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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 25 October 2018) . . Page.. 4303 ..

People who have witnessed these abuses taking place are speaking out. A doctor who worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres on Nauru, Dr Natalia Hverta Perez, has come forward and said:

… the children … are not eating … not drinking, anything, they are just laying on the bed, doing nothing … Childhood shouldn’t be like this.

She said, “They don’t even communicate with their families … families sometimes have to take them to the hospital to feed them by needle.”

Another Medecins Sans Frontieres doctor, Dr Carolyne Lima, described some suicide attempts. She said:

… they are really trying to kill themselves. The fact they are not succeeding in these attempts doesn’t mean that they are not for real. It just means that they are ten and twelve and that they don’t know how to kill themselves …

Indefinite offshore detention is causing ongoing and life-threatening harm to children. The only solution is to evacuate all refugees and asylum seekers immediately. Do we really want a situation where another Prime Minister must give an apology in a decade or two for the way we have treated children in refugee detention centres? It possibly may already be too late to change that.

Moving on from that, another key right of children is their environmental rights. This has been discussed internationally and in the ACT for decades. It seems to depend on the context and the country as to what these rights are. In many countries, they are basically just at the bottom level, ensuring access to reasonably clean air, water and food.

In the ACT, we have been and are privileged enough to be able to focus on the next level of environmental issues for the children of the ACT. Our environmental conditions, in particular levels of pollution, can have greater effects on growing children than on adults, in that growing bodies and brains absorb any contaminants because of the higher rate of growth of those organs. Thus, it is really important that we are not exposing our children to toxic and damaging chemicals or other dangerous substances.

Unfortunately, these chemicals are often unnoticed or dismissed, but their side-effects can be quite damaging in the longer term. This is one of the issues the ACT should look at, in particular, reducing chemicals and materials that offgas in places such as new childcare centres, preschools, schools, hospitals, libraries and other places children frequent. This also goes for the types of paints, furnishings and cleaning products used in these places.

This may not seem that important in the scheme of things, but it is important, if we are looking at the rights of children, to make sure that they have the best start in life and that their developing bodies and organs can develop in the best way. The ACT should look at that if we are really going to look at the rights of children.

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