Child released after spending entire life in Australian detention centre

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Malaysian woman and her three year old daughter were released from Villawood Detention Centre on bridging visas yesterday after media coverage in Australia and Malaysia. Naomi Long, who recently turned three, was born in the Centre. Her mother, Virginia Long, was detained after trying to leave Australia on a false passport four years ago.

The plight of the young girl was revealed on ABC Radio's PM program on March 5. Michael Dudley, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Sydney Children's Hospital who has visited the mother and daughter, spoke on the program of the importance of children mixing with others their own age, and the harm that prolonged detention was doing to Naomi.

"I mean that's crucial to social development and emotional development in children and also, a sense of identity development and so on. She doesn't have that opportunity and she's also basically been brought up in prison, but in a highly abnormal environment with highly distressed people. It's not an environment conducive to child development," he said.

According to refugee advocate group ChilOut there are currently 28 children detained at Villawood, and 68 across all immigration detention facilities. The Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beasley has called for all children to be released.

"Kids don't belong in detention, full stop," he said.

According to ABC Online, Federal Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou intends to introduce a private members bill against long-term mandatory detention, and detention of women and children. Prime Minister John Howard has indicated that he is mindful of the need for compassion, but he does not support a conscience vote.

"Mandatory detention is not a matter of conscience. It is a Government policy," Mr Howard was quoted as saying. Howard has been a staunch supporter of hardline immigration and asylum policies since the mid 80's.


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