Government agencies are particularly fastidious when it comes to approving guardians for children whose parents are unable to look after them.
You have to jump through more hoops than a circus pony.
For someone to be appointed the legal guardian for a child, there are some basic requirements:
You need to demonstrate that you have the child’s interest at heart.
You must also demonstrate that you are willing and able to provide for the child’s social, cultural, emotional and educational needs.
Under current Australian law, Minister Chris Bowen is the guardian for unaccompanied minors who apply for asylum in Australia. He has a duty of care to those children. But how well is he shaping up in that capacity? Is he protecting them and providing for these fundamental needs? The answer is manifestly ‘no’. Australia is the only country in the Western world where detention is mandatory for adults and children seeking asylum for the duration of their processing by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.
The Australian Medical Association recently reiterated the position developed under my Presidency, with the current President Dr Steve Hambleton making it abundantly clear how the medical profession here views the situation:
“These are damaged people desperately seeking a new life in this country. They are often fleeing diabolical situations in their home country. They are well acquainted with fear and danger and desperation. Some of them have been through torture, some have physical health problems, and many will have experienced mental health pressures. Children are particularly vulnerable and the detention environment places enormous stress on them. “
No ambiguity there!
My colleagues visiting the Darwin immigration detention centre report children under ten years of age attempting self-harm and children as young as four and five being part of hunger strikes. As I see it, the current system of protecting children in detention, with or without their parents, is inherently flawed. Actually, the concepts of ‘child protection’ and ‘children in detention’ are oxymoronic.
Here is where I see the problem. The Federal Government puts the Immigration Minister in charge of making it unappealing to get on a boat and head to Australia to seek asylum, and then makes him also responsible for ensuring the welfare of the children who arrive and are detained in conditions which will harm them.