Keep fighting for the children on Nauru



Working in the refugee sector in Australia is consistently challenging. In the 17 years since the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) opened its doors, of which I have worked for the past eight, we have witnessed the Pacific Solution Mark 1 open and shut, Temporary Protection Visas introduced and repealed and then reintroduced, offshore processing on Manus and Nauru reopened and children in and out of detention.

Melbournians rally for the rights of asylum seekers. (Chris Hopkins/Getty Images)Our checkered past has now led us to a place in our history unlike anything we have seen before: a manmade hell for people seeking asylum on Nauru.

Nauru was created by a policy of offshore processing. There is no doubt that the suffering that is happening on Nauru is entirely a situation of our making. Which also means it's a situation we can change.

Recently, then Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, bragged that he had successfully removed all children from detention. In his convenient amnesia he has forgotten about the 107 children still stranded on Nauru. 

Through the hard work of legal intervention by lawyers and advocates, 27 overseas medical requests were processed for the transfer of critically ill children to Australia for medical attention. Children who, in some cases, have attempted to take their own life. Children whose condition has deteriorated to a point where they no longer have the capacity to eat, speak, drink or move; children diagnosed with the rare Traumatic Withdrawal Syndrome.

Medical professionals tell us that without treatment, Traumatic Withdrawal Syndrome is life threatening, as children's physical health deteriorates quickly and they can suffer from organ failure or their hearts can simply stop. Let that sink in. I am talking about children who could die. Deaths that could be preventable.

These children's parents are desperately trying to get food and water into deteriorating bodies. They are pleading for help. They have nowhere to turn as the very place they live is the cause of the problem. Being on Nauru is destroying these children and their families.


"There is no other way to describe the situation than a medical emergency. We have betrayed these children and robbed them of precious years of their lives."


Sitting thousands of kilometres away, it's hard to imagine the situation that is unfolding. Hard to reconcile the reality for children on Nauru with our comfortable lives, especially when politicians repeatedly tell us that there aren't kids on Nauru or that medical professionals are exaggerating the problem or asserting it's just behavioural issues with the children. Would our leaders really deceive us?

I work closely with our detention advocacy program at the ASRC and we witness a very different picture to that painted by our leaders. We estimate there are at least 30 children on Nauru with symptoms of Traumatic Withdrawal Syndrome. There are 70 people in need of urgent attention and care on our waiting list. We fear that number will grow.

Children leave us voice messages with cries for help; children who attempt to cope by drawing pictures of their pain and suffering. Five years on Nauru has left them traumatised and they have given up all hope.

There is no other way to describe the situation than a medical emergency. We have betrayed these children and robbed them of precious years of their lives.  

We all have children in our families, in our neighbourhoods, in our friendship groups. We all know how vital early years are in the development and care for a child.

We can no longer turn away while children's lives are at risk under the guise of a necessary policy of deterrence and 'compassion'.

When my kids grow up, I want to look them in the eye and tell them I did everything I possibly could for the children on Nauru. I ask you to join me in this commitment.



Jana FaveroJana Favero is director of advocacy and campaigns at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. She is a regular spokesperson for the ASRC on human rights and refugee policy on and offshore. She contributes comment to major publications of Fairfax and Newscorp press, ABC national and local radio and TV, the Guardian, New York Times and Al Jazeera. Jana is committed to advocating until people seeking asylum are treated fairly in Australia. Main image: Melbournians rally for the rights of asylum seekers. (Chris Hopkins/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Jana Favero, Nauru, asylum seekers, asylum seeker children, Peter Dutton



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Existing comments

When we look at Mannus and Nauru, why dont we explore the economics? The contracts are owned by the huge Spanish conglomerate Ferrovial after they bought out Transfield. What pies do they have their fingers in? Ferrovial owns 50% stake in AGS Airports Ltd. Ferrovial owns 100% of Cintra, a leading international toll road and car park operator. Ferrovial as at 21 December 2014 owns a 25% indirect stake in Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd (formerly BAA Ltd) Ferrovial owns 100% of Amey plc, the UK services company; 100% of Cespa, the Spanish environmental services, waste treatment and management company; 100% of W.W. Webber, the Texan construction company. Ferrovial owns 59.06% of Budimex, the Polish constructor. (source Wikipedia) Hypothetically it costs $2000 a day per man, woman and child and there are roughly 1593 in detention, then it costs the Australian Taxpayer $1,162,890,000 to further line this economic pariah's pockets so this government can brag about illusory border security. It would be far cheaper to settle them in a large farming or solar project in Australia and make them work for 5 years, both to earn their keep and weed out any radicals, than put up with this economic insanity.

Frank Armstrong | 12 September 2018  

I think the best thing to do is to keep emailing and phoning major party politicians on this issue. And vote GREEN at the nexe Federal election. The Greens are the only party with some compassion for these desperate children and adults on Nauru and PNG!

Grant Allen | 12 September 2018  

We Goldstein Grandmothers were out there again this morning, handing out leaflets to commuters at Gardenvale about the 103 children still in detention on Nauru. We have noticed greater support for our actions over the past few weeks and more people say they are ashamed about what is going on. Articles like this one keep us going too.

Helen Praetz | 13 September 2018  

Please read this and think about what you can do? A phone call to a Minister or local member costs nothing. Some have money to give . Some have energy for demonstrating. It’s not a situation of ‘there’s nothing I can do’ .

Tony Kevin | 13 September 2018  

When will like minded Australians stand up and object vehemently, to our Govts' imprisoning innocent people. People like us, who have asked for help, but have been given nothing but pain and suffering. How can our Govt. Get away with this appalling injustice, in imprisoning innocent people, women and children, in a hell hole detention centre in Nauru. This is done in our name, and is shameful to me, and to the world. For goodness sake, bring refugees here, help them ,teach them the good parts of our culture, make them welcome!! I abhor the Govt's refugee policy, and call upon them to be compassionate.

Bernie | 14 September 2018  

Congratulations Jana - you have exposed our sin of indifference if we do not protest this immoral policy which sadly has the support of the Opposition too.

Ern Azzopardi | 14 September 2018  

This appalling situation created by our Government must cease. Blessings on the ARSC and the thousands of Australians who are doing what we can to alert the government to their failure on so many levels that allows this situation to persist.

Rod Horsfield | 14 September 2018  

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