AMA Asylum Seeker Forum Minutes

March 4, 2016


EXTERNAL MEETINGAustralian Medical Association Forum on Asylum Seekers


Location & Time:            Ionic Room, SMC Conference and Function Centre, 66 Goulburn St, Sydney. 11AM


  • Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM, Professor in Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Sydney, Consultant Paediatrician Children’s Hospital at Westmead

  • Professor David Isaacs, Clinical Professor, Paediatrics and Child Health, Children’s Hospital at Westmead

  • Ms Alanna Maycock, Paediatric Nurse, Children’s Hospital at Westmead

  • Professor Brian Owler, President of the AMA





  • This is a broad summary of what was discussed at the Forum above, for the information of the Doctors for Refugees membership.


  1. Professor Elliott

    1. Discussed the stories of children in detention

    2. Revisited Forgotten Children Report (by the Human Rights Commission)

    3. Argued that doctors are advocates for every one of their patients

  2. Ms Maycock

    1. A single paediatrician visits Nauru for 5 days every 3 months

    2. Discussed the environment of Nauru:

      1. Hot conditions,

      2. Lack of privacy,

      3. Lack of sanitary products,

      4. Fear,

      5. Lack of specialty services,

      6. Sexual assaults,

      7. Culture of abuse,

      8. Self-harm,

    3. Current Australian immigration laws prevent a health professional’s duty of care to be realised – does it imply that nurses and doctors are comfortable with abuses?

  3. Professor Isaacs

    1. Typhoid and tuberculosis found in kids in Nauru

    2. 3,251 people in detention, with the median time in detention ~40 months

    3. Discussed whether mandatory detention was like torture, or not:

      1. A recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics argued that prolonged detention was equivalent to torture

      2. The doctor has a duty of care to patients, and a duty to not condone torture

      3. Detention is like torture, which we must never condone – doctors have to examine their consciences and ask whether they can work in these detention centres

  4. Professor Owler

    1. There is an absolute and ethical obligation doctors have to patients in their care – the AMA supports the doctors at Lady Cilento

      1. Guards intruding on hospital ground to deport Baby Asha is a precedent not to be crossed,

      2. Border Force is pulling apart the moral fibre of the country

      3. Prolonged detention of kids is state-sanctioned form of child abuse

      4. Asylum seekers make great contributions to the Australian community

    2. Psychological trauma to kids and adults: The AMA position is that refugees should have the same access to healthcare as Australian citizens

    3. Discussed cases of gross negligence and poor support/facilities in detention centres

      1. Dr Brailey of IHMS unaware of severe medical cases of acute concern here, until specifically brought to his attention

    4. Doctors must be able to speak out about patients without fear of persecution and prosecution. AMA is concerned about provisions in the Border Force Act. The AMA position is that it must be amended to not apply to doctors/nurses in detention – must have clinical independence without external threat

    5. AMA continues to call for establishing an independent medical committee to advise on refugee health

    6. Issue of boycott: Professor Owler does not agree as this being the way forward. Believes providing health is not being complicit with, or condoning, the practices

    7. AMA spoken out about this issue because of commitment to the health of all people.

    8. AMA Statement includes:

      1. Moratorium on kids being sent to detention

      2. Kids must be moved from detention to community

      3. Establish committee independent from government, to provide advice to Parliament on health of asylum seekers

      4. If government cannot assure health of asylum seekers they must revisit their policies on this issue

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