Red News Readers,
Never forget Phillip Ruddock!!
September 27, 2008, smh
Connie Levett finds a family detained under the watch of Philip Ruddock has left the scars at the bars.
SHAYAN BADRAIE loves his soccer, has taken up karate, and most importantly, can look you in the face and shyly answer questions. Seven years ago, many feared Shayan would not survive Australia's mandatory detention system. He was mute, wasting away and traumatised as the immigration minister, Philip Ruddock, and his department resisted calls to free him from the source of his trauma: detention.
What was the chance Shayan, now 13, would overcome post-traumatic stress disorder - sparked by the horrors he witnessed inside Woomera and Villawood detention centres - to enjoy this new life in Australia? Buckley's, or "Bucklies", as a controversial ministerial minute signed by Mr Ruddock noted.
The Immigration Department relented in August 2001, letting Shayan out after damning media coverage of the traumatised six-year-old's plight. Shayan was then separated from his family, who remained in detention, and was placed in foster care, where he continued to struggle.
Mr Ruddock received advice, in a ministerial minute signed by him on October 4, 2001, that "the ideal situation would be for the family to be together outside the detention environment".
Next to the paragraph, someone had written "Bucklies".
The ministerial minute was cited in the Badraies' successful 2005 compensation case against the Commonwealth for its treatment of Shayan. "The word 'Buckley's' misspelt as 'Bucklies' appears to be in [Ruddock's] handwriting on the minute," Andrew Morrison, SC, for the Badraies told the court in his opening address. The Crown's legal team made no objection or denial to the claim.
Mr Ruddock yesterday refused to comment on whether he had written the "Bucklies" remark, saying it was not appropriate to do so in case further litigation was forthcoming.
Jacquie Everitt, a refugee advocate and author, said: "At the time, the people trying to get Shayan and his family released into the community did not know the level of intransigence by the department. They thought it was a glitch in the system that was preventing the release of the child into a safer environment."
In recent weeks Mr Ruddock has sought to soften public perception of his controversial ministry.
But The Bitter Shore, a new book by Everitt, will do nothing to help his cause. It retraces the hard-hearted treatment of Shayan, a six-year-old Iranian refugee (who came to Australia by boat with his father, Saeed Badraie, and stepmother, Zahra Saberi, in March 2000), as he slipped into psychological paralysis, and the government's efforts to turn public opinion against the family.
"The greatest shock for me, in researching the Badraie story, was that a minister of the Crown was kept appraised at all times by his own staff of what a six-year-old child was going through, yet could not be moved to compassion," said Everitt, who first brought attention to Shayan's plight after meeting the family in Villawood detention centre in mid-2001. "Whatever you might think of his parents' claims, the child was very ill. After reading hundreds of thousands of pages of documents I saw so little hint that they saw this as anything but a case to be managed."
The documents show Mr Ruddock and his department were well aware of the Badraie case. Immigration Department correspondence suggested Shayan, at the behest of his parents, may be exaggerating his trauma and refusing to eat while in detention. Between May and August 2001 the child was hospitalised seven times for rehydration. Doctors at the Children's Hospital at Westmead wrote to the minister in late May highlighting the need for Shayan's removal from detention, with his family.
Nothing was done until Everitt smuggled a video camera into Villawood so the public could hear and see, first hand, Shayan's plight.
Through all this controversy, Everitt said, the Immigration Department believed it had successfully managed the case.
"In January 2002, Bill Farmer, the department secretary, sent emails to officers involved in the case thanking them and saying, 'The result is one which bears witness to the strength of performance by the department.' "
Asked if, with hindsight, Mr Ruddock believed the government had failed Shayan Badraie, the former immigration minister refused to answer, citing possible future litigation.
"I was certainly of the view alternative detention arrangements were appropriate for children but that did not mean others, particularly the principal [on the asylum claim] should be released," he said.
Despite their bitter start to life in Australia, the Badraie family are determined to make it work. Saeed, 39, Zahra, 37, Shayan and eight-year-old Shabnam, who was born in Woomera, live in western Sydney and became Australian citizens last month. Saeed has a small painting business,
Zahra works in child care. Shayan says his favourite thing to do is play soccer, then strikes a karate pose as he tells of his new hobby.
"We learnt we have to be more patient and not expect the things we thought about Australia," Zahra said. "Shayan is happy. Together as a family we help each other. It was a very hard time, but like this, you can survive."
The Bitter Shore (Pan Macmillan) by Jacquie Everitt will be published in October.