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Borderforce Act is inhumane in its secrecy

In July this year the government introduced the Border Force Act containing Secrecy Provisions (Section 42) making it a criminal offence for Departmental staff and contractors, (including healthcare providers and teachers) to disclose knowledge acquired in their capacity of working within the immigration detention system.

The legislation prohibits any worker from speaking out about conditions of detainment or the treatment of asylum seekers in our care.

I felt compelled to start a petition to repeal the Secrecy Provisions because without the ability to speak out workers lose the capacity to fulfil their duty of care. Healthcare providers and teaching staff are legally mandated to report incidents of child abuse but healthcare providers are also called upon to be a voice for vulnerable adults too.

When I worked on Christmas Island, adult clients were often so traumatised that the detention environment exacerbated their trauma symptoms. Grown men started bed wetting, men and women became too frightened to sleep due to horrific nightmares.

Flashbacks became so common that people existed in a numbed vacate void, closed off from their new reality. Incidents of self-harm and suicide attempts were common.

The detention centre did not offer safety and sanctuary but rather an imposed persistent purgatory.

I often prepared clinical recommendations for these people; these human beings; my clients, using my clinical findings. Over my five years on Christmas Island I spoke up for many men, women and children.

When the department of immigration failed to address the recommendations, I would be forced to advocate elsewhere. It was never easy; there were always veiled threats, but not the threat of two years imprisonment.

As a mental health clinician I was duty bound to my clients, morally, ethically and legally, the new Secrecy Provisions now challenge these professional duties.

The public are now informed due to information released by whistle-blowers, the n Human Rights Commissions National Inquiry into Children in Detention Report and the government’s own Moss Report.

We all know conditions within Immigration Detention are unsatisfactory, at times inhumane and definitely cruel, however the situation remains unchanged.

On November 23, the Senate voted to pass four key amendments to the Migration and Maritime Powers Amendment Bill (No.1) 2015 put forward by The n Greens’ Immigration spokesperson SenatorSarah Hanson-Young.

One of the amendments is the reversal of the Secrecy Provisions, and makes it clear that disclosures of matters that are in the public interest are lawful, despite any law or contractual provision to the contrary.

The Bill is now before the Government-controlled House of Representatives, which means it is now up to the Government to support the Bill. But until these provisions are repealed or reversed, I will continue to campaign to end them. Because to put it simply, legislation that defies safe, ethical practice is wrong and the current conditions of detainment are inhumane.

DETENTION: Christine Cummins was duty bound to her clients, but she argues the new Secrecy Provisions now challenge these professional duties.

The Justice for Asylum Seekers Forum is onFriday,7pm at WestsNewcastle. Visit facebook杭州龙凤论坛m/events/1093742400649476/ for information.- Christine Cummins isa credentialled mental health nurse who worked in immigration detention

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