|Suicidal boy didn't need psychiatrist, court told.
This was the headline to a story in the Sydney
Morning Herald on July 28 2003.
The Australian government's lawyers told a court that a boy in an Australian detention centre hadn't
been seen by a psychiatrist after he attempted suicide "because he did not need
Lawyers for the boy, his brother and three sisters sought their immediate release
from detention. They said the boy had attempted suicide by hanging in July
I quote the Herald at length:
"This child who sought to hang himself in a suicide pact with another child has not seen a psychiatrist, 12 months later," said Brian McQuade, QC, who was acting for the father.
Responding to the claim, Charles Gunst QC, for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock, told the court the children had not seen a psychiatrist in the year since the suicide attempt because "they haven't needed one".
Mr Gunst said immigration detention was voluntary "in the sense that you can ... at a whim or at a moment, simply agree to leave the country".
"Immigration detention is not a punishment," Mr Gunst said.
The purpose of detention centres was to separate lawful and unlawful citizens, he said.
The five children faced deportation, even if granted release - a fact which proved their detention was not indefinite, Mr Gunst said.
"These are unlawful non-citizens, they have no right to remain in Australia," he said, adding the children were "healthy and well cared for".
Lawyers for the children argued the siblings were being detained indefinitely in conditions representing "psychological maltreatment", and presented a psychiatrist's report recommending the immediate release of the siblings.
"These children should be released from circumstances which have had a profound effect on them," said David Haines, QC.
Denying an Australian kid from Burnside or Toorak a psychiatrist in this
situation would result in an uproar. There was little or none that
followed the ridiculous statements of Mr Gunst. But perhaps it is only
barely facetious, despite all they have been through, to wonder if it is the
children who need a psychiatrist!
This hearing came about because the Full Court of the Family Court ruled that the Family Court had jurisdiction to determine the futures of child detainees.
This interim hearing asked for their immediate release further legal
hearings were pending. The government opposed this, and appealed the
decision. Now in 2004, 12 months later, the children still face an
uncertain future. The government have won their appeal. The Family Court
cannot stop children being held in detention.
Fortunately our merciless government is currently prevented from putting
them back into detention because of community pressure. So the government
is pressuring Catholic welfare to hold the children in a declared
"community based detention centre" (a contradiction of terms if
ever there was one!). Surely is it Howard, Vanstone and others who
need the psychiatrists... what kind of sickness is so pedantic over the law,
and so harsh towards children? Why can they have no mercy?