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Mental health expert confirms detention providers not following immigration department protocols

Media Release
Sarah Hanson-Young 18 Nov 2011

An expert advising the federal government has told an inquiry there is confusion between detention contractors and the Immigration Department about protocols for handling detainees with mental illnesses, the Australian Greens said today.

"Professor Louise Newman has confirmed what we had long suspected - that decisions and protocols made by staff in detention centres on the welfare and health of fragile detainees is not in line with best practice or well-understood medical standards," Greens' immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said.

"Prof. Newman gave examples including the distance between a detainee on suicide watch and a Serco guard is not considered to be best practice.

"Prof. Newman said failure to follow the department's own Psychological Support Programme has led to substandard protocols, which could be more damaging to asylum seekers.

"Her evidence today has reinforced what the Greens have long advocated - that only people with the proper mental health qualifications should be working with asylum seekers, not inadequately trained security guards. Every detention centre needs to have a resident psychiatrist, and medical help must be available 24-hours a day.

"Other experts have told the hearing that there need to be time limits on detention and for children and their families to be living in the community after initial health and security checks have been done.

"The Greens have a bill to restrict detention to 30 days, and for a judicial review for anyone authorities claim need to be held for longer."

Sen. Hanson-Young is deputy chair of the joint select committee into the immigration detention network, which is sitting in Melbourne.



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