestic or sexual
violence, and effective investigation and prosecution of offences. This issue
is discussed further below.
Evidence provided to the committee indicates that incidents relating to
sexual assault have not been referred to Comcare.
Bartering of sexual favours
The committee received evidence concerning the alleged bartering of
goods and or services in exchange for sexual favours.
As noted above, the Moss Review investigated claims of sexual exploitation in
exchange for access to showers and other amenities, and in exchange for
cigarettes and marijuana. The Moss Review reported that although numerous
references to this practice were made, the review was unable to obtain any 'specific
or first-hand information or find any incident or information reports' or
complaints to substantiate the allegations.
Wilson Security advised that a joint operation had been conducted into
allegations that goods and services were being bartered for sexual favours,
which resulted in one suspect being identified:
We participated in a joint operation with the Nauruan Police
Force to investigate allegations of this nature in June 2014.
Regrettably, as result of the investigation, one local staff
member was identified as a suspect. The staff member was terminated on other
performance grounds, prior to the investigation being concluded.
Apart from that incident, we are not aware of any other
allegations of this nature.
Transfield Services advised that they were alerted to an allegation of
sexual exploitation in exchange for services in June 2014, but were only aware
of the incident reported in the Moss Review through the media:
Transfield Services became aware of allegations that contraband
might be being exchanged for sexual favours in or about June 2014.
Investigations were undertaken at that time by the Nauruan Police force in
consultation with the AFP in respect of these matters.
The incident reported in the Moss Review relating to alleged
sexual favours being sought from an asylum seeker in exchange for the provision
of an extended period in the shower only became known to Transfield Services on
or about the time that the media reports leading to the Moss Review were
The department declined to provide the committee with incident reports
relating to allegations of the trade of sexual favours on the grounds that 'the
amount of redaction required to protect privacy would be an unreasonable
diversion of resources'.
Further, the department declined to provide Ministerial Submissions or Minutes
to the Secretary relating to sexual abuse, rape, assault (sexual or otherwise),
harassment, prostitution or solicitation of asylum seekers and the sexualised
behaviour of minors, within the RPC, including:
the presence or use of illicit drugs in the Nauru RPC;
the trading of cigarettes, marijuana or any other commodity for
sexual favours; and
inappropriate, offensive or illegal conduct, attitudes or
opinions expressed by employees or contractors working at the Nauru RPC.
The department's response to this question, as noted with regard to the
question on the provision of clothing and footwear in Chapter 2, was that '[t]he Department may not divulge advice provided to Ministers
as part of Government deliberations'.
The committee notes that the department's
answers to important questions about the safety of women and children within
the environment of the RPC were inadequate. The committee considers these
matters to be of vital importance in its inquiry into conditions and
circumstances in the RPC on Nauru, and sets out its conclusions in this regard
in Chapter 5.
Protection of children
The committee received disturbing evidence relating to conditions for
children within the Regional Processing Centre. Evidence provided to the
committee included claims of the RPC being unsafe for children, with troubling
allegations of abuse (sexual or otherwise) and neglect, references to the RPC
being an unnatural environment for families and the existence of complex and
severe mental health issues.
The committee also heard that there is no legislative framework for the
protection of children on Nauru. Much of the evidence received by the committee
relating to the sexual or physical abuse of children was received on a
The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law noted that the Convention on the
Rights of the Child (CRC) 'requires the Commonwealth to offer certain protections
to children, who are defined by Article 1 of the Convention as ‘human beings
below the age of 18’'.
Article 2 of the CRC sets out:
- States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set
forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without
discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's
or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other
opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or
- States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to
ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or
punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or
beliefs of the child's parents, legal guardians, or family members.
The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law has suggested that obligations
under the CRC have been violated by the detention and subsequent treatment of
children within the RPC.
They further highlighted Articles 34 and 19 of the CRC, which sets out:
States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms
of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, States Parties
shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral
measures to prevent:
(a) The inducement
or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity;
1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative,
administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all
forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent
treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the
care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of
DASSAN summarised the views put by submitters that the RPC was an unsafe
place for children:
Many children talked to us about their fear of Nauru, of the
guards, of the conditions, and of the fighting there. Parents talked with
despair about the conditions they were trying to care for their children in,
with nowhere to play, constant exposure to violence and anger, no privacy, and
inadequate health care.
In addition to the immediate impact of conditions in the RPC on children,
Human Rights Watch told the committee that there was a significant long-term
impact of being held in detention:
The detention of children has serious long-term impacts,
including developmental delays, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress
disorder, memory loss, and other mental health consequences. Conditions in the
Nauru detention center and the mandatory, indefinite nature of detention in the
center compound these mental health consequences.
Child welfare support services, and
the child safeguarding protocol
Save the Children Australia provide child welfare support services in
the RPC. Save the Children Australia advised that:
To fulfil our contractual obligations and work towards our
organisational goals to ensure the best possible care for asylum seekers, Save
the Children employs well-respected professionals and experts, including:
Specialised technical advisers in education, child protection,
emergencies, health and wellbeing
Qualified Australian teachers, social and recreation workers, and
Project leaders with experience in management and administration
across the government, business and legal sectors.
The department advised that a child safeguarding protocol was developed
by Save the Children Australia, for use within the RPC on Nauru, with an
accompanying code of conduct which 'provides service provider personnel with
clear guidelines on working safely and positively with children and young
people, and helps to avoid misunderstandings'. The department advised that it
is mandatory to sign the code of conduct upon engagement at the RPC.
The child safeguarding protocol sets out that it, along with the code of
conduct, has been:
...designed to ensure that a child safe environment is
maintained at all times at the RPC. Maintaining a child safe environment
reduces the risk of harm to children and young people at the RPC and protects
service provider personnel whose positions involve contact with children.
The protocol states that it 'should be followed by all service
providers. The Code and the Child Safety Incident Reporting Process must each
be signed by all service provider personnel'.
It also sets out what types of observed or suspected behaviour should be
reported, how to report incidents, general principles, the application of laws
and an implementation strategy.
Transfield Services noted that the child safeguarding protocol was
provided to them in December 2013 and has been incorporated into their
induction program for new employees.
However, Mr Tobias Gunn, a former Save the Children Australia employee,
submitted that a code of conduct was inadequate, particularly if staff
interacting with children have no prior employment or training to do so.
Another submitter told the committee that although the code of conduct was
...anecdotal evidence from conversations with staff across
service providers would suggest that this practice is not adhered to as many
staff advised that they had not signed such a document.
No legislative framework for the
protection of children
As noted in Chapter 2, the department has advised that a child
protection framework in Nauru is under development. The department told the
committee that they are working with the Nauruan Government to develop the
framework, and insert child protection elements into relevant Nauruan
Submitters, including legal and human rights bodies highlighted the lack
of existing child protection legislation in Nauru.
For example, the Human Rights Law Centre submitted that Nauru does not have
capacity to provide protection:
Nauru does not have an existing child protection framework or
functioning social services and is unable to respond to the complex protection
and support needs of unaccompanied children and asylum seeker children and
Ms Vibhakar echoed concerns that there is no existing capacity within Nauruan
law to deal appropriately with allegations or incidents of child abuse:
Consequently, even when abuse against a child is
substantiated, not only is there no statutory authority to intervene or to
remove children from abusive situations, but there are not adequate laws or a
functioning criminal justice system to bring the perpetrator to justice.
Mr Peter Law, former resident magistrate on Nauru, told the committee
that there was an:
...apparent failure of the NPF [Nauruan Police Force] to
properly investigate and charge perpetrators of incidents reported at the
Processing Centre concerning allegations of physical and sexual assaults
against women and children identified in the Moss Report.
Ms Diallo said that because there was no legislative framework
concerning child protection, women and children were subjected to ongoing risk
of assault and harassment:
As there is no child protection authority or legislation in
Nauru, it is impossible to screen staff that work with these vulnerable
children. Therefore there is no legislative or systemic strategies in place to
reduce the access that sexual predators have to children in such an
environment. As a result children and vulnerable women have been repeatedly exposed
to sexual and physical violence and harassment in the RPC, as well as in the
Abuse (sexual or otherwise),
neglect and mental health issues
Submissions were received by the committee on a confidential basis which
referred to specific allegations of historic and ongoing abuse of minors within
the RPC. In addition, former employees of Save the Children Australia told the
committee of numerous instances of abuse that they had witnessed or suspected.
Ms Viktoria Vibhakar told the committee that the RPC had inadequate procedures
in place for responding to abuse:
While I was employed at the Nauru detention facility,
children and their families experienced physical and sexual assault, as well as
extensive mental harm, as a result of their detainment. This harm could have
The department advised that reporting of suspected or observed abuse of
children is required, as set out in the RPC guidelines and the child
safeguarding protocol. They advised that, for IHMS, reports are made to Save
the Children Australia:
Where an IHMS staff member on Nauru becomes aware or
reasonably suspects that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer harm,
they report such instances to Save the Children (as per their contractual
obligations), and to the Nauruan Police Force and relevant Nauruan government
Further, the department advised that Save the Children Australia
responds to incidents affecting the safety of a minor:
...any incident concerning the safety or welfare of a child or
young person is referred to the Save the Children Child Safeguarding and
Protection Manager (CSPM).
The CSPM will make an assessment of the incident including:
Developing a case plan for management of the incident
Reporting to the department
Arranging for appropriate support and referral for the
child/young person involved and their family/carer
Remedial action is followed up through supportive monitoring
and engagement, individual management plans, joint stakeholder governance
forums such as vulnerable person and complex behavioural management meetings
and other actions as appropriate depending on the nature of the incident.
The committee put concerns to the department that children in abusive
family environments within the RPC did not appear to be able to access the same
protection mechanisms available to children in Australia. The department
advised that Save the Children Australia work to, firstly, prevent child abuse:
Preventative measures include behavioural management
strategies, education through training, programmes and activities, programmes
for parents, case management services and communicating socially acceptable
behaviours and expectations, including the centre rules.
In situations where a minor may be at risk of abuse, the department advised
that the contracted service providers, along with the department and the
Nauruan Government, discuss potential approaches at relevant forums. In an
SCA may facilitate emergency temporary care for minors; and/or
the abusive or other party may be removed to immediately
deescalate the situation.
Any such instances must be immediately referred to the
Government of Nauru (GoN) and Nauruan Police Force (NPF), where appropriate.
Submitters, including former employees of Save the Children Australia
and other contracted service providers, told the committee of numerous
instances of observed and suspected abuse of children.
Instances of sexualised behaviour of very young children were noted by former workers
within the RPC.
Ms Vibhakar told the committee that, even when instances of abuse were reported
and responded to by the contracted service providers, the minors were not
removed from the situation.
Ms Vibhakar provided the committee with several examples of the failure
of the department to appropriately respond to serious instances of sexual and
physical abuse of minors. One example concerned a two year old boy who was
physically assaulted by his mother within the RPC on multiple occasions. An
incident report was filed, and the mother received case management services
from Save the Children Australia. Ms Vibhakar told the committee that the
mental health of the mother deteriorated significantly:
Despite intensive case management services, this mother’s
mental health was so poor that she later threatened to kill herself and her two
children. The child protection and support worker assessed the risk posed to
this child as serious however DIBP did not remove him from detention. Instead,
they directed a Commonwealth contractor (SCA) to develop a “safety plan” for
this child as he would be required to remain in the care of his mother.
A further example involved a minor who was indecently assaulted by a
locally employed contractor within the RPC. Ms Diallo described the response to
I was the allocated Child Protection and Support Worker for
this child, however I was not involved in the investigation. Those that
conducted the interview were also neither trained nor qualified to conduct any
type of sexual assault interview of [a] child or a parent.
I was advised that a security staff member needed to
accompany me into the camp, and informed that there was no private space to
talk with the child. As a result I had to speak to the boy under a tree in the
open space of the camp. I had an interpreter and a security staff member also
present. Such conditions would never be tolerated following a sexual assault in
Mr Tobias Gunn and Ms Charlotte Wilson, former employees of Save the
Children Australia, noted a high level of self-harm incidents by minors.
Mr Gunn submitted:
I have worked with youth at risk where self-harm has been
present, however, I have never seen it so prevalent and common, with young
people in vicious cycles of mental health issues. 
Several submitters including Ms Diallo provided the committee with
examples of neglectful and harsh treatment of children by departmental and
contracted service provider staff. The examples Ms Diallo provided related to
unnecessary deprivation of goods, restriction of access to excursions and
treatment which, in her view, subjected young children to unnecessary trauma.
Ms Diallo stated that she had provided these examples:
...to outline the day-to-day deprivation, cruelty and distress
that children in the RPC were regularly subjected to as a result of the lack of
appropriate structure or facilities in the camp. They occurred with the full
knowledge of the DIBP and seem to reflect an overall policy of punishment.
In relation to one of example of neglect, Ms Diallo noted that:
It was rare for children to have appropriate footwear in the
RPC, and this was well known by all staff. Most children wore rubber thongs,
which were often broken or had holes in the sole. On occasion I witnessed
children with wire strapping the thongs to their feet. The Salvation Army were
responsible to take any request for clothing and for providing these items.
Clothing had to be shipped in, and there was always delays which meant that
children were without appropriate footwear, clothing and underwear for months
at a time. Salvation Army reported that they had regularly requested permission
from DIBP to purchase items that had yet to arrive, from local shops, this was
however refused by DIBP. 
The committee also received evidence that children were suffering from
extreme mental health issues, anxiety and stress, leading to behavioural
problems such as anger, fear or generally being withdrawn.
The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce provided the committee with
letters from asylum seekers which detailed the difficult conditions experienced
by families, the inability for parents to care for their children, and
attempted suicides and self-harm by children.
Unnatural environment for children
Submitters argued that the RPC is an unnatural environment for children
to be in owing to the closed nature of the facility, exposure to acts of
violence, the low standard of living conditions and lack of resources. The
inability of parents to properly care for their children in this environment was
noted by submitters to be a further cause for concern, with one submitter
writing that parents have no agency and in some cases have relinquished care of
As the mental health of parents in the Centre has declined
they have increasingly been unable to provide adequate care for their children
for periods of time, resulting in increasing numbers of parents relinquishing
care of their children while the parents address their mental health issues,
this is particularly prevalent in the population of single parents in the
Centre...As it stands there are no legal protections for staff or frameworks for
providing supervision and care to these children, leaving both children and
The committee was provided with letters written by asylum seekers
formerly or currently in the RPC on Nauru which detailed the effect of extreme
stress and mental health issues on parenting. One asylum seeker wrote that they
had attempted suicide because they were not fully able to care for their two
children in the RPC.
The damaging effects of extreme anxiety and difficult circumstances on
parent-child relationships was noted by Mr Gunn who told the committee that:
Children in desperation to play with toys often broke into
the recreation storage room. This also links into an important indirect impact
of this. This meant that we as SCA staff members were the only ones who had
toys, this resulted in children devoting their time to us as we could give them
toys to play with. Throughout my time in the centre you could see the breakdown
of family units as parents had very limited contact with [their] own children.
The parents in the camp had very little control or input into
their children’s lives...This created an unhealthy disconnect between children and
A letter written by an asylum seeker highlighted the effect that the environment
in the RPC has had on children's play:
Children here are used to play with gravel on the ground and
they try to imitate officers, ambulance drivers or crews, doctors and illnesses
Access and distance to toilet
During the course of the inquiry, the toilet facilities in the RPC were
continually noted by submitters as being unsafe and unhygienic. The toilets
were said to be the frequent scene of harassment and assault, as well as a
source of concerns over hygiene. In particular, the distance between the
accommodation and toilet facilities was raised by submitters as being unsafe.
Professor David Isaacs told the committee that the safety and security of
asylum seekers was impacted by the distance between accommodation and toilet
facilities, which could be between 30 and 120 metres and would mean that '[t]o
go to the toilet at night involves crossing dark, open land, often under the gaze of large male guards'.
Ms Natasha Blucher, a former Save the Children Australia employee, also expressed
concern at the distance to the toilets, with particular regard to the elderly
or those with poor mobility:
The tents located closest to the toilets are still
approximately l0m away across uneven ground. The toilets are up a few stairs as
the buildings are slightly raised, and the floor is generally wet and slippery;
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre told the committee that access to the
toilets was a source of concern to asylum seekers:
Women and children are too scared at night to go to the
bathroom as a group of Nauruan and Australian guards group outside the toilets.
This forces the women and children to wet their bed, have to wear pads or squat
outside their tent.
The committee received evidence in several submissions that toilet
facilities were often the scene of harassment and abuse.
Inadequate lighting of the exterior of the toilet facilities was also noted.
Transfield Services advised the committee that additional lighting was being
installed in the toilet facilities.
The committee heard from Ms Alanna Maycock and Professor David Isaacs
that the stress associated with using the toilets in the RPC was having an
effect on mental and physical health:
Many children had nocturnal enuresis (wetting their beds at
night), partly stress-induced and partly due to fear of walking to and from the
toilets. Some of the mothers also suffered from nocturnal enuresis rather than
run the gauntlet of a night-time visit to the toilets.
One submitter told the committee that there were strict rules regarding
access to toilet facilities, and gave an example of an incident reported by a
female asylum seeker who was with her three year old daughter:
...while in area 1 her daughter had needed to go to the toilet,
as the distance from area 1 to area 9 was a significant distance, especially
for a 3 year old child, the mother attempted to take her daughter to the
toilets in area 1. She advised that the security staff person had refused her
access to the toilets, telling her to go to area 9...
Wilson Security responded to this allegation, advising:
The events to which the allegations in the submission relate
have been subject to a detailed investigation...
The investigation did not find any misconduct or
inappropriate behaviour by the female Wilson Security employee involved.
Mandatory reporting of abuse
The term mandatory reporting is used to set out the legislative
requirement for certain persons to report suspected cases of child abuse and
neglect to government authorities. Laws concerning mandatory reporting set out 'those
conditions under which an individual is legally
required to make a report to the relevant government agency in their
The department and contractors
frequently emphasised to the committee that, while legislative mandatory
reporting requirements were not in place under Australian or Nauruan law in
relation to the RPC, mandatory reporting was required under the policies and
contractual terms applicable to stakeholders at the RPC.
The head of contract between the department and Transfield Services, and
the contract for services with Save the Children Australia, set out that the
service provider must develop and implement processes for managing illegal behaviour.
For example, the head of contract for Transfield Services sets out:
6.10 Illegal and anti-social behaviour
(a) The Service Provider must develop and implement
processes, in cooperation with the Department, local authorities and other
service providers, for managing instances where Transferees are engaged in
behaviour that is illegal, has breached the rules applicable at the Site or is
anti-social in nature.
For the purposes of this clause undesirable behaviours may
- verbal abuse;
sexual or other forms of harassment;
malicious destruction of property; and
possession of weapons or illegal drugs.
Transfield Services 'must immediately inform the Department and other
relevant service providers' of identified or suspected undesirable behaviour,
and Save the Children Australia 'must as soon as practicable inform the
Department and the Operational and Maintenance Service Provider'.
As noted in both contracts, the department must involve the relevant
authorities: 'The Department will be responsible for involving the police or
other authorities as required, except where reporting is mandatory under the
law'. The contract also sets out that Transfield Services and Save the Children
Australia must comply with 'all applicable laws, including those applicable to
Nauru and those Australian laws that are applicable to the Services or the
The capacity of the Nauruan Police Force to conduct investigations
concerning sexual and physical assault was discussed in Chapter 2.
Mandatory reporting in Australia
Australian domestic legislation concerning the mandatory reporting of
suspected child abuse varies between states and territories, but there are standard
elements, including the mandatory reporting of all suspected cases of
child sexual abuse. Awareness, or a belief or suspicion on reasonable grounds, of
abuse of children activates the reporting duty of mandated persons.
Persons who are mandated to report vary between the states and
The groups of people mandated to notify cases of suspected
child abuse and neglect range from persons in a limited number of
occupations (e.g., Qld), to a more extensive list (Vic.), to a very
extensive list (ACT, NSW, SA, Tas.), through to every adult (NT).
The Australian Institute of Family Studies notes the benefits of
Mandatory reporting requirements reinforce the moral
responsibility of community members to report suspected cases of child abuse
and neglect. The laws help to create a culture which is more child-centred, and
which will not tolerate serious abuse and neglect of vulnerable children.
The Australian Human Rights Commission submitted that Nauru does not
currently have a mandatory reporting framework:
The Commission is deeply concerned that Australia has
transferred children to Nauru where there is no child protection framework or
mandatory reporting requirements for reporting allegations of child abuse.
Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Mr
Michael Pezzullo, advised that while not all extraterritorial jurisdictions
have mandatory reporting schemes, '[t]here is no contract that in a particular
jurisdiction can ever void mandatory reporting'.
He further advised that:
Public servants, ...[and] contracted workers might well be
covered by this, do have an avenue of disclosing matters that are of serious
concern, either under public interest disclosure or indeed if there is a
statutory scheme for mandatory reporting, in this case of child sexual assault,
of course they are obliged under that scheme to provide such reports to the
competent reporting authority—that is to say, the police, normally.
The department stated that it refers all crimes in relation to the RPC
to the Nauru Police Force.
Australian Border Force Act 2015
On 1 July 2015, the Australian Border Force Act 2015 (the Act)
came into effect to establish the statutory role of the Australian Border Force
Commissioner, in order to enable the operation of the Australian Border Force.
Part 6 of the Act sets out provisions concerning secrecy and disclosure
of protected information:
An entrusted person must not make a record of or disclose
protected information unless the making of the record or disclosure is
authorised by a provision of this Part, is in the course of the person’s
employment or service as an entrusted person or is required or authorised by
law or by an order or direction of a court or tribunal.
The Act sets out that it is an offence if a person is, or has been, an
entrusted person, and makes a record of, or discloses, protected information.
The penalty for disclosure or making a record of protected information is 2
Paragraph 42(2)(c) of the Act sets out an exception to this provision,
where 'the making of the record or disclosure is required or authorised by or
under a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory'.
During its inquiry into the Australian Border Force Bill 2015, the
Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs noted that:
The term 'a law of the Commonwealth' includes the Public
Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (Cth) that facilitates the 'disclosure and
investigation of wrongdoing and maladministration in the Commonwealth public
The committee notes recent media articles on the operation of the secrecy
and disclosure provisions on former and current employees of contracted service
providers within the RPC on Nauru. The effect of these provisions is compounded
by the difficulties journalists experience accessing the RPC on Nauru.
While concerns have been raised publicly on the impact of these
provisions on reporting of child sexual abuse and other offences when they
occur in the RPC, the recent implementation of the
Act's provisions means it is not clear how it will interact with reporting of
offences which might be required or authorised by foreign laws.
In evidence to the committee, the
secretary of the department emphasised that the Act would not interfere with
'lawful disclosures in the public interest' by staff and contractors in
relation to the operation of the RPC, and that in fact such workers remained
under an 'unambiguous obligation' to report alleged criminality and/or
misconduct to appropriate authorities, with serious consequences for failing to
do so. The secretary added that lawful disclosures included those made in
accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013, while stating
that it was 'wrong in law and in fact to assert that contractors have an
unqualified right of disclosure to the media'.
A submission received from Mr Jon Nichols, a former Wilson Security
employee, alleged that cable ties had been used in the RPC to restrain asylum
seekers to metal framed beds, which were then moved in such a way as to injure
the person restrained.
At a public hearing, Mr Nichols told the committee that during conversations
with employees, references had been made to members of the ERT (Emergency
Response Team) engaging in this practice, which was referred to as 'zipping':
'members of the ERT had secured asylum seekers to their beds with zip ties,
cable ties, and thrown them into the air. This occurred after the riots'.
Mr Nichols said that although he had not personally seen asylum seekers
tied to beds with cable/zip ties, he had seen 'an individual zip tied to a
Wilson Security advised the committee that cable ties:
...are not issued. There are cable ties that are used for some
of the construction fencing during the time but no cable ties are issued...The
plastic cable ties, at different times, were used to secure temporary fencing
together in the centres, but they are not issued to staff members.
Mr Brett McDonald, Security Contract Manager, Wilson Security, further
advised that plastic handcuffs, known as 'flexi cuffs' are used in the RPC 'on
a very rare occasion'.
The committee understands that flexi cuffs substantially resemble cable
or zip ties, and are a form of single-use restraint which binds the hands of a
person in a manner similar to cable or zip ties. It is the view of the
committee that a person witnessing flexi cuffs may reasonably mistake them for
cable or zip ties. The committee further believes that, given their visual
similarity, discussions around the terminology detract from the very serious
nature of the allegations made about their use on asylum seekers.
Other submissions received by the committee refer to the presence of
cable ties in the RPC. For example, a submitter referred to the use of cable
ties to repair footwear:
I was aware of one young girl who was wearing thongs that had
broken and were cable-tied together. The cable tie was placed between her big
toe and second toe.
The committee received information concerning an incident in which a
minor in the RPC had tied a cable tie around her neck which had then become
fastened. The committee understands that this incident was reported to Save the
Children Australia, who commenced monitoring of her behaviour and counselling. The
incident does not appear to have been referred to Comcare.
Comcare was referred an incident from 30 September 2014, with the brief
description: 'Client found with cable ties around neck, spouse reaction was
unresponsive'. The incident was classified as 'Not notifiable- an incident
occurred but it did not result from the conduct of the business or undertaking'
and was not investigated by Comcare.
In the time available, the committee has not been able to form a view on
the presence of cable ties, but it is concerned that cable ties are available
to asylum seekers in the RPC, and that they are potentially dangerous, as
demonstrated by the two incidents referred to above. The committee urges all
contracted service providers and the department to refer relevant matters to
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