Transfield defends handling of child abuse reports

Transfield defends handling of child abuse reports

The company operating offshore immigration centres has defended its conduct, amid allegations some of its staff members abused child asylum seekers on Nauru. Senior officials from Transfield Services have told a Senate inquiry, six members of the company's staff have been dismissed and the cases have been referred onto the Nauruan police. However, as Michael Kenny reports, the company says no charges have yet been laid against the staff members involved.

Transfield Services have confirmed that it has received 67 allegations of child abuse at the centre on Nauru.


30 of the allegations were made against staff at the facility.


It says 33 asylum seekers claim to have been raped or sexually assaulted.


Transfield's Commercial Manager Erin O' Sullivan has told the Senate inquiry, the company has taken what he called decisive action when the allegations were raised.


"I can confirm that as a result of that, there have been six staff dismissals, two staff have been removed from the site and one staff member has been suspended in relation to all 30 of those allegations. I am unaware of any charges that have been laid in relation to those 30 incidents."


Transfield officials also confirmed to the committee, that it had since introduced alcohol and drug testing procedures for its staff on Nauru.


It came after a number of staff members were found to have worked in an intoxicated state and to have smuggled cannabis onto the island.


That prompted an angry response from Committee chairman and Labor Senator Alex Gallagher.


"There's a lot of taxpayers' money going in here and there's a lot of common sense not being observed. You've got people smoking marijuana on the job, you've got people trading marijuana for sexual favours, you have a corporate responsibility to do something about it and I accept part of that is to notify the police. I want to know what else you did."


Transfield Service's $1.2 billion contract for running the Nauru centre expires in October.


It comes after an independent review by former Integrity Commissioner Philip Moss heard allegations of sexual and physical assault on asylum seekers on Nauru, including children.


Senior executive Kate Munnings has told the Senate committee, the company takes all sexual allegations against its staff members very seriously.


"We find any harm to any other human being completely unacceptable. In relation to the allegations that were reported to (Philip) Moss during his time at the centre, they have been in some instances investigated and reported previously under our incident reporting processes."


The committee has also heard allegations that detention centre staff offered asylum seekers greater access to facilities such as showers in exchange for sexual favours.


Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has questioned whether Transfield acted appropriately, particularly when confronted with allegations of child abuse on Nauru.


"I'm just putting it out there as the evidence that we've been given is that a child was left in the facility after being subjected to child abuse in November 2013. You were aware. Transfield Services were aware. We've now been told that you made the (Immigration) Department aware. That child remained in that dangerous place."


Transfield Director Angela Williams told the inquiry, she believes the company acted appropriately in the case.


"The alleged perpetrator was terminated by Transfield Services and the matter was referred to the police. I believe (Philip) Moss also went over that incident and we have verified with him that we took swift and decisive action against the alleged perpetrator and that matter is now with the Nauruan police force.


Senator Sarah Hanson-Young replied: That child remained in that detention facility where that child was abused at the hands of people who were paid by the Australian taxpayer to look after that child."


Transfield has only just introduced a human rights policy over the past week, committing itself to treating asylum seekers with dignity.


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