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Feb 17, 2016

Australia is a wealthy, free, and harmoniously multicultural society, but our treatment of people who attempt to achieve asylum by arriving on Australian territory without permission has attracted international criticism and generated fierce domestic debate. The rapid change in boat arrivals associated with the imposition of stronger measures by the Liberal Government led by Tony Abbott in 2013, including offshore processing of claims for refugee status and turning back boats of asylum seekers in some circumstances, appears to have provided the Australian Federal Government with effective political cover, leaving the Opposition unwilling to raise strong moral or ethical objections.


Professor Louise Newman of Melbourne University is current Convenor of the Alliance of Health Professions for Asylum Seekers, and past chair of the Expert Health Advisory Group, which was responsible for providing advice to the Government on the health implications of the treatment of Asylum Seekers. In the February 2016 Australasian Psychiatry podcast Professor Newman addresses the professional, societal, and personal implications of mandatory detention. As an infant psychiatrist with expertise and a research history in attachment and trauma, she emphasises the deleterious impact on the mental health and development of young children, and discusses the moral dilemma facing clinicians including psychiatrists who face a double bind when they have to accept legal and practical constraints on their care and advocacy for detained asylum seekers as the cost of providing any care at all.