By Eva Csik and Bec Devitt

6 April 2012

Landmark Parliamentary Inquiry recommends capping length of asylum seeker detention

A landmark parliamentary inquiry has found that all reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that asylum seekers are housed in detention for no longer than 90 days. The inquiry also recommended that refugees declared to be security threats by ASIO should be able to appeal to an independent body and that Chris Bowen as Immigration Minister should no longer be guardian for unaccompanied children as it is in conflict with his responsibility as Minister. The 90 day limit aims to reduce mental illness inside Australia’s detention system as experts advise that detaining people for longer than 90 days makes them vulnerable to serious mental health problems.

Human Rights groups have welcomed the parliamentary inquiry’s recognition that prolonged detention has a devastating impact on asylum seekers. Dr. Graham Thom, Amnesty International’s refugee spokesperson said that the “current system of indefinite, mandatory detention is unsustainable and in need of desperate reform.” The report can be accessed here.

Use of force most likely in CBD

The Age has reported that violent confrontations with police are most likely to occur in Melbourne’s Central Business District. Law Institute of Victoria’s president, Michael Holcroft, has said that it is not surprising that the CBD ranks at the top of these statistics “as it is an area that attracts many vulnerable people with multi-faceted problems.” Holcroft urged the Baillieu government to commit greater resources to tackling social issues such as homelessness and drug and alcohol abuse in order to decrease street crime.

Civil rights advocates have raised concerns that police confrontations are going to rise with the statewide introduction of Tasers which administer more then 50,00 electrical volts. Human Rights Law Centre strategic litigation director Anna Brown said “on any measure we have a problem with excessive use of force in Australia.”

50 per cent of homeless people seeking assistance from homelessness agencies under 25

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released statistics regarding clients who seek assistance from specialist homelessness agencies and the services they receive. The statistics provide that based on data collected between July and September 2011, 59% of clients were female and half of all clients (50%) were aged under 25. Importantly, Indigenous people were significantly overrepresented, with 19% of clients being of Indigenous origin.

The high number of young people supported by homelessness agencies in such a small space of time has been called “disturbing” by Homelessness Australia’s policy and research officer Travis Gilbert. Unlike other studies on homelessness the AIHW report is the first to count “children as individual clients.” Gilbert said that the results  “confirm that youth homelessness is a significant issue in Australia.”

Exhibition in Federation Square highlights importance of a National Disability Insurance Scheme

Building Better Lives, an organisation that conducts practical research and seeks alternative solutions for young people in nursing homes, is showing 20 digital stories at the Atrium in Federation Square between the 10th and the 13th of April. The exhibition illustrates why a National Disability Insurance Scheme is crucial for Australia by allowing audiences to hear personal stories of young people who have found themselves in nursing homes after acquiring a brain injury.

La Trobe University study finds GBLT Australians suffer from intense anxiety and depression

New research has found that up to 80% of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Australians have suffered an episode of intense anxiety in the last year, whilst more then 25% were diagnose with or treated for some form of anxiety disorder. The study conducted by La Trobe University and Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria (GLHV) revealed that almost half of the 4, 000 GLBT people surveyed hide their sexuality or gender identity for fear of violence or discrimination.

Whilst the report indicates an increased acceptance of GLBT people, La Trobe University Research Fellow, Liam Leonard stated that “GLBT people continue to experience much higher levels of abuse and discrimination.”

In light of the report, the Victorian Government has increased funding to organisations that work with GLBT youth. Victorian Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge stated at the launch of the study that the “challenge is to get our message out…we have to do everything we can to raise awareness and educate the broader community and develop ways to reduce the stigma.”

The Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies (ACYS) launches Youth Disability report

The Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies (ACYS) has launched the report Face the Facts-Youth Disability as part of a series aimed at giving policy makers, government and community workers information on key issues affecting young people in Australia. Disability has become a key emerging issue for young people according to ACYS Director Professor Rob White as the “voices of young people with a disability are rarely heard by decision makers.” The report recommends greater consultation with young people who have a disability and the need for the establishment of a national organisation that represents young people with a disability. It can be accessed here.

UN Rapportuer on Violence Against Women to visit Australia in April

It has been announced that the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Rashida Manjoo will be undertaking a study tour of Australia from the 10th to 20th of April 2012. The Special Rapporteur will focus on Violence against women and indigenous communities as part of her visit and will also be participating in a roundtable with women with a disability as well as a roundtable on migrant and refugee women. Whilst in Australia Ms Manjoo will meet with government officials, NGO’s and visit shelters and crisis centres. More information about the Special Rapporteur visit can be found here.

Action taken against Metro in the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

A blind woman in Victoria has taken action against the rail operator Metro over a failure to provide announcements at train stations. Annmarie Kelly is taking action against the rail operator in the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission claiming that the lack of announcements “unlawfully discriminate” against her due to her disability.

The Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has agreed to take on the case. Federal Disability Commissioner Graeme Innes said Ms Kelly’s situation was most likely “unlawful under Victorian law.”



An Ode to Homelands

To live in a place where the trees, the flowers, the lakes,

the rivers and all living creatures tell the stories of survival

that have been passed down through many generations


To stand, walk and live on the very same land that your

ancestors stood, walked and lived on for many thousands

of years, is a treasure in which sadly very few partake.


To share in this treasure is to be nurtured in the arms

of the land, to belong to a greater purpose, to be an active

participant in the amazing beauty of natural life.


To deny one of this treasure is to deny a fish to swim,

to deny a bird to sing, to deny the natural and the pure,

If we allow this treasure to be lost, who will teach us the way?

All Indigenous peoples have the fundamental human right to their traditional lands. For Aboriginal Peoples of Australia, this connection to traditional lands or ‘country’ is of central importance to Aboriginal identity and culture.

Amnesty International has for many years advocated the importance of supporting Aboriginal peoples on homelands. Studies have shown that on homelands there are significantly lower levels of social problems; individuals enjoy much better overall health compared to those living in larger communities and in turn live much happier and peaceful lives.

Last week’s announcement by the Federal Government to increase funding to remote Northern Territory communities was welcomed by many. “It is hoped that this leads to a new collaborative era between the two governments and Aboriginal homeland communities.” While there is still much criticism of the Stronger Futures legislation it is encouraging to see that the importance of homelands are finally being acknowledged after so many years.





Review – Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia

By Georgia Cerni

Sophie Cousins’ book Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia is, in many respects, a proposal. For Cousins, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided Australians with an opportunity to reconsider the ways our society currently functions. Cousins aptly makes her case – while in some ways the pandemic reinforced burgeoning inequalities, it also presented us the chance to apply collectivist values to solve systemic problems.