Senate debates

Thursday, 25 June 2015


Migration Amendment (Regional Processing Arrangements) Bill 2015; In Committee

5:05 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move Greens amendments (8) and (2) on sheet 7738 together:

(8) Page 4 (after line 5), at the end of the Bill (after proposed Schedule 2), add:

Schedule 3—Mandatory reporting of abuse

Migration Act 1958

1 After section 197BA


197BAA Mandatory reporting of reportable assaults

(1) If a designated person believes on reasonable grounds that a person has experienced, or is experiencing, a reportable assault, the designated person must, as soon as practicable, notify the relevant authorities of:

  (a) the alleged assault; and

  (b) the grounds on which the person has formed the belief that the alleged assault occurred.


(2) A person commits an offence if:

  (a) the person is required to make a notification under subsection (1); and

  (b) the person fails to comply with the requirement.

Penalty:   60 penalty units.

Geographical jurisdiction

(3) Section 15.3 of the Criminal Code (extended geographical jurisdiction—category C) applies to an offence against subsection (2).


(4) In this section:

  designated person means:

  (a) an authorised officer; and

  (b) a person appointed or employed by, or for the performance of services for:

     (i) the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory; or

     (ii) an authority of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory; and

(c) a person employed by another person or body that is contracted by the Commonwealth, or an authority of the Commonwealth, to perform services in relation to an immigration detention facility.

  relevant authority means:

  (a) in any case—the Department and the Australian Federal Police; and

  (b) if:

     (i) the victim of an alleged reportable assault is a child; and

     (ii) the alleged assault occurs in a State or Territory;

     a relevant authority of the State or Territory that has functions relating to child safety; and

(c) if:

     (i) the victim of an alleged reportable assault is a child; and

     (ii) the alleged assault occurs in a foreign country;

     a police force of the foreign country.

  reportable assault means any of the following, to the extent that they occur, or allegedly occur, in an immigration detention facility:

  (a) unlawful sexual contact;

  (b) sexual harassment;

(c) unreasonable use of force;

  (d) any other assault.

(2) Clause 2, page 2, at the end of the table, after proposed table item 3, add:

4. Schedule 3 Immediately after the commencement of Schedule 1 to the Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Act 2015.

These amendments provide that child abuse and assault inside detention facilities, when it occurs, would have to be reported to the police—both the Federal Police and the local police at the location of the facility—and, of course, to the department. They are basic mandatory reporting requirements. They mean that, for any staff member engaged in these facilities or any person who is contracted by the Commonwealth or subcontracted by another contractor, if you work inside the facility and you see child abuse, you must report it.

You would think that this type of mandatory reporting would go without saying, but it does not. We know it does not because months and months of evidence has come forward to show that the exact opposite is occurring inside Nauru. Children are suffering at the hands of child abusers; women are being raped and sexually assaulted and harassed; yet there is both underreporting of these incidents internally and no independent reporting as a matter of course.

The culture of secrecy inside these detention camps provides for a lack of reporting to an independent authority. That is wrong. It should not be the case that staff and asylum seekers are intimidated into staying quiet. They are not prepared to put their hand up and say what is going on. It must be a requirement of people engaged by the Commonwealth to report when they see things happening that are wrong. There is nothing worse than seeing a child sexually abused and saying nothing about it. It is wrong.

This amendment puts the onus on the staff member, on those engaged at the centre, to report these incidents. If they do not, it is a fine of $10,000 and a criminal offence. Basic mandatory reporting requirements are expected and widely accepted across other institutions and agencies. It should not be a hard thing to introduce here. It should make sense. I would argue that everybody across all sides, regardless of your political stripes, would understand that mandatory reporting should happen. It does not now. This amendment will make sure it must occur and it will give staff, in particular, not just the signal that they must report it, but the encouragement that it is the right thing to do. They will be abiding by the law and ensuring that they report these awful and insidious incidents of abuse and sexual assault. They are the amendments, and they are pretty basic.


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