A no-account Government
by Janice Hamilton Recent footage of the continuing unrest at the Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia has stirred emotions and given Australia a first hand look at the conditions detainees have lived under at this and other centres. In the days that followed three former staff of the Woomera Detention Centre spoke out at the horrendous conditions detainees lived under. All this while John Howard was defending the violence on the leaked video from Curtin and other violence by bagging the ABC for showing the footage that he clearly believes the public doesn't have the right to see. The three workers, Lyn Bedder, Terry Zeecher and Dr Glenda Koutroulis, who worked at Woomera in the last year have told of detainees being subjected to physical restraint on a regular basis, often unnecessarily. Dr Koutroulis said that detainees were mimicked, mocked and on occasions treated like animals by Australasian Correctional Services Staff. She recalled a time just before she left Woomera where a man said to her, "If you think I'm an animal then tell me I'm an animal so I begin to think myself as an animal rather than a human." This man had been talking about suicide and had being under observation for attempting self-harm. Ms Zeecher, who was asked about children self-harming and if the children were put up to it by the adults as the Government claims said, "Absolutely not. Children were trying to hang themselves. Parents are genuinely distressed about the way the children are behaving." Ms Bedder said the situation inside Woomera was very similar to that in Curtin. It was inhumane with daily suicide and self-harm attempts, but little information was getting out to the public. "There has been too much silence, too much acceptance of what's being going on." The Federal Government on the other hand has refused to indicate whether it would support a United Nations human rights protocol that could lead to spot inspections of detention centres. Immigration Minister Ruddock is currently overseas copping an earful from the Commonwealth Lawyers Association over his views on asylum seekers. A spokesman for the organisation called it "Australia's shame." The acting Minister Chris Ellison says that Australia should stand by its detention centres and that the Government already has adequate accountability for them. Really? Then why is the Prime Minister attacking the ABC for showing the Curtin footage? Shouldn't security footage in these detention centres be publicly available if the Government is accountable for them? Meanwhile in the Australian-sponsored camp in Nauru there is a similar pattern of human rights abuses and lack of accountability. Detainees there claim that they have been subjected to water shortages, physical restraint as punishment and have experienced an increase in various diseases. Asylum seeker children have no access to education. Some have been locked up for at least three weeks in confinement after taking a short walk near the camp. The majority of asylum seekers at Nauru are from Afghanistan. Footage from the ABC showed how not even the locals are allowed near the detention camp. Is this accountability Prime Minister, or secrecy?