published in The Guardian, 31 December 2014
by Ben Doherty
A comic produced by Australia aimed at deterring asylum seekers. Photograph: customs.gov.au
'Have the boats stopped reaching Australia?’ is the wrong question to ask. A better one by which to judge the success of its policies is this: are more people safer? Or fewer?'
The boats have not stopped. They have stopped reaching Australia but people are still drowning in seas in our region and across the world.
More than 350,000 asylum seekers boarded boats in 2014, the UN has found, leaving their homeland to seek protection somewhere else. Of those, 54,000 people boarded a boat in south-east Asia – Australia’s “neighbourhood”, in the words of the foreign minister.
At least 540 people died on boat journeys in that neighbourhood – starved, dehydrated or beaten to a death by a crew member and thrown overboard – or drowned when their unseaworthy vessel sank.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” Martin Luther King Jr.
Forum & Discussion sponsored by ‘concerned Australians’ cA
Date: Thursday 29th June 2017
Time: 2.45 for 3.00pm – 5.45pm
Venue: RMIT Building 80, 4th Level, Room 11 (Yellow Door) 445 Swanston St, Melbourne - Directions here or Tram stop (route 64, stop 7)
Bullying can come in various forms and for different reasons. Classically it is defined as the singling out and denigration of an individual or group by a more powerful group on a repetitive basis.
The treatment of Adam Goodes by large portions of football crowds in this fashion fits that definition perfectly. He is one individual subject to constant denigration whenever he plays by persons whose anonymity provided by the crowd enables them to get away with this cowardly behaviour.
In the professional sporting arena, the cultural impact of bullying multiplies tenfold due to the number of people involved and sets an appalling example to young people and particularly young children exposed to it.
I understand that occasional booing is common place in sport and in certain circumstances allows fans to healthily express their views.
My concern is when the booing is unrelated to what has happened at the particular sporting event in question and is inspired by antipathy to the person in question and continues every time he plays.
Adam Goodes has been and still is an important role model for tens of thousands of Australians, both as a sportsman and an Australian citizen.
His elite athleticism and skill have helped him thrive at the sport’s highest level winning two Brownlow Medals and two Premierships. In his role as 2014 Australian of the Year, he has worked with various communities, setting an important example for people, both young and old, to strive for a more united and pluralist country.
Clearly the boos are having a serious impact on Adam’s wellbeing. Yes he is a professional athlete and yes he is a celebrity, but what the booers are quickly forgetting, is that he is a human being.
The unedifying spectacle of singling out this one player sends out an ugly message to the public, which suggests it’s acceptable to single out and vilify one player on a repetitive basis. It is not. It actually undoes all the fantastic work Adam has done in our community and discredits the great game of Australian Rules football.
For him to retire from the sport prematurely as a result of this would be unacceptable. This behaviour needs to stop now.
The Honourable Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC
Chair National Centre against Bullying
[Published on the National Centre Against Bullying website, 30 July 2015]
A seminar on Medico Legal aspects of Australia’s Asylum Seeker Policies in light of Australia's obligations under relevant international instruments including the Refugee Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Held on Tuesday 19th June 2018 6:00 - 7:30pm
Room GO8, Law School, University of Melbourne,
185 Pelham St, Carlton VIC 3053
published in The Age, Comment, December 14, 2014
by Alastair Nicholson
It is time for all Australians to recognise that stopping the boats is not the answer to the refugee problem.
The issue of refugees is a global one deserving better than the shallow policies developed by successive Australian governments. History will not be any kinder to present Australians than to those of former eras in respect of their racist policies towards Aboriginal and Asian people.
Australian attitudes are curious since most of us, with the exception of the first Australians, are descended from refugees of one sort or another.
Unfortunately, most politicians think that stopping the boats resolves the matter.
The government's latest legislation makes superficial concessions that hide an outrageous scheme that shuts out the rule of law, confers worrying powers on the Immigration Minister, unilaterally amends the Refugee Convention and trashes Australia's former reputation as a good international citizen. Its passage was achieved by Scott Morrison using refugee children as hostages, offering a trivial increase in the number of humanitarian refugees accepted by Australia and making minor changes while leaving most asylum seekers in limbo with temporary protection visas or so-called safe haven visas.
At the end of 2013 an estimated 52 million people around the world were displaced, representing the greatest disruption of peoples since World War II. Overall, 50 percent of these refugees are children.
Address by the Honourable Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC
Chair Children’s Rights International
Australian Human Rights Commission, Sydney, NSW, 10 June 2016
Acknowledgments: Gadigal people of the Eora Nation; Megan Mitchell, National Children’s Commissioner; Tara Broughan, UNICEF Australia and Ahram Choi, NCYLC, Co-Chairs of the Australian Children’s Rights Task Force
This report by the Australian Child Rights taskforce convened by UNICEF Australia and the NYCYLC on the progress of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in the 25 years since Australia ratified the Convention, while indicating a number of areas of progress in this area, also highlights serious deficiencies in our national performance.
It is thus an important document, providing a much needed measure of where we stand written from an independent point of view. I commented in my opening remarks published in the report that it makes uncomfortable reading for Australians, as did the 2012 report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about Australia’s performance.
That report expressed concern at:
‘The absence of a comprehensive National Plan of Action…a comprehensive strategy, in consultation with children and civil society, for the overall realisation of principles and provisions of the Convention …. which can provide a framework for states and territories to adopt similar plans and strategies’.
As this report points out, in line with the UN recommendation, while there has been progress in a number of areas there is a lack of proper planning, particularly to address the problems of children most in need.
It points to the fact that certain groups of children and young people consistently face barriers to enjoying their rights and reaching their full potential including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children who are seeking asylum or have refugee status, children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children with disability, LGBTI children, homeless children and children from rural areas.
At present there is no Federal Minister with direct responsibility for children or youth. It thus does not engage in even a veiled pretence to include the voices of children and youth in decisions that affect them, which has become particularly clear in the defunding of dedicated children and youth organisations and peak bodies. It is true that we now have a distinguished Commissioner for Children but the issues facing Australian children are vast and cannot hope to be dealt with by one person with a limited staff.
I therefore commend the report’s conclusion that what is needed the to assign a Commonwealth Ministry with lead responsibility for policy regarding children and young people and the development of a National Plan for all children in Australia for the overall realisation and implementation of CRC. I also consider that such a Ministry should be led by a Minister with no other responsibility, so that he/she could devote their entire attention to children’s issues.
NGOs push to end the human-rights suffering of children caught in the country's judicial system
Carmela Ferraro Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 23 October 2012
The idea for this series originated at a meeting of the board of Children’s Rights International (CRI; www.childjustice.org), of which I am a member and which is chaired by former Chief Justice of the Family Court, The Hon. Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC. There are two other former judges on the board, some additional lawyers and several members from other professions. We wanted to establish a forum where members of the medical and legal professions would come together to discuss children’s rights and to explore the many areas in which the interests of the two professions overlap. To provide structure, we proposed that we would base the meetings on the various clauses of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Our aim was to educate and stimulate discussion in a scholarly atmosphere, assisted by respected, well-informed speakers. It flowed naturally that CRI would invite the RCH Alumni to collaborate in hosting the series, and that meetings would then alternate between RCH, where the Alumni would be hosts and the University of Melbourne Law School, where CRI would be the host organisation. We further invited Dr Linny Phuong, Founder and Chair of the Water Well Project and a Fellow in Infectious Diseases at RCH, to be a member of the organising committee because of her extensive connections with young doctors.
ELEANOR HALL: Child rights advocates are supporting the Human Rights Commission's recommendation to release all children from immigration detention, including the 119 children in Nauru.
They say the report is not the first to draw attention to the harm detention inflicts on children but that its findings are clear and it's time to act.
Sarah Sedghi reports.
SARAH SEDGHI: It's been more than a decade since the Human Rights Commission last investigated the detention of asylum seeker children.
The latest investigation which began last year found that detention causes children significant mental and physical harm.
It documented cases of assaults and self-harm.
ALASTAIR NICHOLSON: This is, I think, one of the most disgraceful episodes in Australian history, the treatment of children in detention.
And this is an objective and clear account of the evidence that really should make us all ashamed of this behaviour.
How any Australian government could justify this on any basis is beyond me.
In 1995 the Hon. Alastair Nicholson, then Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, raised the issue that Australia was failing its international obligations by holding children in detention centres. His comments were published in an article titled 'Judge damns refugee camps', by Chip Le Grand, The Australian, Thursday 20th of July 1995 (Edition: Sydney). The full text of the 1995 article is reproduced below; it seems that in 20 years little or nothing has changed.
AUSTRALIA was failing its international obligations by detaining child refugees in "virtual concentration camps" in the wilderness of the outback, the head of the Family Court, Justice Alastair Nicholson, said yesterday.
Justice Nicholson said it was intolerable and unnecessary to intern Chinese and Cambodian children among asylum-seekers at the remote Port Hedland detention centre in Western Australia as though they were "a danger to Australian society". He said the policy was at odds with Australia's status as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children and nominated the Family Court, with its powers to protect children, as a possible avenue for legal challenges to the detention system.
Article 6 in the convention: Children have the right to live a full life. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.
Article 9 in the convention: Children should not be separated from their parents unless it is for their own good. For example, if a parent is mistreating or neglecting a child. Children whose parents have separated have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this might harm the child.