'Culture of abuse' at Nauru detention centre
: A nurse who worked in the Australian-run detention centre on Nauru has come out to slam the conditions in the camp, describing them as "shocking" and "inadvertent torture".
A nurse who worked in the Australian-run detention centre on Nauru has come out to slam the conditions in the camp, describing them as "shocking" and "inadvertent torture".
Alanna Maycock says she witnessed a culture of abuse by guards, traumatised children, including a seven-year-old girl who attempted suicide by hanging with electrical wire, and lack of privacy for women.
The Australian Senate has voted to support a Greens' motion, forcing the government to today release the report of the Moss Review into accusations of systemic abuse in the detention camp on Nauru.
Ms Maycock worked in the family wing of the camp in December, and told Mary Baines she has a moral responsibility to speak out against her contract.
ALANNA MAYCOCK: Some of what we saw was extremely shocking and extremely distressing. I witnessed verbal abuse, I witnessed physical abuse by a number of people towards the asylum seekers. We saw women that were, mothers, that were wetting the bed, they were too frightened to go to the toilet at night. So the toilets were about, depending on where you were in the camp, but up to 120 metres away from the shower block, and to go through the refugee camp at night, on your own, with your baby, to try and reach the toilet, is very frightening. The male guards are sitting outside the toilet blocks, they're sitting outside the shower blocks. There's no doors on the shower blocks. Women don't have access to sanitary towels, they're using bits of material in their tents to try and hold the blood when they're menstruating. We were told that they had unlimited access to sanitary towels, but we never saw that. What we did see was women holding the bleeding with material that they had found. One woman that had walked to the toilet in the middle of the night had really, really bad menstruation and then bled in front of the guards when she got near to the toilet. The women have to wash in a shower block where the guards are about two metres away from them and there's only a bit of material that hangs on the railing - there's no door, there's no lock. And so women have to bend down and wash their babies, and the curtain's flying open in front of the male guards and women are in a very, very, very dangerous position. And there's no female guards at this particular part of the camp, there's only male that we saw. We saw a lot of behavioural problems from the children due to the trauma. One seven-year-old child had put electric cable ties around her neck to try and hang herself. Another 15-year-old boy had sewn his lips up. And I spoke at length with him to try and encourage him to stay strong and that we would advocate for him when we left the camp. I just wasn't prepared for the way that staff from some of the service providers were treating the asylum seekers, that for me was the most shocking.
MARY BAINES: So what is the relationship like between guards and asylum seekers? Did you witness any physical abuse?
AM: We had one child that we diagnosed with typhoid. And the mum and the baby were in the consultation room with us, and I went up the corridor to get dad, and this was in the medical centre of IHMS. And the security guard was inside the medical centre and I asked dad to come with me down to the consultation room. And the guard pushed the father and shouted at him 'I told you to get down there', and all the staff within the medical centre just stood and watched. And I retorted, I was furious actually, very angry that the guard had physically and verbally abused this gentleman in a medical centre where he was seeking help for his child. And I said to the security guard, you can't treat people like that, you can't physically abuse somebody in a medical centre. But it was almost like it was normal. But what was more shocking was that no one else really did anything about it at the time. There's almost a culture of abuse that has been established on the island that the Australian government, the perception is the Australian government don't want them here, so they can behave how they want and it's almost a feeling of lawlessness on Nauru. The security guards can treat the asylum seekers how they want because they know that the Australian government are not really interested in processing their asylum applications within Australia.
MB: Are the children there getting proper education, things they need, psychiatric help if they need it?
AM: Yeah, so IHMS have put systems in place to get clinicians to help them to get help with their psychiatric needs. There was a few differences in opinion of treatment when we were there as far as psychiatric care went. We saw a three-year-old boy that had been put on Risperidone, which was an anti-psychotic by a psychiatrist who had been there previously, which we were quite shocked about. And thankfully the child psychiatrist who was there when we were there stopped that medication and thought it was totally inappropriate for a three-year-old to go on medication like that. At the end of the day you have to realise these children are traumatised for a reason, so to put them on an anti-psychotic is not going to make the trauma go away, it's just going to numb the pain for a while.
MB: Are you concerned about the consequences that you might face of speaking out against your contract?
AM: Yes, obviously I am very worried. But I don't think I have done anything illegal, I've just said that the conditions are terrible. And I think anyone that went to visit Nauru would say the same thing. I think we have a moral responsibility to do that.
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