OPINION: Detention centre anti-whistleblower laws wrong

IT'S bad enough the Federal Government has largely ignored the Human Rights Commission's calls for a Royal Commission into the abuse of children in detention centres.

The idea that any staff who dare complain publicly about child abuse can now be sent to prison is just sickening.

Figures in the Human Rights Commission's much-maligned report early this year revealed there were 233 assaults of children in Australia's detention centres, on-shore and off-shore, between January 2013 and March 2014.

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The release of that report was accompanied by a torrent of (ongoing) abuse against commissioner Gillian Triggs from the government.

The Immigration Minister has defended the new laws by saying they would not prevent workers at the detention centres from raising concerns "through the appropriate channels". This comment fails to recognise the media is generally the last port of call for people trying to address issues such as this.

Even in the best of circumstances, our society does a poor job of looking after whistleblowers.

Having dealt with a few of them over the years, I know in most cases whistleblowers tend to be frightened of the likely consequences of speaking out but at the same time compelled to do so by the need to fix whatever issue they are raising.

Most of the time they would be much happier reporting the matter to the appropriate authorities and being done with it.

I have seen people respond to the issue of child abuse in detention centres by blaming the parents for bringing them here in the first place.

Even if this is your view, the fact remains, these children are here.

These children are not responsible for the actions of their parents. These children are in the care of the Australian community - even if we have outsourced that "care" to Manus Island or Nauru.

Is this how our society treats children? Is this what we have come to?


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