ECA has always been an advocate for children’s rights, underpinning our vision that every child is thriving and learning.
This includes some of the world’s most vulnerable children, who by no choice of their own, find themselves to be refugees fleeing their home and seeking asylum on safer shores.
It is therefore concerning to hear of the reports from Amnesty International, documented on the ABC’s Four Corners program last night about concerns about the abuse of children on Nauru.
Since ECA’s submission to the Children in Detention Inquiry in 2014, advocating for the removal of all children and their families from detention, there are now 128 refugee children in Nauru.
Whilst strictly speaking these children are not interned in immigration detention camps in Nauru, the Four Corners Program has brought to light significant concerns about the wellbeing of children and their families on the island.
In their Report Island of Despair, Amnesty International has claimed the that holding refugees on Nauru is a ‘systematic violation of human rights and possibly constitutes torture’. Amongst these concerns is children’s fundamental right to education.
“… the majority of refugee and asylum-seeker children on Nauru are not going to school. One reason that children are not attending the local school is that they are being bullied or harassed by teachers or local children. Amnesty International documented several cases of physical and verbal abuse of refugee children at school by both teachers and local students.”
Due to the stress and trauma already experienced by a large percentage of refugee children prior to their arrival in Australia, it is concerning to hear that this is potentially continuing on Nauru.
Chronic, severe stress is toxic to the developing brain and has long-term effects on children’s health and wellbeing.
Toxic stress disrupts the architecture of the developing brain, undermining cognitive functioning. It can lead to lifelong difficulties in learning, memory, and self-regulation.
When we know children are subject to toxic stress there is an obligation on us all, including the Australian Government, to act to ensure that these children are removed from the stressful situation, and given the support and opportunities they need to thrive.