After eight years of anguish, new podcast scrutinises offshore detention regime

Last Updated on 13/09/2021 by National Justice Project

To mark the eight-year anniversary of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s decision to refuse settlement to anyone who seeks asylum in Australia by boat, human rights advocates have come together to support the launch of a new podcast that explores how successive governments have abandoned the duty to protect refugees and people seeking asylum.

Women and Children First is a series of six episodes that scrutinise the policy failures, human rights breaches, and the shocking human toll of Australia’s offshore detention regime. The podcast includes the voices of prominent jurists, whistleblowers, human rights defenders, and political representatives who unpack Australia’s offshore detention policy.

Podcast producer and presenter, Alex Roussos, has said that he hopes the podcast will inform everyday Australians who, “like myself, may not have been fully aware of our offshore detention policy and how it is causing anguish to people who are simply seeking safety.”

“I think most Australians support the notion of a fair go and if you delve into this policy and all of its misgivings, it’s hard to reconcile.  It’s important to get this information out there by sharing the podcast with your friends and family and especially with people who perhaps support Australia’s offshore detention policy” Alex has told listeners.

“I encourage everyone to learn more about what we’ve been doing to vulnerable people. With the stark lack of political leadership in this area, it’s up to all of us to drive change.”

On the eighth anniversary of the decision to refuse settlement to all refugees who arrive by boat to Australia, the advocates who feature on Women and Children First have called for an end to mandatory offshore detention.

The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG former Justice of the High Court of Australia has stated:

“I’d like to see Australia, as a law-abiding nation, complying with the undertakings that it gave to the international community.  We are not doing that.  And that is really a mark against Australia.  The situation remains, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  I hope that change will be made but it will only be made if we can feel the pain, if we can know refugee applicants, if we can understand what they suffer. But also what they offer.”

Geoffrey Robertson QC, world renowned human rights barrister and author.  In examining the historical influences on our migration policy Mr Robertson said in the podcast: “We are a country which began at federation with a commitment to racism… I’m afraid all but one of our founding fathers, the people who produced our constitution, thought like Pauline Hanson.  They were racists… which is why they spent so much time fashioning the white Australia policy which was really our first law.  Was it reversed when we committed to human rights after the second world war?”

Claire O’Connor SC specialises in Human Rights, Women’s Issues and Coronial Litigation. “The Women and Children First podcast is assisting Australians in knowing what is occurring in their name. An excellent series. Should be required listening for all school students. For all lawmakers.”

Andrew Wilkie, Independent Member for Clark, former soldier and intelligence analyst: “Offshore processing is immoral and illegal. Instead we should give asylum seekers protection onshore, review their claims and grant permanent refuge if their claims are accurate.”

Professor George Newhouse, CEO and Principal Solicitor of the National Justice Project, has drawn attention to the profound harm and suffering that children have suffered while in offshore detention:

“The Women and Children First podcast shows the terrible cruelty that our governments have shown towards children. Deprived of adequate medical care, robbed of their schooling, and removed from the warmth of their community, so many boys and girls continue to suffer from profound depression, anxiety, social withdrawal and even suicidal thoughts as a result of our governments’ negligence and cruelty.”

Jana Favero (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre), has emphasised that the current offshore detention regime can and must change:

“The Women and Children First podcast shows that the current policy towards refugees and people seeking asylum is a choice, it is a choice to intentionally harm someone else. But it is a choice that we can reverse. We can change the way our Government treats refugees and people seeking asylum to prioritise humanity, rights and dignity.”

Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Coordinator at Amnesty International Australia, has drawn attention to the continuing harm and suffering being inflicted on refugees in offshore detention and those who are being held in limbo:

“As we sadly come up to the eight year anniversary of the latest iteration of Australia’s offshore detention policy, over 200 people remain held on Nauru and PNG, while a thousand more remain in limbo in Australia, having been brought back here for medical treatment.  The Women and Children First podcast provides a timely reminder as to why these policies are so damaging and costly, ultimately only serving to diminish the human rights and dignity of all those involved.”

Kon Karapanagiotidis (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre), has encouraged listeners to take action and advocate for change:

“There is a myth that we are doing all we can for refugees and people seeking asylum, but the truth is we are doing the very least. The Women and Children First podcast does not only shine a light on this, but it also offers ways for you to become a champion of change. If we all get involved then we will create a country where people seeking asylum are provided with a safety net, permanent protection and are treated equally.”

Paul Power CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia has said:

“The Women and Children First podcast provides an excellent opportunity to understand more about Australia’s offshore detention policy , the harm that it causes and the efforts being made by Australians to change the policy, despite political intransigence and public indifference.”

Lauren Martin, producer of the Kaldor Centre’s Temporary project has said:

“To understand Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum today, Alex Roussos interviewed a who’s-who of people who have seen the system up close, from doctors to barristers, whistleblowers to politicians. Their insights make ‘Women and Children First’ a podcast that challenges us to listen, learn, and demand better.”

The podcast can be heard on the Women and Children First website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music. Listeners can also follow the podcast on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter.

The advocates, jurists, politicians, lawyers, academics and whistleblowers who add their voice to Women and Children First are:

Andrew Wilkie MP, Anna Talbot (National Justice Project), Dr Anne Ally MP, Claire O’Connor SC, Dr Daniel Ghezelbash (National Justice Project), Emma Hearne (National Justice Project) Geoffrey Robertson QC, Professor George Newhouse (National Justice Project), Dr Graham Thom (Amnesty International Australia), Kon Karapanagiotidis (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre), Michael Kirby AC, Jana Favero (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre), Julian Burnside AO QC, Dr Nick Martin, Paul Power (Refugee Council of Australia).

For interviews with the producer and presenter of Women and Children First, or to request interviews with podcast guests, please contact:

Alex Roussos
0402 578 088

For interviews with George Newhouse, CEO and Principal Solicitor, of the National Justice Project, please contact:

Timothy Ginty
0434 640 009

For interviews with Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Coordinator at Amnesty International Australia, please contact:

Jan Chessell
0481 955 564

For interviews with Jana Favero and Kon Karapanagiotidis, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, please contact:

Sam Brennan
0428 973 324