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Australia's shame

People seeking asylum in a foreign country is a worldwide issue.     Just look at what is happening in the Mediterranean where so many boats have sunk with loss of life as people try to make it to Europe.

Australia has not been immune from people seeking asylum.   What is disgraceful in Australia is the way asylum seekers have been treated, is the detention of children.        A report, The Forgotten Children, from Australia's Human Rights Commission released yesterday is replete with details of the absolute trauma and other effects these children have suffered - and continue to do so.

The Report couldn't be clearer in highlighting Australia's shame - which can be laid at the feet of both major political parties.

A child's drawing of life in detention

"Professor of paediatrics at the University of Sydney Elizabeth Elliott was horrified by the conditions for children in detention on Christmas Island.

Many had physical illnesses such as skin and respiratory infections as well as serious mental health problems. She described a 12-year-old girl who refused to eat or drink or leave her cabin. "She summed up her experience by saying, 'my life here is really death'," she said.

Professor Elliott reported high rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm among children. "We were haunted by what we had seen, haunted by the level of desperation," she said.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Nick Kowalenko said growing up in detention would have a lifelong impact on the children who may develop conditions such as post-traumatic stress syndrome in adulthood."

A drawing from a child held in detention


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