15 February 2015

Dear Editor
Independent public office holders are an important part of modern democratic
societies. Their task is to ensure accountability for abuses of power by government.
Their capacity to perform this role depends on their independence and ability to act
impartially. The Australian Human Rights Commission is one such institution.
The Commonwealth law under which the Commission operates empowers it to
‘inquire into any act or practice that may be inconsistent with or contrary to any
human right’.
The Commission has done exactly this in its report, titled The Forgotten Children:
National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014. This Report should
be read by every Australian, and especially by every Australian parliamentarian. It is
a rigorously researched report full of facts largely taken from the Department of
Immigration and Border Protection’s own data.
A well-functioning democracy requires that the executive respect the work of
independent public institutions established by Parliament to perform specific
functions even if it does not agree with specific positions adopted by them. Where
this independence is threatened by politicised attacks on the office holder, our
democratic system is jeopardised.
The Prime Minister has labelled this Report as a ‘blatantly partisan political exercise’
and a ‘transparent stitch-up’. Neither the Prime Minister nor any other member of the
government has pointed to any factual errors in the report; their concern has been to
attack the timing and motivation of the report and to seek to assign all fault to the
other side of politics. But the question of responsibility for violations of Australia’s
obligations under international law goes beyond politics. The Commission has
consistently made findings of breaches of human rights in relation to asylum seekers
over the last twenty-five years under governments from both sides of politics. Given
the serious mental health impact of our immigration detention policies on children as
young as two, serious questions arise as to the past and ongoing responsibility of
employees and officials of the Australian government for the prolonged suffering of
children held in circumstances controlled by our government.
The Australian community and those who have been detained deserve a substantive,
considered and reasoned response from government to the specific Recommendations
made in the Forgotten Children Report, in particular the call for a Royal Commission
into Children in Detention to be established. We also urge the current and future
Australian governments to respect the fundamental integrity of independent
commissions and recognize the critical role they play in sustaining a democratic
Australia committed to the rule of law.
Signed:
Professor Don Anton, Professor of International Law, Griffith Law School, Griffith
University.

Irene Baghoomians, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney.
Associate Professor Lee Ann Basser, La Trobe Law School.
Emeritus Professor Ben Boer, Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law,
Sydney Law School.
Kevin Boreham, Lecturer, ANU College of Law, Australian National University.
Professor Brian Burdekin AO, Professorial Visiting Fellow, Law Faculty, UNSW.
Visiting Professor, Raoull Wallenburg Institute, Sweden.
Julian Burnside, AO, QC.
Professor Andrew Byrnes, Australian Human Rights Centre, Faculty of Law, UNSW.
Professor Judith Cashmore AO, Professor in Socio-Legal Research and Policy,
Faculty of Law, University of Sydney.
Melissa Castan, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University.
Professor Danielle Celermajer, Director, Enhancing Human Rights Project, Faculty of
Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney.
Professor Hilary Charlesworth, Director, Centre for International Governance and
Justice, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University.
Madelaine Sophie Chiam, PhD Cadidate, Melbourne Law School.
Professor Holly Cullen, Faculty of Law, the University of Western Australia.
Associate Professor Julie Debeljak, Faculty of Law, Deputy Director, Castan Centre
for Human Rights Law, Monash University.
Dr Alice de Jonge, Department of Business Law & Taxation, Monash University
Sara Dehn, Senior Fellow, Mebourne Law School.
Associate Professor Tina Dolgopol, Flinders Law School, Flinders University.
Professor Andrea Durbach, Director, Australian Human Rights Centre, Faculty of
Law, UNSW.
Bassina Farbenblum, Senior Lecturer, UNSW Law.
James Farrell OAM, Lecturer, Deakin University School of Law.
Dr Caroline Fleay, Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University.

Associate Professor Paula Gerber, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash
University.
Roger Gamble, Senior Lecturer, Department of Business Law & Taxation, Monash
University
Associate Professor Beth Goldblatt, Faculty of Law, University of Technology,
Sydney.
Associate Professor Laura Grenfell, University of Adelaide.
Dr Michael Grewcock, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, UNSW.
Les Haberfield, Lecturer, Department of Business Law and Taxation, Monash
University.
Anja Hilkemeijer, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania.
Dr Anna Hood, Lecturer, University of Melbourne.
Professor Sarah Joseph, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University.
Associate Professor Mary Ann Kenny, School of Law, Murdoch University.
Dr Joanna Kyriakakis, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Associate, Castan Centre for Human
Rights Law, Monash University.
Associate Professor Anthony J. Langlois, School of International Studies, Flinders
University.
Toan Le, Lecturer, Department of Business Law & Taxation, Monash University
Dr Rain Liivoja, Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Law School.
Dr Victoria Mason, Lecturer, School of Politics and International Relations, College
of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU.
Phillipa McCormack, Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania.
Professor Paula McDonald, ARC Future Fellow, School of Management, Queensland
University of Technology.
Dr Mark McMillan, Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Law School.
Associate Professor Justine Nolan, Australian Human Rights Centre, UNSW Law.
Anne O’Rourke, Senior Lecturer, Department of Business Law & Taxation, Monash
University

Professor Dianne Otto, Francince V. McNiff Chair in Human Rights Law, Director,
Institute for International Law and the Humanities, Melbourne Law School.
Dr Tania Penovic, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Deputy Director, Castan Centre
for Human Rights Law, Monash University.
Dr Alison Pert, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney.
Dr Tabatha Pettitt, Department of Business Law & Taxation, Monash University.
Professor Simon Rice OAM, ANU College of Law.
Professor Ben Saul, Professor of International Law, Faculty of Law, University of
Sydney.
Adjunct Professor Chris Sidoti, Australian Catholic University.
Professor Gerry Simpson, Kenneth Bailey Chair in International Law, Melbourne
Law School.
Dr Aashish Srivastava, Department of Business Law and Taxation, Monash
University.
Professor Timothy Stephens, Professor of International Law, Faculty of Law,
University of Sydney.
Dr Carolyn Sutherland, Department of Business Law & Taxation, Monash University
Professor John Tobin, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne.
Associate Professor Michelle Welsh, Department of Business Law & Taxation,
Monash University
Dr  Amanda  Whiting,  Lecturer,  Melbourne  Law  School.    
 
Henrietta  Zeffert,  PhD  student,  The  London  School  of  Economics;  founder,  Rights  
Now  Human  Rights  in  Australia  and  Rights  Now  Radio.    

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