For so long Central Coast residents and so many fellow Australians have despaired of the harsh treatment and lack of human kindness metred out to our asylum seekers, especially the children.
The new administrator of Christmas Island, Barry Haase, commences his three year appointment. A retired former Liberal MP, he is very outspoken and scathing in his views on asylum seekers. This is of added concern in an already volatile situation. However, there is renewed hope for future positive outcomes with news from the Federal Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison; after extensive negotiations between Western Australian Catholic bishops and the Department of Immigration. The Catholic Education Office gained the tender for schooling children on Christmas Island and the Western Australian curriculum is to be followed. Under the terms of the 12 month contract at the Christmas Island Learning Centre (CILC) there are presently 56 detainee minors but the CILC will have the capacity to cater for 150 pupils. Dr Tim McDonald, executive director of the Catholic Education Office of Western Australia, has said: “At this stage we are looking at providing education for approximately 60 secondary school students, 60 primary and 30 early years students.” The Catholic Education Office of Western Australia hopes to recruit 20 staff and one principal from within its own school system in Western Australia or from Catholic Education Offices in other states. Experience is needed in dealing with children where English is not their first language and with other challenging behaviours. Play time in a number of outdoor areas, plus equipment and age appropriate furniture is being sent to support the children in all aspects of their learning. The church has previously provided education services at Port Hedland to children in detention. It is seen as putting “rhetoric into action”. Dr Tim McDonald notes that: “Australia’s catholic bishops recently made a statement requesting the government’s asylum seeker policy be more respectful of human dignity and basic human rights, noting the rights of those currently held in detention were being seriously violated”. “I strongly support the bishops’ stance and believe that providing education to children in detention is a moral obligation as education is a fundamental human right and in keeping with the church’s long tradition of supporting the poor and marginalised.” This is a major breakthrough in Australia’s treatment of innocent children in detention and should be more widely known. Reports so far from Western Australia have been positive and with a significant level of support and enthusiasm for the project among the parents, children and teenage detainees.
Letter, 10 Oct 2014