Charity Calls for More Detention Transparency
31 October 2015 at 4:37 pm
Aid agency Save The Children has called on the Turnbull Government to provide greater transparency and independent oversight of all Australian and offshore processing centres as the organisation ends its welfare contract on Nauru.
The call comes after the Federal Government awarded a new contract to for-profit business, Transfield, to carry out its welfare and education programs in the detention centre previously delivered by Save The Children.
The charity urged Prime Minister Turnbull to also adopt a three-point plan to safeguard child welfare in Australia’s immigration system.
CEO of Save The Children, Paul Ronalds, told Pro Bono Australia News that the charity's current contract had ended and it could not tender directly for a new one because the Government had made them subject to warranties for companies limited by shares.
He said Transfield, whose goal is to make money, was now also providing welfare, education and recreational services to a highly vulnerable population with no transparency.
Ronalds confirmed that, under its previous contract, the Department of Immigration had included a performance bond which the charity refused to agree to and a compromise was reached to allow the charity to continue its work on Nauru.
He said his organisation did seek to provide services via a subcontract with another bidder that was unsuccessful for the latest contract awarded to Transfield.
“The Australian public have a right to know what is being done in their name to some of the world’s most vulnerable people in Australian-funded detention centres – people fleeing violence and persecution in places like Syria and Afghanistan,” Ronalds said.
“The only way to lift the veil is with transparent and independent oversight on Nauru, Manus Island and other detention centres. Relying on ad hoc committees, Senate investigations and the work of agencies like Save the Children is not a substitute.
“In its absence our role has been critical – both in raising concerns for the children and adults in our care directly to government, and in publicly shining a light on the impact of Australia’s harsh immigration policies on vulnerable children.
“I’m concerned that as Save the Children’s contract ends there will no longer be an agency whose mission is to uphold the rights of children on Nauru. Nor will there be a human rights organisation advocating for asylum seekers and refugees, holding government to account and keeping the Australian public informed on what is done in their name and with their taxpayer dollars. Without transparent, independent oversight we will have little idea what’s really happening on Nauru.”
He said the issue of diminishing advocacy was being seen by civil society organisations not only in Australia but in the Middle East, Asia and Africa with increasing restrictions on their voices.
"This should be of significant concern for the Not for Profit sector,” he said.
Save the Children called on the Government to:
1. Increase transparency of Australian funded detention centres: Immediately introduce a transparent system of independent oversight, including mandatory reporting by all service providers on minimum human rights standards
2. End the detention of children both onshore and offshore, once and for all: Commit to removing all children from detention – in policy and practice – and immediately introduce a 90 day cap on time spent in detention in all locations, including mainland Australia
3. Resettle refugees in countries where they can be properly supported: Identify sustainable, appropriate third country resettlement options for refugees on Nauru and Manus Island and permanently raise Australia’s humanitarian intake to 30,000 per year in recognition of the unprecedented number of refugees worldwide
“Save the Children has always and continues to call for an end to prolonged detention, especially of children. Australia needs to identify sustainable and appropriate third country resettlement options for refugees on Nauru and Manus Island,” Ronalds said.
He said Save the Children had provided education and welfare services to hundreds of children and adults on Nauru since August 2013.
“We are immensely proud of all our colleagues on Nauru whom have worked in incredibly difficult circumstances to provide comfort and support to asylum seeker children and adults. They have always acted in the best interests of the children and families they have cared for. They were better for our presence on the island,” he said.
“At the same time we have consistently held the Australian government to account for its actions on Nauru and spoken out publicly for vulnerable children, including through the recent senate inquiry and the Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry into immigration detention, which led to the Forgotten Children report.”
The CEO of the Community Council for Australia, David Crosbie said asking charities to lodge million dollar ‘silence bonds’ takes political control of charities and Not for Profits to an extreme.
“No charity should ever have to contend with this kind of provision in their government contract. A government seeking to squash the voice of charities will pay a very real political price,” Crosbie said.
“Good governments are not afraid of criticism, or transparency, or accountability. Good governments get re-elected.
“If charities and Not for Profits continue to make the well-being of the communities they serve their first priority, our sector will maintain the trust of the community. Community trust is at the heart of our survival. Community trust is a commodity governments cannot buy or sell.”