Call for immediate action on mental health standards in immigration detention


SANE Australia supports the following call by the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses.



24 October 2011

Media Release


Following last night’s alarming look at life inside immigration detention centres on ABC TV’s Four Corners, key health and mental health organisations and mental health advocates are demanding the Government urgently review the standards of mental health care in all immigration detention centres.

As Four Corners highlighted, this issue is urgent and action needs to be taken now. The mental health of immigration detainees can’t wait until the political debate over the appropriateness of immigration detention has been resolved.

Every person has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, to have decent living conditions, and freedom to communicate with their family, lawyers and friends. The Government must act now to make the changes to the living conditions and freedoms that will improve the mental health and wellbeing of people in detention.

Detainees have the right to mental health care commensurate with their need. The Government’s own National Practice Standards for the Mental Health Workforce should apply to detention centre staff. Mental health professionals need to be able to work within the same standards that protect everyone in Australia to ensure that the care they provide to detainees is effective and safe.

In early October a report from the Australian Human Rights Commission was released, which raised serious questions about the mental health impacts of indefinite detention on people being held at the Curtin Immigration Detention Centre.

There are genuine concerns that the Government is not providing adequate mental health care to people in detention centres at a time when incidents of self-harm and suicide have increased, and riots, protests, and hunger strikes have become common.

It is clear that conditions inside detention centres are unacceptable. Children are especially vulnerable. The mental health crisis in the immigration detention system is rapidly worsening and these conditions cannot be allowed to continue.

The Government must immediately launch an independent investigation into the standards of mental health care in Australia’s immigration detention centres.

pdf ACMHN Media Release