315 children living on Christmas Island are asked to draw pictures of their lives...


Drawings by the children




The children have stopped talking.

They draw images of prisons.

They call themselves by their numbers not their names.

Their bleak desolate outlook is matched by their surroundings.

These children need our help.

And yet our Government leaves them living in these circumstances.

A shocking report from the Human Rights Commission has exposed the way children living on Christmas Island view their lives.

And the standout phrase is “hell”.

The inquiry – launched on 3 February, 2014 – is seeking to investigate the ways in which life in immigration detention affects the health, well-being and development of children.

President of the Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs has said, “The inquiry will assess the impact on children by seeking the views of people who were previously detained as children in closed immigration detention and by assessing the current circumstances and responses of children to immigration detention.”

315 children are on Christmas Island

The first stage commenced last week with a week on Christmas Island.

Gillian Triggs told The World Today that the children there said that the place was “hell”.

“The overwhelming sense is of the enormous anxiety, depression, mental illness but particularly developmental retardation.
The children are stopping talking. You can see a little girl comes up to you and she is just staring at you but won’t communicate.


Of the 315 children detained on Christmas Island, most had been there for between six to eight months.

The World Today report spoke of the drawings these children created.

Shockingly many of them depicted prisons.

“This is a very typical picture where they are asking for freedom. They’re asking for help and they perceive themselves as being behind bars and in prison. And this theme is repeated over and over again,” Triggs said.

From the ABC:

LEXI METHERELL: She describes the conditions at Christmas Island as inhumane.

GILLIAN TRIGGS: To state the objective principles of law as a matter of very clear international law: children should not be detained for anything more than what is absolutely necessary for health checks and security checks.

These children are being detained on what are, on any analysis, prisons at a remote island in shockingly hot, humid and difficult circumstances, in a way that cannot meet what you would imagine would be the standard at an international level.

The team who visited the island included a pediatrician and a child psychiatrist.

The Human Rights Commission report says, “ They told the team ‘this place is hell’, ‘help me get out of here’ and ‘there’s no school, nowhere to play and nothing to do.’”

Many are developmentally delayed

The children also spoke about their distress at living in closed environment with adults who were sad, angry and self-harming.

Paediatrician, Dr Karen Zwi, who visited Christmas Island, said that the children’s development was being delayed. “This was evident in several of the children we saw, with developmental delay (usually delayed speaking), and regression such as bedwetting.”

”If we saw these children in Australia, we would be reporting them to DOCS,” Dr Triggs told The Age.

And yet they are allowed to continue to live in this ‘prison’.

The findings of the national inquiry will be handed down in September.