La Trobe students ALHR research experience: Violence Against Women and Girls in the Nauru Regional Processing Centre

June 28, 2016

In semester 1, 2016 under the guidance of ALHR’s Secretariat, Ms Randa Rafiq and Nicole Shackleton (La Trobe Volunteer Coordinator) thirteen La Trobe students undertook a voluntary placement with ALHR.  The students worked on four projects over the semester.  The projects were in the areas of disability and housing rights, refugee rights, women rights (in particular, the rights of female refugees) and Indigenous Australian rights (in particular, over representation of Indigenous juveniles in prison).

Students undertaking the refugee rights research project worked under the guidance of Ms Claire Hammerton, who is a national committee member for ALHR, and researched the topic of violence against women and girls in the Nauru Regional Processing Centre.

They gathered evidence on the severity and prevalence of these human rights abuses in the form of a position paper focusing on the procedure for making complaints to the United Nations.  In 2015, the Moss Report found that the Nauru detention centre had limited resources and services to investigate sexual assaults. It found that staff often acted inappropriately while investigating formal allegations.

Despite the recommendations delivered by the Australian Government’s recent Senate Inquiry into the conditions in the centre, the ALHR submits that Australia’s national action on the issue has been unreasonably prolonged.

Claire Hammerton who has chaired ALHR’s Refugee Rights Subcommittee and Women and Girls’ Rights Subcommittee says, “The Government can no longer claim ignorance of such human rights violations given the large amount of evidence that has come to light in recent years concerning abuses against females at the Nauru Detention Centre, including through parliamentary inquiries, court cases and media reports… The fact that this is still happening demonstrates that the Australian Government is more concerned with maintaining a tough immigration policy, based on punishing those who seek asylum in Australia, than with respecting gender equality and upholding the basic human dignity of women and girls.”

In conducting this research project for ALHR students were able to learn about the procedure for making complaints to the United Nations and gained a highly valuable insight into how the international human rights system operates to try and hold governments to account. They also gained an insight into the useful purpose that parliamentary inquiries can serve, particularly in this space given bodies like the Australian Human Rights Commission are not allowed to access Australia’s offshore detention centres.