Save The Children CEO Wants Apology, Watchdog After Nauru Doogan Review

19/01/2016 12:41 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Fairfax Media

The CEO of Save The Children has demanded an apology from the federal government and called for an independent oversight mechanism for detention centres after a review found the expulsion of social workers from Nauru in 2014 was unwarranted.

The Doogan Review, released on Friday by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, investigated the circumstances around the removal of staff from Save The Children -- a child-focused aid and development agency -- from the Nauru offshore processing centre in October 2014.

The review ruled the department was "contractually entitled" to remove the staff, but that "information available at the time... did not warrant issuing the removal."

Speaking to The Huffington Post Australia from Cambodia, Save The Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds said he hoped for -- but was not expecting -- an apology to his staff and organisation.

"We would certainly believe an apology is absolutely warranted. We won't be holding our breath but it would be absolutely appropriate in the circumstances," he said.

"These are highly trained teachers and social workers working with traumatised people in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. For a minister of the state to attack those staff for doing their job is disappointing."

"We were confident right from the beginning that the allegations were always absurd. These were some of our most talented, hard-working staff."

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the group should receive compensation from the government, and Ronalds also hoped Save The Children would receive some restitution.

"The last thing we want to see is a court case dragged out at a further cost to taxpayers," Hanson-Young told Saturday AM.

"The report's findings make it clear, I think, that the staff involved deserve compensation, as does Save the Children for the cost its incurred in relation to this," Ronalds said upon the report's release on Friday, according to the ABC.

In speaking to HuffPost Australia, Ronalds criticised the manner in which the review was published -- on the department's own website with little fanfare, on a Friday afternoon, with large swathes of the report heavily redacted -- and called for an independent oversight body to be installed on Nauru to receive and investigate concerns of asylum seekers.



Heavily redacted sections of the report

"We have come to expect information of this kind to be released in the way it was... The report's release, the way our staff were treated, all go to underline the culture of secrecy that successive governments have created around offshore processing. When you have the very high visa costs for journalists to travel to places like Nauru, refusal of access for organisations like Amnesty, it all goes to create a culture of little transparency or independent oversight," he said.

"We are even more concerned that with us leaving Nauru, we need a transparent mechanism for offshore processing. It won't solve all the problems but might provide an outlet for refugees and asylum seekers to raise concerns."

Ronalds said Save The Children had not had any staff on Nauru since November 2015, and said he was concerned for the welfare of children in the centre who were not able to access their services.

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