Detained children a necessary evil

After four days, the standoff over the return of children to detention centres continues between Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) and the Federal Government.

Following the treatment of sick children at the RCH, hundreds of medical staff have refused to release the children back to detention centres over ethical and moral dilemmas. Doctors are arguing that it would be unethical for them to treat patients, only to discharge them back into environments that would compromise their health and safety.

Paediatrician Prof Paul Monagle at the RCH said, “What we see from children in detention is a whole range of physical, mental, emotional and social disturbances that are really severe, and we have no hope of improving things if we’re sending those children back to detention.”

The medical staff has also been outraged at seeing immigration guards placed outside the rooms of some patients 24 hours a day.

Dr Tom Connell, head of General Medicine at RCH, says that for many hospitals round the country, it is “almost normal” to see children living in detention to be admitted for treatment for a number of severe physical and psychological health issues, such as mental illness, behavioural problems, bed wetting and trauma.

The RCH, supported by The Greens, Labor and some prominent Liberal MPs, is calling on the Primate Minister to end the detention of almost 200 children in centres on Nauru and mainland Australia.

Speaking out about the issue, Malcolm Turnbull said the government’s “tough” immigration policy is the only “proven” way to prevent further possible drowning deaths of asylum-seekers, but declared that no Australian politician would want to see children living in detention centres. “Nobody wants to have children in detention, not me, not any member of this house, not any one, not any Australian,” he said.

He also said that since the Coalition had taken over from the Labor government, the number of children locked in detention centres has dropped from 2000 to about 200.

The Greens, who have described detention centres as “mental illness factories”, are set to introduce a bill designed to address the number of children held in facilities.

“Many of the children we’re seeing have spent more than half their life in detention. This is all they know and it is not what children should know. Children should be safe in a community with their family, not in detention,” said Dr Monagle.

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Amelia Theodorakis
Amelia Theodorakis
A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.
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