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Open letter from the sector to Prime Minister Turnbull calling on him to release children and their families from detention


February 4th, 2016

February 4th, 2016

The Honourable M. Turnbull MP

Prime Minister of Australia

PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600


Dear Prime Minister,

We the undersigned write this letter in light of Wednesday’s High Court ruling.

As representatives of the child and family welfare sector, we are deeply concerned that the Australian Government continues to lock children up indefinitely in detention – particularly given the overwhelming expert evidence pointing to the life-long psychological harm detention inflicts on children, as well as the significant risk it poses to their physical health and safety.

We call on your Government to release all children and their families into the Australian community so they can live safely and in good health while their claims for protection are considered.

As a first step, the Government should immediately halt the transfer of Australian-born babies and their families to detention on Nauru, given the well-documented substandard conditions there that are unsuitable for adults, let alone babies and small children.

Australia is the only country in the world that mandates the indefinite detention of children seeking asylum.

This policy puts us in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a signatory.

All children have the right to grow up in a safe, healthy environment and to reach their full potential.  Children locked up in detention are being denied these most basic human rights at the hands of the Australian Government.

You have the power to remove children from detention now and ensure that no child is put in detention in the future.

As a matter of urgency, we call on the Government to:

  • Release all children, along with their families, into the Australian community where they can live freely, attend school, make friends and grow and develop in a safe, healthy, nurturing environment;
  • Legislate to prevent children being detained ever again (seven days is the maximum amount of time a child should be kept in detention, to allow for health and safety checks); and
  • Appoint an independent guardian for children seeking asylum, to ensure their best interests are upheld.

Yours Sincerely,


Deb Tsorbaris

Chief Executive Officer

Centre for Excellence in Child & Family Welfare


On behalf of:

Anchor Inc.

Gateway Health

Andrew Jackomos Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People (Vic)

Gippsland Lakes Community Health

Anglicare Victoria

Greg Levine former Magistrate Children’s Court of Victoria

Australian Childhood Foundation

International Social Service Australia

Australian Childhood Trauma Group

Jesuit Social Services

Barwon Child Youth and Families

Jewish Care Victoria


Key Assets

Berry Street

Life Without Barriers

Bethany Community Support

LifeWorks Relationship Counselling and Education Services

Brophy Family & Youth Services

MacKillop Family Services

Brotherhood of St Laurence

Mallee Family Care

Cara Inc 

MOIRA Disability and Youth Services

Caroline Chisholm Society

Odyssey House Victoria

Professor Cathy Humphreys


CatholicCare Melbourne and Gippsland

Permanent Care and Adoptive Families

CatholicCare Sandhurst

Quantum Support Services Inc

Catholic Social Services Victoria

Queen Elizabeth Centre

Child & Family Services Ballarat Inc.

The Salvation Army Westcare

Children's Protection Society

UnitingCare Victoria and Tasmania


UnitingCare Werribee Support & Housing

Connections UnitingCare   

Upper Murray Family Care

Council to Homeless Persons


Crossroads Network, The Salvation Army

VICSEG New Futures


Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association

EACH Social & Community Health

Wesley Mission Victoria

Early Learning Association Australia


E.W. Tipping Foundation



Youth Affairs Council of Vic

Foster Care Association of Victoria



Read the Centre's position paper on Children in Immigration Detention here.

Read the response from Department of Immigration and Border Protection 


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