Three leading non-government organisations are urging the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to extend its inquiry to examine the response of the Australian Government and its contractors to child sexual abuse on Nauru.
The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) on Friday said they had provided legal advice in July last year to the Royal Commission that it can and should investigate the Australian response to child sexual abuse occurring on Nauru.
The groups released the advice today following the publication by Guardian Australia of over 2000 leaked incident reports from Nauru documenting extensive child sexual abuse, assaults, injuries and self-harm.
The revelations have attracted international concern and renewed calls from a range of health and human rights groups, including the Australian Medical Association and Royal Australian College of Physicians, for greater transparency, protection and accountability.
ACFID, ACOSS and the HRLC said the advice, prepared by barristers Kristen Walker QC and Simona Gory for the HRLC, was provided to the Royal Commission in July 2015 after the Commission said that “it cannot investigate events that occur within another country”. The advice concludes that the Royal Commission “has jurisdiction to investigate the response of the Commonwealth and its Australian contractors to allegations of child sex abuse at the [Nauru Regional Processing] Centre”.
In a joint letter attached to the advice, ACFID, ACOSS and HRLC urged the Commission to investigate abuse on Nauru. The Commission has not yet acted on the advice, they said.
HRLC Executive Director Hugh de Kretser said:
“Given the widespread evidence of ongoing harm to children on Nauru, we need to immediately bring people to safety in Australia. Then we need the Commission to make sure this never happens again.
The Commission is doing vital work to prevent child abuse in Australia. At the very same time, the Australian Government is warehousing children offshore in conditions that allow child abuse to thrive. We can’t let this continue.”
You can also listen to Louise Newman, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne and former member of the Government Advisory Committee on Offshore Detention, speaking about her concerns for women and children on Nauru in this interview on Radio National.
She describes the response to the revelations from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton as a ‘morally unacceptable attempt to trivialise, dismiss and blame the victims’.