Protest against children in Immigration detention at Broadmeadows

The Gillard Government made a commitment in 2010 to release all children from immigration detention by June 2011, but still 1000 children languish in the harsh environment of immigration camps around Australia. The Refugee Action Collective organised a protest yesterday outside the Broadmeadows Detention Centre which currently houses 140 young asylum seekers from the ages of 13-18.

Related: Melbourne Protests report | MITA demonstration - different activist responses | Video of direct action at Broadmeadows Detention Centre: Detainees escape, activists capsicum sprayed and arrested | Youtube Videos - speech by Nicole Mousely, Video by izzywombat | Flickr photos by Takver | Refugee Action Collective - Vic

The protest attracted about 300 people with an initial rally in a car park at Hungry Jack's restaurant on the corner of Camp and Sydney Roads, Broadmeadows. The rally got under way shortly after 1pm with Greens MP Colleen Hartland making a short speech. Protesters unfurled their banners; balloons saying 'welcome refugees' were pumped with helium and handed out.

The protest follows a teenage boy who climbed five metres up a tree and refused to come down on Friday 18th March, in protest against his continuing detention. The protest on Saturday heard from one speaker how a SERCO guard taunted the kid to jump.

The Australian Human Rights Commission report tabled in 2004 found that "children in Australian immigration detention centres had suffered numerous and repeated breaches of their human rights. In particular, the Inquiry found that Australia's immigration detention policy failed to protect the mental health of children, failed to provide adequate health care and education and failed to protect unaccompanied children and those with disabilities."

The protesters walked the short distance to Sydney Road where the marchers held up their banners to the traffic heading north on the Hume Highway. Then moving onto Camp Road and marching about a kilometre up to the detention centre with a police escort.

The front gates of the detention centre were shut and padlocked of course with police and SERCO security officers behind the gates. The protesters hired platform truck set up for speakers was parked in front of the gate. Evidently most of the children in detention had been taken by bus on an excursion of the Great Ocean Road.

The Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation is located on an old military site called Maygar Barracks, located on Camp Road in Broadmeadows. It was established by the Howard Government in 2005. At the time the local ALP member for Calwell, Maria Vamvakinou, opposed this detention centre being set up, but I couldn't see any Labor MPs in the crowd at this protest.

People milled and listened to several speakers, including Sue Bolton from the Refugee Action Collective, Hyder Gulam the President of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Gilios Kogoya a West Papuan refugee, Nicole Mousely - a refugee advocate who regularly visits the children in this detention centre (Watch video of this speaker), Wayne Klempel an AMWU northern suburbs trade union official, and Alex Bhathal from the Greens.

Occasionally throughout the afternoon a helium balloon escaped and drifted skyward. Towards the end of the rally in front of the gates the rest of the balloons were released to float over the detention camp. While people listened to the speeches, a blank banner was unrolled and marker pens produced for people to add messages to the banner, which would later be delivered inside the camp.

Three teenagers managed to escape, with one climbing two barbed wire topped fences to reach the rally. First aid was sought and an ambulance was called to attend. According to Peter from Melbourne Protests "Most dramatic, three boys managed to escape as far as the forecourt, where they were quickly surrounded by a protective circle of sympathisers. Unfortunately, one cut himself on the barbed wire in the process and relapsed into shock. An ambulance had to be called, and after some while he seemed quite recovered. After much discussion an agreement was reached by which the three agreed to return voluntarily to the centre, on the basis that there would then be no adverse repercussions …. In the meantime, the ambulance had been summoned to the centre itself, where the word was that there had been another instance of self-harm. This could not be confirmed."

The rally wound up with a march back down Camp road about 4pm to the Hungry Jack's Car Park off Sydney Road. It was announced another protest is being planned in about two weeks time.

Professor Louise Newman, a psychiatrist, has written recently about the issue of children in immigration detention. She is Director of the Monash University Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology and Chairwoman of the Detention Health Advisory Group to the Department of Immigration:

"Australia has the dubious honour of being the first developed nation to have a policy of mandatory detention for all 'unauthorised' arrivals for an indefinite period of time (Silove, Austin and Steel 2007). Detention of children has highlighted what may be seen as a fundamental tension between the priorities of immigration law and the rights of children to care and protection."

"Although Australia is a voluntary signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child we remain fundamentally in breach of this and related conventions." she said. "In the midst of debates about the appropriate responses to asylum seekers, infants and children have become caught in a system that is unable to provide adequate protection or support for families who have already experienced significant trauma."

Time for the Gillard Government to live up to its promise of freeing all children from the harsh realities of immigration detention.



MITA demonstration- 3 refugees break out, 2 activists capsicum sprayed, 1 arrested.

A march and rally in support of the 140+ young refugees being held in long term detention at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA )in Broadmeadows was held on Saturday April 3. Despite poor weather 200-250 people gathered thanks to a good promotional effort from protest organisers Refugee Action Collective (RAC). After gathering in a car park on the corner of Sydney Road at 1pm the crowd marched down Camp Road to the entrance of MITA where speeches from a variety of refugee advocates, former detainees and others condemned the overcrowded conditions in the camp as well as the practice of locking up children in general.

Later in the gathering, some protesters began rocking back and forth on the gates to the entrance of the compound. Those running the stage requested they desist arguing that the rally and RAC had brought together a coalition of different groups together on the basis that such action would not occur. A small number of protesters left at this point.

Most of the crowd (including this writer) were unaware that those at the fence had spotted young refugees running within the grounds of the compound. The first time many realized that a break out had occurred was when the young man clambered over a side fence cutting himself on barbed wire in the process. Two other teenage refugees who had escaped further down Camp Road then came running into the crowd looking for help.

Unfortunately no one appeared to have planned for this. The possibility that those inside the camp would take action should have been considered and prepared for, especially given the recent spate of refugee uprisings around the country. On the other hand a rumour had spread earlier that all the boys had been taken on an excursion for the day and at least some present were unaware that anyone was still inside.

Reactions to the escape were varied. A large section of the protest helped the exhausted and injured boys to a spot by a wall and then surrounded them to prevent any attempt at recapture by the police or security. Things became somewhat confused. Amongst the crowd some felt that if the boys wanted to leave then the protest should surround them and march off while the police were outnumbered. Others were concerned that in lieu of adequate support networks the boys would eventually have to return to custody and that leaving the site would affect their ability to claim asylum. For the boys’ part they seemed bewildered with many different people talking to them. As one of the boys had been cut by the barbed wire while scaling the fence an ambulance was called.

In the meantime those on stage did not address what had occurred and failed to suggest that the crowd surround and protect the boys. Their decision to continue with speeches as if nothing had happened was surreal given that three vulnerable refugees who had just freed themselves were sitting metres away. Whether those running the stage did this because they were worried about losing control of the protest (which had happened as soon as the boys broke out), because they were worried at enflaming the situation or because they didn’t know what else to do was unclear. However their response was at the very least inadequate and only added to the overall confusion.

In the midst of all this the small number of police who had earlier sealed off the entry road, as well as those stationed inside the gates, remained stationary. A small number of extra police were brought in, but made no move towards the protest. Whether anyone was negotiating with the police was unclear and once more in lieu of information from the stage, or anywhere else for that matter, rumours began to circulate.

After some musicians on stage failed to get anyone to join in on percussion and the speeches wound up the MC announced that the rally was over and that people would soon be marching off. No update on the boys’ situation was given and no explanation offered as to who would remain to assist them. Some of the protesters began firming up to leave while the rest remained with the boys. Around this time the paramedics arrived to check on their condition.

In the meantime some protesters dressed in orange overalls reading “Australia’s Guantanamo” attempted to take direct action. One made it through the fence via a fire equipment cupboard and began scaling a second, inner fence before being arrested. Two others attempted to lock on to the gates and shut the centre down. Before they were able to do so they were assaulted by police who sprayed them in the face with capsicum spray. Some protesters immediately went to their aid pouring water on their faces to alleviate the extreme pain they were suffering.
The paramedics announced shortly after that as the boys had not sustained major injuries they would not remove them from the site. They did not assist the people who had been capsicum sprayed although it’s possible they did not know that it had happened. The ambulance then entered MITA. What may have occurred inside the centre to require this remained unknown.

By this time some of the protesters had begun negotiating for the boys to be allowed to return inside so long as they would not be victimized or face major repercussions. Although MITA management were yet to respond and it remained unclear as to what the boys wanted to do or what their fate might entail, half of the remaining demonstrators chose to march off at this point with red flags aflying.

The 50 or 60 people who remained to support the escapees and injured protesters remained on site for up to an hour until an agreement was reached. Although MITA would not allow the boys to be accompanied on site by a lawyer and/or supporters they agreed that the only punishment would be a week’s suspension for excursions and that supporters would be allowed to check on their situation in the coming days.
No doubt the boy’s escape and the police violence, as well as activists’ reactions to these events, will be hotly debated in the weeks to come.

I saw the guy in the photo running towards the fence on TV and if he is under 20 I will eat his birth certificate or any other original ID he arrived with or he ever is made to produce. What's that? be processed as a child and placed in a detention centre amongst children he hasn't had to produce any ID at all even though he looks over 20. This process and our hard earned taxes with it, are being total scammed by these illegal que-jumpers. I have 3 World Vision children, two Muslim, and on the governaments own figures for the billion we are flushing down the toilet on these enhancement seekers Australia could have sponsored 5.5 million World Vision kids. From what I know the families of my three sponsored children could no more raise the 15,000 dollars to pay a people smuggler than fly to the moon. I don't blame them from rorting the system, the fault lies with those that allow them to do it and even worse those such as lawyers and others who live off or profit from this rort.

What happened was unfortunate and predictable. We argued against the protest being held at Broadmeadows for exactly these reasons. We did not want to see teenagers used in a political protest because of the consequences for them. One of those boys is 14 yrs- what does he understand of the consequences of jumping the fence? Also the idiots who suggested that they run away- probably do not remember what happened to the Baktiyari family because of the same action. How is a 14 yr old going to survive on the run?

The responsibility for indefinite mandatory detention is in the hands of the politicians- its implementation is with DIAC. These should be the targets for protests. Do not endanger the kids.

Everytime the refugee issue heats up, fringe groups gather to exploit the issue for their own ends. Where are they during the hard slog when no one wants to know? Violent protests do not change minds and hearts- they just polarise. In a country where there is abysmal ignorance of human rights, this sort of action just divides further.

The work of the REAL REFUGEE RIGHTS people who gathered on Saturday was undone by those who show up when the media gather for their own self gratification.

I don't disagree that taking the kids away would have been stupid, but the only violence was when the cops sprayed people in the face with capsicum spray and wrestled the boys to the ground. Some people shouted at the police in response, but no one laid a finger on them. Let's also not forget that the rally and the ensuing media attention has meant that many people in Melbourne now know that children are being locked up in Broadmeadows- something they didn't know before. There was a story on the the ABC news on Saturday night and a ten minute discussion on Jon Faine this morning.

The main lesson would seem to be that RAC needs to plan protests more carefully to have first aid and a contingency plan for unexpected events like this.

The direct action crew locking themselves to the gate could have been a good part of the stunt, but this needs to be communicated with the main protest organisers, not sprung as a surprise. And likewise, while not necessarily endorsing the DA, the protest organisers ought to organise to support people who get capsicum sprayed.

I don't know if taking the kids away would have been a good idea, but people jumping the fence has happened before and it shouldn't come as a surprise.

Having the Socialist Alternative Red Bloc leave en masse at a critical point is just as bad as the MC not doing anything to hellp, and they should know better and stay around to support in such a difficult situation.

Well done for organising it, but I hope the next one is thought through more carefully.

I have always wanted to make a difference n our communities and feel very bad for the refugees who are locked away. Can someone please send me an email of when the next protest will be? I really want to help! Even if there is volenteer work with refugees, can someone please let me know A.S.A.P

You could try contacting the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre:

The Police should of used live rounds and shot every one there in the head.
The things you see when you don't have a pump action shot gun !

You can also get involved in the Refugee Action Collective

on socialist alternative... lest we forget that these wankers called for the refugees who escaped from woomera in a mass break out in 2002 to be handed back to ACM after we had a 'victory march' to the front gates. for shame. it astonishes me that anyone works with these irrelevant losers. as for the dsp...they called for a condemnation of people who were involved in a direct action at woomera detention centre(including myself) while we were in prison awaiting trial where most were acquitted. This is despite the fact that we were receiving active support from local christians, alp members, various trade unions and senior lawyers. If you want to achieve nothing keep working in broad alliances with these social pariahs - that's advice for moderates and radicals alike

Can you link to something about this? I have no doubts what you say is true, I've seen it for myself, but evidence helps when working with people...

Anyone who was at woomera in easter 2002 and participating in meetings post breakout could verify that claim(several hundred people) that S.A proposed a 'victory march' to the gates of woomera to hand back refugees. I know it sounds shocking - it was shocking. To prove I'm a selective red baiter - talk to longer term socialist party people about it - they were there in numbers. So far as the DSP goes - they moved a motion to condemn myself and others alleged to have been involved in a woomera breakout because of 'violence against workers' at an organising meeting for a baxter protest to be held at easter 2003. There was no evidence of violence. there were no charges laid for violent acts at any stage associated with this action. they justified their actions on the basis of media claims. Anyone involved in no-one is illegal back then could verify that claim as they prevented this act of dsp treachery.

Could you please post some evidence/details re this supposed motion the DSP raised? And I don't mean "ask anyone who was there". I find it very hard to believe because I was in the DSP at the time and don't remember anyone ever saying any thing like that about the people involved in the breakout. Frankly I think either you seriously misconstrued something else that was said, or you deliberately twisted it because you have and axe to grind.

The DSP only sent one member along because they had an international conference that was planned well before the Woomera protest (they should have sent more people anyway), tho they did organise a solidarity protest at the detention centre in Sydney.

sorry if i was unclear. the 'victory march' at woomera easter 2002 was the socialist alternative initiative. the dsp issue was about one year later and the motion was presented at a baxter organising meeting in early 2003. I have no axe to grind with the dsp. this is a simple historical fact. I am quite certain about the detail as i had numerous conversations while awaiting trial in port augusta prison with no-one is illegal members and others about the importance of it not getting media exposure as the public sentiment was almost certainly going to impact to impact the severity of any sentence.
i am not surprised that the dsp members involved didn't widely broadcast their conduct to the wider membership as they saw the response it got from decent activists of all political persuasions when it was raised. It's possible that i could track down minutes etc but really couldn't be bothered. i think it is important that people are aware of this history so they can make informed decisions about who they work with. Feel free to disregard if you feel that my assertions aren't credible.

Congratulations on leaving the dsp. I'm sure your life improved significantly upon doing so.

Yes my life did significantly improve upon leaving and I still have a lot of resentment towards certain individuals. But however fucked the DSP/SA was, I don't think that incident should reflect on the vast majority of the people involved because (assuming it's true) nobody but a few individuals knew anything about it. You don't happen to remember who they were do you?

If those three guys were children then we need to review the common definition of who is a minor. One looked around 17 but the remaining two looked in their 20s. So are they all 20s and 30s in the centre? I have heard that only one or two are under 18 years old and the rest are 20s, 30s and even 40 years old. Very misleading and a waste of our resource. If these detainees are not minors than ARC and the rest of protesting groups aren't you just ruining their chances? Is your cause is unjustified? Just a thought. Then again if they are not children they should all be in a more security facility. Also, please remember that social justice and change come with responsibility so be more responsibile in your action guys.

This is pure nonsense. The oldest of the kids seen in that video was 17 and the youngest 14. And unlike you, most of the people who visit the detention centres can tell the difference between a teenager and a 40 year old.

And so say you with no evidence to support this claim, apart from "people who visit the detention centres can tell the difference between a teenager and a 40 year old". Well gee whiz so can I and I can also tell a twenty plus adult from a seventeen year old. Just tell me what evidence either of these two produced or any asylum seeker who possibly could be older than the required age has to produce before it is just willy nilly accepted that he is a child.

Everyone in the centre is under 18, it's for youth only.

I saw the guy in the photo running towards the fence on TV and if he is under 20 I will eat the birth certificate or any other original ID he arrived with or he ever produces. What's that? be processed as a child and placed in a detention centre amongst children he hasn't had to produce any ID at all even though he looks over 20. This process and our hard earned taxes with it, are being total scammed by these illegal que-jumpers. I have 3 World Vision children, two Muslim, and on the governaments own figures for the billion we are flushing down the toilet on these enhancement seekers Australia could have sponsored 5.5 million World Vision kids. From what I know the families of my three sponsored children could no more raise the 15,000 dollars to pay a people smuggler than fly to the moon. I don't blame them from rorting the system, the fault lies with those that allow them to do it and even worse those such as lawyers and others who live off or profit from this rort.

You could easily verify that they were children by looking it up: it's the Melbourne Transit Facility here

But you didn't because you're a pig and I feel sorry for "your" World Vision children having to accept money from a self-righteous moron like you.

That link to vague generic information doesn't verify or prove anything, so better to stick to insults , try racist instead of pig next time, than trying to argue your case intelligently. I say again these two who look twenty plus would have just said they are children and that's it they are treated as kids. Plus I ask you do you think we are better to spend billions on these illegals or sponsoring over 5 million World Vision kids?

Finally given you believe my WV kids would be better off without my help, why don't you show you are not a total hypocrite and take over the sponsorship of the three children. I am more than happy to arrange this with World Vision. For my part I am guessing you are one of those who is only happy with genorosity for the world's worse off when taxpayers foot the bill.

So you can tell the difference between a 20yo and a 17yo? Pretty special powers you have! Well I've met him, so I think you and I need to meet so you can eat his ID as you promised.

So the "special power" you have to decide either of the two guys that look well over twenty, see the two of them behind the one who does look 18 or so in this photo..., are children is meeting one of them? So what ID did he show you? Or what happened did he tell you he was a child and that was that? Great counter argument Sherlock. Tell you what give me the names and city of birth of these two and I will happily put the money and effort in to try and prove you right.

No children, which should be 16 and under, appropriately should get special treatment and I agree with releasing them to the community, but these two adults are rorting the system and should not be considered children until they produce the evidence to back it up. Post that evidence that they are children and if it is genuine yes I will print a copy out and eat it. By the way although I support kindness to the children themselves surely their parents should face criminal charges and visa refusal for sticking a child on a dangerous boat journey. Not doing this is a double standard as Australian parents would be criminally charged for doing anything this reckless with our children.

"Tell you what give me the names and city of birth of these two and I will happily put the money and effort in to try and prove you right."

But why waste all that money when you could just use it to sponsor another World Vision child?

As mentioned elsewhere on this site, the boys in question expressly requested that their photos should not be published, not on their own account, but out of concern for possible - or likely - reprisals against their families. For this reason it is unfortunate perhaps that footage and photos have been released, but it is obviously too late to do anything about that. On the other hand, identifying them by name and place of birth if anyone were tempted to take the bait offered would be inexcusable.

This is a complete lie. The boys expressly requested that their pictures be shown and that there be more protests. They were asked again after comments were posted here saying they didn't and they responded that the person saying that they didn't was "lying" and that they had said they want their pictures shown.

'Lie' is a rather strong word. The person who passed the message from the boys is someone of absolute integrity, who moreover spoke to them in their own language. If there was a misunderstanding or change of mind, that is one thing, but 'lying' is not my custom. I have already pointed out my surprise at the inconsistency between this message and the boys' later apparent willingness to speak on camera, and offered a possible explanation. My own position would be along the lines of better safe than sorry, even if it means sacrificing a striking photo.

I know exactly who you are talking about and I also know that she later denied ever having said it. So the only question left is are you the liar or is she?

Frankly the nicest explanation I can come up with is that one or both of you thought it was a little white lie for the boy's benefit? Which would still be quite (perhaps unconsciously) self-serving given than it promotes your views about political strategy for the movement.

Sorry, but I think you have jumped to mistaken conclusions both about me, my views, and the identity of the person I referred to. You know no more about me than I know about you, and I fail to see what you can possibly claim to know about my 'views about political strategy for the movement'. I don't know who the female person is that you refer to. Neither am I in the habit of telling any kind of lies, white or otherwise: what I have described in this post and elsewhere is precisely what happened.
If this plain statement is not enough to satisfy you, I don't think any useful purpose can be served by continuing this exchange, do you?

No because you aren't an honest person.

Actually sorry. I owe you an apology big time! I just realized who told you and it's not who I originally thought, nor are you who I thought. I guess there was some kind of misunderstanding or they changed their minds later. Massive, huge apologies! Sorry.

What rubbish and how convenient. most of these illegals destroy their documents (and for sure these two adults posing as children did) because making up a story is obviously better then the truth, but then authorities can't check their stories because it might endanger their family. Please tell me why would authorities in say Afghanistan care a hoot that someone has left the country and has caught a boat to Australia. With I am sure a few genuine exceptions (like any Christian who could possibly raise the money to flee outrageous genuine persecution in Pakistan*, Iraq or Afghanistan...anybody hear of even one of them???) this is just a colossal scam allowed because of believers of false and illogical nonsense or by the many people who profit from it!

There are way more poor and disadvantaged Christian people (especially single mothers or battered divorced wives and their family) in the Solomon Islands or New Guinea than most if not all of these boat people (i.e. they could not raise $10-15,000 in a lifetime) who would love to have a new better life in Australia, but if they get on a boat they are they sent back immediately and yet Muslim illegals, 'rich' enough to pay this amount of money and with values and beliefs way different from our own, get accepted as genuine refugees at well over 90% and even those proven as frauds not sent back.

Yes we can have economic immigrants, and yes a mix of these should be Muslim, Buddist whatever, but we should choose them for what they offer Australia. Humanitarian migrants should come form the may more deserving destitute in our Pacific neighbourhood first.

Finally let me ask a question...I have seen quite a few burka wearing ladies in my local suburb and likewise with the wives at the trial of the Muslim terrorists who plotted to blow up the Australian Army barracks were wearing burkas (now that wouldn't go together much would it?). How does anyone who makes his wife wear a burka or any woman who accepts this share "Australian Values"?

*Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan 'for blasphemy'

Pakistan cleric offers reward to kill Christian woman

After spending ten months in detention, firstly in juvenile then after a flawed bone scan to age him a young Indonesian, 15 at the time, has been charged with 'people smuggling' because he cooked on board a boat that brought to safety 50 Iraqis and Afghanis to Ashmore Reef. He has endured Tuberculosis, which he was diagnosed with at Royal Perth Hospital, and is comes from one of the poorest villages in Indonesia, from the island of Batam. He is the face of scores slipping through the cracks in our management systems. Australia did not notify the Indonesian Consulate because they didn't have to, because there is no 'Treaty' between the two countries to do so. Gerry.

"a young Indonesian, 15 at the time," he claims to been have 15 and his family claims he was 15 at the time. Maybe this will prove to be correct, maybe not, but Gerry please don't misrepresent the facts. And I personally would trust a bone scan more a birth certificate from countries like Indonesia (where any documentation can be bought for the right price).

Look the most important question your point raises is, if the Indonesians are being treated as children or adults based on bone scans why aren't the asylum seekers, where it is WAY more significant and costly to us if they are lying than which jail an Indonesian is in. But the answer must be no as their is no way the 3 asylum seekers who jumped the fence were 17, 17 and 14 as they claimed to be. If not it is just one more example of the special treatment of asylum seekers over others. Most time it is Australian citizens (who for example would be arrested immediately and go to jail for a long time for arson), or our neighbours such as destitute Papua New Guineans who are immediately sent back if they arrive by boat, the chap born in England but has lived here since he was 6 sent back last week, but in this case it is Indonesians.

We are being scammed and it is the people who let that happen who disgust me, not the people doing the scamming who you can hardly blame, given their are zero ramifications, for taking advantage of the situation.

There are some very important debates that need to take place following from the action at Broadmeadows and there are some lingering and new issues that people have with the direction that certain groups or individuals are trying to take. I would encourage anyone wanting to know more about what is going on or to contribute to these debates to come along to a meeting and film screening tonight at Trades Hall. details are on facebook!/event.php?eid=200173023356396&index=1

or 6:30pm Trades Hall a film of the action will be shown as well as time for discussion on what happened and future actions