Back in 2011 the Victorian Psychologists Association Inc called on the then federal government to end mandatory offshore detention for people seeking asylum. It was acknowledged then that mandatory offshore detention does not deter desperate people from risking their lives to seek asylum in countries free of war. And since the Liberal National coalition came to power in 2013, people are still seeking asylum, the boats haven’t stopped and Australia continues to imprison innocent women, children and men in conditions that have been likened to concentration camps.
There remains no oversight of these facilities and there continue to be reports of people being abused, denied their basic human rights and basic human dignity. And now we find our federal government wanting to deport babies born here in Australia to offshore detention centres because their parent(s) are people who have risked their lives to seek our protection.
As medical professionals this is something we have to take a stand against. We know that these practices increase the incidence of mental illness that can result in long-term damage to a person’s mental health. It isn’t acceptable to detain people for indefinite periods and expect people to remain healthy and happy.
The Australian Government is knowingly putting people into harm’s way. That’s why the Union says #LetThemStay
Below is the motion passed by the HSU at its Annual General Meeting in 2011:
Professor Patrick McGorry, Professor of youth mental health at the University of Melbourne and Australian of the year in 2010, described Australia’s asylum seeker detention centres as ‘factories for producing mental illness’. Research carried out in 2006 by the Psychiatric Research and Teaching Unit of the Liverpool Hospital (NSW) into the impact of immigration detention and temporary protection on the mental health of asylum seekers found that:
Past immigration detention and ongoing temporary protection each contributed independently to risk of ongoing post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and mental health-related disability. Longer detention was associated with more severe mental disturbance, an effect that persisted for an average of 3 years after release.
We, as psychologists and other health professionals, take a stand against practices that increase the incidence of mental illness in the community by calling for an end to the mandatory detention of asylum seekers, and calls on the Federal Government to respect the recent High Court decision and abandon offshore processing of asylum seeker claims and adopt a policy of onshore processing only.
At its last meeting in December 2015, the VPA Inc re-affirmed the 2011 HSU resolution and passed the following addition:
The Victorian Psychologists Association Inc demands that children currently in detention either in Australia or on Nauru or Manus be released into the community immediately with their families. Australia’s cruel treatment of people legally seeking asylum in Australia is unconscionable.
The Union will continue to stand up against this cruelty perpetuated in our name.
If you want to do more, you might be interested in the Refugee Action Collective. Find out more about RAC at http://rac-vic.org/sample-page-2/