Appearance at the Australian Senate

Dr Paddy Mclisky (D4R Secretary) reflects on his recent appearance as a witness at the Australian Senate.

"On March 14th I had the opportunity to appear as a witness in the Inquiry into abuse, neglect and self harm in offshore detention.
Doctors For Refugees had lodged a submission in 2016, addressing the inquiry terms of reference.
These included causative factors, reporting systems, the Australian government's responsibilities, the role a children's advocate might play and concerns around the re-settlement process.
Our submission referenced select cases to demonstrate various deficiencies in the current system.  The submission had been put together by the Case Management Team, and thanks to much work and time spent, it reads as intelligent and measured.
I was proud to represent this document, and Doctors For Refugees.
At Parliament House in Brisbane, I was met by friends -  some of the wonderful refugee advocates in our community, who were also appearing as witnesses that day.
I have come to know these dedicated individuals over the past 2 years, through visiting refugees and asylum seekers at the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA).  It was great to have them sitting behind me while I was interviewed.
The Senate Panel consisted of senators Dodson (Labor), Mckim (Greens), Macdonald (Liberal National Party), Hinch (Justice Party), Reynolds (Liberal Party) and Watt (Labor).
The full transcript of the interview can be found by clicking here.

In summary:
I had been invited to give a 5 minute introduction, and I tried to summarise our concerns succinctly within this time.
The Chair (Senator Reynolds) commenced questioning by going straight to the heart of our concerns - the inherent delays to medical care which the offshore system creates.  We discussed briefly the series of approvals required to arrange Hamid Khazaei's evacuation to Australia in 2014, and also the ongoing delays we see in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions offshore in general.
Senator McDonald seemed keen to establish that we have political or idealist motivations, which I explained we do not. In hindsight I have to chuckle - a liberal politiician questioning my political motivations at inquiry about the damage that the incumbent liberal government has perpetuated. Senator MacDonald went on to ask about provision of medical records by IHMS and the extent to which health care on Nauru and Manus Island falls short of Australian standards.
Senator Hinch was prticularly interested in the prevalence of tuberculosis in children.  We discussed the presence of latent TB in several children and the fact that not all of these children appear to have had a full course of treatment.  We have since provided a further written submission to the inquiry on this topic.
Senator Watt asked about cases in which IHMS has refused to provide records, and also the appropriateness of discharges from Australian hospitals.
Senator McKim was interested in environmental toxins on Nauru and we discussed the issue of high cadmium levels in the soil, and potential health effects on humans living on Nauru.  We also discussed the issue of decision making by non clinicians, with regards to medical care and transfers.
Senator Dodson was interested in the interactions between refugees and service providers on Nauru, in terms of cultural differences and the effects on health.
We discussed the complexity of these issues.

Overall, the session seemed to go quite well.  Thanks to our commitment to quality medical care and the hard work that everyone in this organisation does, I feel that we have the foundations to discuss these issues with confidence and a firm knowledge base."

Ongoing Action

The continued challenge to the Australian Border Force Act: Last year, following the action of Doctors For Refugees and the Fitzroy Legal Centre, the Federal government amended the Border Force Act to exempt Health Professionals from criminal prosecution for reporting abuse or neglect to individuals in detention. This notably did not include teachers, social workers or other guardians. Doctors For Refugees will continue its challenge to the Australian Border Force Act so that teachers, social workers or other guardians are also included in exemption from criminal prosecution.

Specialists Urgently Needed

Doctors for Refugees are urgently seeking GPs for help with reviewing records. This does not involve any face to face contact.

Doctors for Refugees are also looking for someone to lead the current Fundraising team.

Please email if you are interested in either of these opportunities.
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