Review into Nauru confirms violence, abuse and rape - and a culture of fear.

By Sarah Sedghi and Naomi Woodley

Labor has attacked the Federal Government over its response to an independent review into allegations of sexual abuse by asylum seekers on Nauru, after Tony Abbott said institutions “aren’t perfect”.

The Moss review sets out claims of sexual harassment and abuse, including three allegations of rape, inside the Australian-funded immigration detention centre.

The report found the testimony of asylum seekers was credible and convincing, although its veracity could not be verified.

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When Prime Minister Tony Abbott was asked about the Government’s response to the review on Macquarie Radio yesterday afternoon he said; “Occasionally, I dare say, things happen.”

“Because in any institution you get things that, occasionally, aren’t perfect,” Mr Abbott said.

Labor’s Immigration spokesman Richard Marles criticised the remark, while calling the actions of the Government a “disgrace”.

“This Prime Minister needs to think before he speaks,” said Mr Marles.

“The Prime Minister and his Government need to take responsibility.

“This is a Government more concerned about the potential for protest than it is about the sexual assault of minors. This is a Government which has lost its moral compass.”

However, this afternoon Mr Abbott described the findings as “very disturbing”.

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He also stressed the Government was adopting the review’s 19 recommendations.

“These are very important, very important claims, very disturbing findings – and that’s why we have fully accepted the recommendations of the report.”

Labor also accused the Government of trying to bury the Moss report, by releasing it on the same day as the death of the former Liberal prime minister Macolm Fraser.

But it was a point angrily denied by the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton at the release of the report yesterday.

Earlier, former disability commissioner with the Human Rights Commission says the Government’s recently released Moss review confirms the criticisms made by Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs.

Ms Triggs was heavily criticised by the Abbott Government for her Forgotten Children report, which called for a royal commission into the detention of children under both Labor and Coalition governments, and was labelled a “transparent stitch-up” by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.


But former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes said the Moss review into sexual abuse in Australia’s detention centre on Nauru showed the Government was wrong in its criticism of the commission and Ms Triggs.

“Ms Triggs was heavily criticised by the Abbott Government for her Forgotten Children report.”

He also said the allegations detailed in the Moss review further exposed the treatment of asylum seekers in immigration detention.

“This report confirms that. And it’s just another independent source of advice confirming that, as Australians, we should be very concerned about the way that we’re treating people who’ve done nothing wrong, who have just left very difficult situations in their own countries and sought asylum with us,” he said.

“The Government was mistaken in criticising Professor Triggs anyway, irrespective of the findings of this report. That was a totally inappropriate action by the Attorney-General and the Government.”

Former family court judge Alistair Nicholson, who chairs child advocacy group Children’s Rights International, said the review showed Nauru was no place for children.

forgotten children report confirmed
“Former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes said the Moss review into sexual abuse in Australia’s detention centre on Nauru showed the Government was wrong in its criticism of the commission and Ms Triggs.” (Image: ABC via APP)

“It confirms, really, the sorts of criticism that Gillian Triggs and the Human Rights Commission made of the system generally,” he said.

“The Nauru facility is an appalling facility. It’s not a proper place to hold children.

“The evidence is all one way and it’s an extreme discredit to Australia that we should be party to this sort of behaviour and treat people in this way.


“It’s particularly, I suppose, ironic that … this report should have been released on the day of Malcolm Fraser’s death. Because Malcolm himself had made it very clear what his views were about this.”

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Moss review found evidence of sexual abuse

The Moss review found evidence of rape, sexual assault of minors and guards trading marijuana for sexual favours.

Former integrity commissioner Phillip Moss found that at least three women had been raped inside the centre and he raised concerns that assault was likely to be under-reported because detainees were worried about their refugee status.

Mr Moss detailed one allegation that a female asylum seeker was asked to expose herself in return for longer showers.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton urged people in the centre to report sexual abuse, saying “sexual assault of any nature is not to be tolerated and never will be”.

“My strong pleading to people is: if at all possible, please make the approach to the appropriate authority,” he said.

Detention is no place for children.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young described the culture inside the Nauru detention centre as “toxic and dangerous … and the situation remains murky”.

The review found a number of staff from the centre’s operator Transfield and security provider Wilsons have been sacked for misconduct. The Government said it retained confidence in both providers.

The review also cleared 10 Save the Children staff from any suggestion that they coached the detainees into self-harming to embarrass the Coalition Government.

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The Government is set to implement the 19 recommendations, many of which call for better training for centre staff and Nauruan police and officials. Others focus on child protection.

The earlier Forgotten Children inquiry interviewed children in detention under both Labor and Coalition governments and, through its report, documented hundreds of cases of assault and self-harm and found long periods of detention were damaging to children.

The Government had questioned the timing of the report, calling it “partisan” and saying the Human Rights Commission ought to be ashamed of itself.

This article was originally published on the ABC website. It has been republished here with full permission.