AMA Asylum Seeker Forum Minutes

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

  2. Discussed the stories of children in detention

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

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

  5. Ms Maycock

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

  7. Discussed the environment of Nauru:

  8. Hot conditions,

  9. Lack of privacy,

  10. Lack of sanitary products,

  11. Fear,

  12. Lack of specialty services,

  13. Sexual assaults,

  14. Culture of abuse,

  15. Self-harm,

  16. 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?

  17. Professor Isaacs

  18. Typhoid and tuberculosis found in kids in Nauru

  19. 3,251 people in detention, with the median time in detention ~40 months

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

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

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

  23. 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

  24. Professor Owler

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

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

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

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

  29. Asylum seekers make great contributions to the Australian community

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

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

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

  33. 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

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

  35. 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

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

  37. AMA Statement includes:

  38. Moratorium on kids being sent to detention

  39. Kids must be moved from detention to community

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

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

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