Claim brought against Commonwealth and detention centre operators for sexual assault of child on Nauru
20 December 2018
Leading social justice law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has filed a claim against the Commonwealth government and detention centre operators on behalf of a child who was repeatedly assaulted on Nauru.
In Maurice Blackburn’s first claim on behalf of a child victim of sexual assault on the island, the firm is bringing the action against the Commonwealth government as well as Wilson and Broadspectrum, the detention centre operators.
The boy arrived by boat in Australia and was taken to Nauru in October 2013. It is alleged he was raped three times by an older male over a six week period between September and October the following year.
He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, has suicidal tendencies and self-harmed as a result of the abuse and has required extensive treatment. He now has difficulty socialising, experiences separation anxiety when he is away from his mother and is hyper-vigilant.
It is alleged the boy’s mother was threatened with harm if she reported the abuse. The boy and his mother were flown off Nauru in October 2014 after authorities became aware of the assaults.
Dimi Ioannou, a principal lawyer with Maurice Blackburn who is acting pro bono, said the repeated abuses of the boy were a failure by the detention centre’s operators and the government.
“Our client and his mother came to Australia seeking safety but were instead subjected to appalling assaults on Nauru. In our view, the Commonwealth, Broadspectrum and Wilson have failed in their duty of care. We are also concerned by the way authorities handled the case after the abuse was reported,” Ms Ioannou said.
“This is just one of a number of cases we know of involving the alleged sexual assault of an asylum seeker on Nauru. People in detention, particularly children, are very vulnerable and you have to ensure a safe environment. In our view that did not occur in this case.
“This case, like others on foot at the moment, is testing important legal questions regarding the duty of care owed by the Commonwealth and other defendants such as Broadspectrum and Wilson,” Ms Ioannou said.
The claim is seeking damages, including aggravated damages, interest and costs from each of the three defendants.
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