Court approves settlement for Christmas Island child detainee subjected to poor medical treatment

26 April 2017
A pro-bono case has been settled for a child who spent 13 months in detention on Christmas Island and suffered serious harm as a result of allegedly poor medical treatment, after the Supreme Court approved an agreement reached between Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, on behalf of the child, and the Commonwealth Government.

The case was run on behalf of ‘A.S.’, a young girl who suffered from serious medical and dental issues that were poorly treated, including being assessed as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is also alleged A.S. was subjected to poor living conditions whilst detained on Christmas Island and denied proper schooling.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Tom Ballantyne said the case had highlighted the failures of the Commonwealth Government to provide adequate healthcare to children in its care who were seeking protection in Australia.

“This case is ultimately about one child, but sadly there are thousands of other children who have been detained on Christmas Island and subjected to repeated, appalling treatment,” Mr Ballantyne said.

“The Commonwealth Government’s harsh border policies, particularly for children in detention, are a dark and shameful chapter in Australia’s history.

“In the same way that we have seen apologies to the Stolen Generation, there will be a Government one day who is forced to apologise and acknowledge the consequences of what our country has done to children in detention.

“As a nation, we will be forced to confront how we have treated those who have sought our protection. When that happens, we can’t pretend we didn’t know how bad it was at the time. This case has shone a light on that abusive and neglectful treatment.

“Maurice Blackburn is very proud to have been able to run this pro-bono matter – nothing can undo the appalling treatment that A.S. has suffered, but the resolution of this case we hope will provide some measure of justice to help her and her family move forward with their lives in Australia.

“We also hope that this case can provide hope to the many thousands of people who have suffered and continue to suffer in detention, and to demand a better standard of treatment for children in detention from the Commonwealth Government.

Mr Ballantyne said that while the Supreme Court had last month ordered that A.S.’s case no longer proceed as a class action, it was expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of other people detained on Christmas Island would be entitled to bring claims in relation to their treatment.

“We still believe a class action would have been the best way for those people to have had a chance at getting access to justice. But in any event, we encourage those people to get legal advice as soon as possible to make sure that they preserve their rights,” he said.