Child refugees tell of bullying on Nauru: 'They are rude to us, they punch us'

Children from the refugee and asylum seeker community on Nauru take part in a protest against continuing detention and Australia’s immigration policies

Australian government accused of using children as ‘hostages’ to stop the boats in video appealing for a real home and a proper education


Helen Davidson and Ben Doherty


Child refugees living on Nauru have described bullying and neglect at school because of their foreign status.


In a video appealing to the Australian government, released on Wednesday evening, a group of about 35 children sit grouped together and address the camera in English. “Did you hear our voice?” asks an older girl. “Australian government uses us for hostage, for stopping the boat. We are children, not policy matters.


“You cannot use us for stopping the boats. Are we not children? What’s the difference between us and the children going to Australia?”



The clip was released by OPC Voice, a website put together by anonymous refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru with assistance from supporters. Over the past week it has published news articles, videos and audio describing their lives in the Pacific island nation.


“When I go to the school the Nauruans say to me, ‘Excuse me, refugee, excuse me, refugee,’” one young girl says.

They tell to me, ‘Refugee, refugee, go to your country, here is our country.’ All of the time they fight to us, they are rude to us, they punch us. We go to our principal, and principal says to us, ‘I don’t care, the Nauruans are us, it’s our country, I don’t have to do nothing for you guys.’”

Another child says: “We want a real home, a real home where we can gather everybody. Not some room so little. We want a real home and a real school … We want to go to Australia.”

The school operating inside the regional processing centre was closed in the middle of last year and all students were moved to local schools.

Schooling in Nauru is compulsory until the age of 15 but truancy rates are as high as 60% and the standard of education and the facilities themselves is low. The education system is yet to fully recover from near-collapse between 2000 and 2005, when there was a mass exodus of teachers.

One of the refugees involved with OPC Voice denied the children had been coached in their messages. “After 30 months they have become politicians,” he told Guardian Australia. “They know everything about the refugee process, [and] about all news in Australia that is about them, because their parents are always talking about this matter.

“The children are always asking their families, when can we go to Australia, or do you have news? They know many things above their ages.”

The video was released after Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said this week he intended to send 72 children now in detention in Australia to Nauru. The Guardian understands up to 30 of those children are infants who were born in Australia.

The others were taken to Australia from Nauru because they, or a parent, were suffering from a serious medical condition that could not be treated on the island.

Dutton said the number of children in detention in Australia had been reduced from a peak of 1,992 in July 2013 to 79 now, “which includes 72 kids who are scheduled to go back to Nauru”.

“I have said for a long time that I have been working hard to get that number down to zero and I intend to do that as quickly as possible,” he told Sky News this week.

The human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs labelled his statements “misleading”.

The “scheduled” return of the children to Nauru is presumptive upon the high court ruling in the government’s favour. The government has argued that the children are not being returned to detention on Nauru because of the Nauru centre’s transition to an “open” centre.

The minister said the remaining seven children in detention in Australia – not “scheduled” to go back to Nauru – had at least one parent with an ongoing security concern flagged by Asio.

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Broadspectrum, the corporation that runs Australia’s abusive detention camps on Manus Island (New Guinea) and Nauru, just credited "activist campaigns" with being partly responsible for the "market uncertainty" that's been causing their share price to plummet.1

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Broadspectrum (formerly known as Transfield Services) helps run the detention regime that keeps brave men, women and children imprisoned indefinitely, in an environment characterised by psychological trauma, beatings and rapes.

But by Broadspectrum's own admission, the actions of everyday people are making it harder for them to get away with raking in profits while people are abused – and right now we have the perfect opportunity to make those changes stick.

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In hope and determination,

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PS: The Ferrovial takeover bid has revealed just how damaging the past year has been for Broadspectrum – since GetUp members started campaigning, by Ferrovial's assessment, Broadspectrum's value has plummeted by $285 million.
3 People power is working. Click here to find and join your local campaign:

[1] Target Statement, Broadspectrum, 21 January 2016
[2] 'Broadspectrum raises the drawbridge in Ferrorival defence', Australian Financial Review, 21 January 2016
[3] 'Broadspectrum likely to reject new $715m Ferrovial bid', Sydney Morning Herald, 8 December 2015


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