June 17, 2013
AUSTRALIA’S asylum seeker policies “knowingly do harm” to people who’ve been through torture, says mental health campaigner Patrick McGorry.
Prof McGorry, a former Australian of the Year, believes Australia needs a policy based on justice not deterrence.
“The first thing we’re taught in mental health is to do no harm, but these policies knowingly do harm,” he said.
“We know the consequence of long-term detention, and TPVs (temporary protection visas).
“I want to get a better deal for people who’ve been through torture and trauma.”
Prof McGorry was speaking in Melbourne at the launch of the book Alternatives to Offshore Processing.
He also said that policymakers must face up to what is attracting asylum seekers to Australia’s shores – it’s reputation as a safe place for asylum seekers.
The only way to change this would be to turn the country into an unpleasant place.
“If the pull factors weren’t here, they’d go somewhere else,” he said.
Prof McGorry was named Australian of the Year in 2010 for his work as a psychiatrist and advocate for youth mental health reform.
The organisation Labor for Refugees produced the book in a response to the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, which put forward its recommendations last August.
“It was the expert panel recommendations which got all the media attention, while the many submissions to the panel got no attention,” said Victorian secretary Robin Rothfield.
“So Labor for Refugees decided to publish this to give oxygen to the many submissions.”