Photo: Picture drawn by child, Leonora immigration detention facility

SOURCE: Australian Human Rights Commission –

Tuesday, 15 February 2011 – Serious concerns have been raised about the impacts of prolonged and indefinite detention in remote locations. The Commission’s 2011 Immigration detention in Leonora summary report highlights the plight of children in particular.

Based on observations from the Commission’s November visit to the facility in outback Western Australia, President Catherine Branson QC has said that the Commission is once again seriously concerned about children in detention who have limited access to the basics necessary for their healthy psychological and physical development.

“The Commission acknowledges the efforts of staff at the Leonora detention facility, who are working in challenging conditions,” Ms Branson said. “However the hot, dusty and harsh physical environment of the facility makes it inappropriate for children. The conditions in the facility highlight the need for the government to act as quickly as possible to implement its initiative of moving some families and unaccompanied minors into community detention.

“This should be reinforced by changes to ensure that in future, children will not be detained in the first place unless it is truly a measure of last resort.” Ms Branson said the Commission’s concerns about conditions in immigration detention facilities had increased as more people were being held in detention for longer periods of time.

“The Commission has repeatedly raised concerns about the serious impacts that prolonged detention can have on people’s mental health and this is even more concerning when coupled with limited access to mental health services in small, remote locations,” Ms Branson said. “It is becoming more urgent for the Australian Government to reconsider the current system of mandatory detention without set time limits. People should only be held in immigration detention if they are individually assessed as posing a risk that justifies detaining them. If no such risk exists, they should be allowed to reside in community-based alternatives to detention while their refugee claims are assessed,” she said.

The Commission’s summary report is available at


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