UNICEF National Ambassador for Child Survival Tara Moss pictured with former immigration minister Chris Bowen on the ABC’s Q&A program, November 25, 2013:

On refugee children in Australian detention centres, at 42:09:

‘I have spoken out about this as Mr Bowen might remember when he was Immigration Minister…one thing we need to keep in mind is our Immigration Minister is the guardian of the un-attended minors who come here. I would put forward the idea we should have an advocate whose job it is to be the guardian for those kids because at the moment their guardian and their jailer are the same person and I don’t think that’s right.’ – Tara Moss

Watch the 2 1/2 minute clip, below:

Watch the full program at ABC iView: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s3878650.htm

Transcript from Q&A:

BRIAN DAVIES: My question is for Julian Burnside. Our government vilifies asylum seekers by falsely accusing them of being illegals. They’ve set up a wall of secrecy around them. They lock up innocent men, women and children in concentration camps without charge or trial. Now Tony Abbott’s condoned human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and he has provided ships so that people under persecution can’t escape, should we condemn these shameful actions as unworthy of Australia?

TONY JONES: Now, I know you said it is for Julian. I’m going to throw it to Tara first because we haven’t heard from Tara for a while.

TARA MOSS: Look, that’s a question that really goes to the heart of something that has been bothering me a great deal. You know, I don’t understand how we became so extreme. I really don’t.

I have been in Australia for nearly two decades now and last week I was very fortunate to be at Parliament House in my role as UNICEF ambassador for child survival, speaking to Senate members, members of Parliament from all sides of politics and these are passionate, real people who care about kids, who care about child rights and I cannot understand how those people and how Australia in general has become a country so extreme where we lock up kids in detentions, where we separate a mother from her newborn infant, when that infant is in neo-natal intensive care. I’ve had a child in neo-natal intensive care. I can tell you to go without seeing her through the night would have killed me, you know. So why do we do this? Why is this a matter of national security to protect us from kids who are escaping terrible trauma? And we can’t pretend these traumas aren’t happening. We know they are because we know what is happening in Syria. We see it on the news every day and we have troops in Afghanistan. We know that these terrible things are happening. So I really don’t understand how we became such an extreme country in this respect and when we look at the international community, we see that, indeed, we have become extreme.

The UNICEF emergency chief was speaking to us at Parliament House and he is stationed – he is an Australian and he is stationed, at the moment, in Beirut and Lebanon, as a contrast, has an open border policy and in a country where they have a total population about that of Sydney, they now have nearly a million refugees there from Syria, about half of whom are children. So about one in five people in Lebanon right now is a refugee and those people in the community, they are actually enrolling those kids into their schools as much as they can and they’ve overburdened by this. So we look at that and we think how did we get so extreme we are greeting people who come here seeking help, we are greeting them with our military boats? I struggle to understand this and I am hoping some of the colleagues can help…

TONY JONES: I mean, I imagine you are actually talking about both the previous government and the current government.

TARA MOSS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

TONY JONES: Well, let’s hear from Chris Bowen.

TARA MOSS: And I have spoken out about this, as Mr Bowen might well remember, when he was Immigration Minister and another thing, just quickly, I know I am taking time here.

TONY JONES: It will have to be quick because we don’t have a lot of time.

TARA MOSS: Absolutely. One thing we need to keep in mind is our Immigration Minister is the guardian of the unattended minors who come here and I would put forward the idea that we should have an advocate whose job it is to be the guardian for those kids because at the moment their guardian and their jailer are the same person and I think that’s not right.

* Related: ‘UN inspectors find children in detention in distress, living in hot, cramped conditions with no schooling, poor mental health’.