Why we should be concerned that Nauru is toxic for children’s development

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.

ECA is a collaborative partner with ChilOut. Here are some ways that ChilOut suggests that you can speak out for children: http://www.chilout.org/speak_up_for_kids

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Sam Page

Samantha (Sam) Page is the Chief Executive Officer of ECA. Sam has worked in a variety of positions within in the community, public and private sectors, spanning service delivery and service management, policy development, change management and public administration. She has worked closely with community sector leaders, Members of Parliament, senior bureaucrats in Federal Government agencies as well as peak bodies, research institutes and universities. Sam’s current appointments include the Board of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

One thought on “Why we should be concerned that Nauru is toxic for children’s development”

    Jessica Horne-Kennedy says:

    As an educator I along with my colleagues consider the wellbeing and welfare of children in our setting on a daily basis. Highlighting the importance of children’s rights in the wider community such as outlined in this post is such an important issue for our sector to be aware of. So, many thanks for sharing this post and the information to allow deeper awareness about this issue.

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