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Government caves on medical transfer of child on Nauru

Government caves on medical transfer of child on Nauru

The federal government has agreed to bring a child in mandatory detention on Nauru to Australia for medical treatment, following urgent court applications from a national firm.

The decision, made on Saturday, came in response to action taken by Maurice Blackburn towards the end of last week, following repeated refusals to remove the seriously ill child from the island nation.

The matter was due to be heard by the Federal Court on Saturday morning, but right before the hearing commenced, the government acquiesced to the firm’s request to bring the child to the mainland to commence medical treatment.

Maurice Blackburn head of social justice Jennifer Kanis said it was a relief that the federal government had finally chosen to do the right thing on behalf of their client.

“We are greatly relieved [they] have finally accepted that this is a desperate situation where urgent medical treatment is needed for the welfare and wellbeing of this child,” she said.

“It should never have taken seeking the intervention of the court for the federal government to finally agree to do the right and decent thing by this child in their care.”

Ms Kanis said the child had made a number of suicide attempts last week, and was under 24-hour surveillance from security guards in the detention facility due to the high risk of self-harm.

“This is a horrific case – this child has now attempted suicide three times and needs medical attention immediately, which the federal government knows cannot be provided on Nauru,” she said last week.

The Department of Immigration had medical reports outlining these facts, she said, and urgent requests were made to the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, to have the child, father and sibling transferred off Nauru for immediate treatment, but no such agreement was initially made.

This left Maurice Blackburn with no choice, she continued, but to seek the intervention of the courts, by way of filing interlocutory proceedings seeking orders for the removal of the child for medical treatment.

“It is disgraceful that the Minister and the Department continue to show such a blatant disregard for the welfare and wellbeing of seriously ill children in their care on Nauru who are in need of immediate psychiatric treatment,” she said.

“This is now the third time in recent months that the intervention of the court has been sought to help protect children in securing access to medical treatment, because the Minister and the Department have again failed to act and to do the right thing by these children.”

The federal government’s continuing treatment of children in detention will remain one of the “dark and shameful chapters” of Australia’s history, Ms Kanis argued.

“These children deserve so much better, particularly with respect to providing critical medical and other health services,” she concluded.

“The federal government has told the court that our client will be transferred as soon as possible and we welcome this development in ensuring this child will now be able to access the medical treatment that is desperately needed.”

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