Inquiry team visits distressed children on Christmas Island

"Detention No.9" Mixed media on paper 50 x 65 cm

“Detention No.9″ Mixed media on paper 50 x 65 cm


This article published on Monday 24 March 2014 on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.


The Australian Human Rights Commission has made its first visit to children in immigration detention as part of its national Inquiry to see how detention impacts on them.

Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs recently returned from Christmas Island where she found most of the 315 children who were there at the time, had been in detention for six to eight months.

The inquiry team included a paediatrician, Dr Karen Zwi and Dr Sarah Mares, a child psychiatrist.

Most of the children were visibly distressed. They told the team “this place is hell”, “help me get out of here” and “there’s no school, nowhere to play and nothing to do.” The children also spoke about their distress at living in closed environment with adults who were sad, angry and self-harming.

Dr Zwi and Dr Mares noted that the conditions of detention are taking their toll on the development of children. They recorded instances of children biting themselves, and others, and banging their heads.

Dr Zwi reported: “If a parent is depressed, anxious, has any health condition that impacts on their capacity to care for their child, or the environment is frightening (as would be the case when witnessing self-harm), then that child’s development is often impacted. This was evident in several of the children we saw, with developmental delay (usually delayed speaking), and regression such as bedwetting.”

Australia has obligations under international human rights law to detain children only as a measure of last resort and to ensure children are protected from harm.

“These asylum seekers are in limbo and many are feeling the stress of uncertainty. They have been detained for long periods by anyone’s measure and they don’t know when they will go to Nauru or PNG for assessment of their refugee status and potential resettlement there,” said Professor Triggs.

It is understood the families and children detained on Christmas Island will eventually be transferred to a third country for processing and resettlement. One teenager told the inquiry team: “Manus Island is now a very dangerous place. Will I will be safe there?”

The visit to Christmas Island was the first undertaken by the Commission in its National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention which is calling for submissions. More information can be found here -

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"DETENTION NO.4" Mixed media on paper 50 x 63 cm

“DETENTION NO.4″ Mixed media on paper 50 x 63 cm


"Detention No.11" 50 x 62 cm Mixed Media on Paper

“Detention No.11″ 50 x 62 cm Mixed Media on Paper


"Detention No.10" 50 x 62 cm Mixed Media on Paper

“Detention No.10″ 50 x 62 cm Mixed Media on Paper


"Detention No.13" Mixed Media on paper 50 x 62 cm

“Detention No.13″ Mixed Media on paper 50 x 62 cm


"Detention No.2" Mixed Media on Paper 60 x 80cm

“Detention No.2″ Mixed Media on Paper 60 x 80cm





My first paste-up since September 2013. I’m working on the ideas that I had left unfinished. A triptych of roos for the Belconnen over-pass. It’s hard to find an appropriate space to work on these, as you can see!

To paste or not to paste…

'Boat People No.!' Mixed media on paper50 x 60 cm

‘Boat People No.1′ Mixed media on paper50 x 60 cm

It is very hard to continue. A series of misfortunes have been my preocupation of late. Yet I find myself thinking about this blog that almost lost me my job. Painting continues however with urgency and the theme remains asylum seekers. I suppose I’m working toward an exhibition (even if it is never shown). A set of stencil/gouache works completed last years work, and a new group, reduced to black and white are well on the way.

" Boat People No.2" Mixed Media on Paper 50 x 60 cm

” Boat People No.2″ Mixed Media on Paper 50 x 60 cm

"Boat People No.3" Mixed Media on Paper 50 x 60 cm

“Boat People No.3″ Mixed Media on Paper 50 x 60 cm

"Boat People No.4" Mixed media on Paper 50 x 60 cm

“Boat People No.4″ Mixed media on Paper 50 x 60 cm

"Boat people No. 5" Mixed Media on Paper 50 x 60 cm

“Boat people No. 5″ Mixed Media on Paper 50 x 60 cm

I have recently deleted a post which I have realised may be viewed as inappropriate by my workplace – only because it mentions my place of work. I work with people with disabilities for whom I have a great respect and empathy. My work means a great deal to me and I care about my clients.

Elections, notions of reality, drinks and banter.

The Battle - ANU bus stop, Belconnen Way

The Battle – ANU bus stop, Belconnen Way

The message I hear over and over from media commentators, and those in my circle of acquaintances, is why hold an election at all, just let the government concede and anoint the other mob. Mobs come and go, like transitory roo’s, the alpha male meets the steel of a bumper and is replaced as swiftly as night follows day. Everyone becomes fixed in their respective positions, safe seats adjust their margins, and the swinging votes float on the breeze, blown by media discourse – vested interest between headlines. My disappointment with the incumbant government is hardly alleviated by the prospect of a rampaging conservative agenda promised by the next. Maybe I’m just tiered, but I have never felt so disengaged by the policy rhetoric. I’m not known for being particularly politic, usually either flying into an exasperated rant or becoming mute – a state conjured by my abhorrence of slogans and confidence trickery. But recent elections seem to have been marred by the so called ‘race to the bottom’, and how mean…I mean, fiscally responsible each side claims to be.

Through the window that once boasted perspex, the last punches of the campaign.

Through the window that once boasted perspex, the last punches of the campaign.

I had imagined spending three weeks frantically pasting up art works that were intended to amplify the issues that remain unheralded. Now I’m just waiting for it to be all over. Could the prospect of a third-party, capable of taking office ever eventuate? I remember a past election night, talking about this very topic with an old-timer – a disillusioned union rep who accepted defeat, because he hated the incumbant pm as well. His every word seemed to be of consequence, nothing left to insulate his emotions. His voice, raspy and exposed, hung there in stark contrast to the background noise of drinks and banter. The air was scented with cigarettes and turpentine, and as an assortment of sad hams began to populate the living room, everything seemed slightly unreal, evoking the texture of a dream or some excessive form of reality. The Labor party had been in office for a long while, to remember the era before was to revisit a child’s dream. I just could not stand the thought that John Howard was to be our new prime Minister, it felt like being faced with the plank!

Our host, a portly local artist of middle years and a fondness for vino, announced with appropriate fan fare a fresh pot of pasta, adorned with sprigs of basil and birds eye chile. Beads of sweat forming under his eyes, Shiraz and company always make for good perspiration. The old union bloke thrust a $50 note into my hands shortly after, following a discussion about my own creative endeavors. A down payment he said, for an art work of your choosing. He gave me dimensions for a frame he had rescued at a flea market in Camberwell, and the evening ended on this positive note and with the acceptance that defeat is the surest way of gaining party renewal. It’s all fading now, and that is what we become – faded, despite of the creations left behind to propagate myth and notions of reality.

Newstead Landscape 1996 Mixed Media on Paper 50 x 37cm

Newstead Landscape 1996 Mixed Media on Paper 50 x 37cm

When I brought the drawing down for him, remarkably, it belonged to that frame – an ornate wooden job with low relief motifs that complimented my bush theme. Even the tinge of olive on the skirting boards seemed sympathetic to its presence and the relief on my patrons face was almost payment enough.

World Full Of Beauty


We live in a world full of beauty, but mostly, we shit all over it! I tune in to the conversation while curling around the suburbs on the evening bus. Tree tops touched with pastel colours, and everything else gradually fading to form an indeterminate shape, filled up with deep maroon and acidic charcoal. Across from me, two youths. One, a leader of sorts sporting the hoodie slogan “if you love something, set it free, then hunt it down and kill it!”. His voice easily cuts through the engine dragging us up a slope chasing the amber. His mate more demure – the follower, the suggestion of a blush knowing that others were looking. His relief is evident when his stop arrives. The leader sets up camp next to me. Got a smoke? Never hooked, sorry.  You remind me of my grand father, or a cabbie. We talk, or at least he talks at me for a while. It feels like he is a long way off, despite the odorous intrusion of tobacco breath and unclean arm pits. No contact, even with his fixed stare and six-gun words. I can discern a slight crack in his voice, as if after breaking it had been resurrected carelessly with match sticks and araldite. I remind myself that it is merely bravado, the fights and girls I’m told about and the tidbits gleamed from late night talk back – an earnest rant with a professor of the night. Still, I can find no explanation or justification for my own fierce moments. He wouldn’t suspect what a volcano I can be, not a pussy like he calls his father. A bloke that talks tough, but is inexorably pushed around by others – at work; in the pub and at family gatherings. Seriously, you look like a cab driver. He pulls my cap off and rearranges it in the style of the street. He comes out with a nugget – raspberry cordial stops you getting drunk ya know, and he states it like he has discovered the cure for cancer. Finally he exits stage left, as the doors fold to open, the other passengers exhale a collective sigh. He saunters off into the dark bumming a smoke from an old timer pushing a coles trolly, and I turn my attention again to the darkness all around. Only a couple of conifurs marking a drive way stand out, the shape of ice creams topped with street light and the hint of a picket fence – don’t see many of those in Canberra.




"Birds in Flight" Enamel and Gouache on paper 61 x 91 cm.  Completed yesterday.

“Birds in Flight” Enamel and Gouache on paper 61 x 91 cm. Completed yesterday.

"Birds in Flight" enamel and gouache on paper 55 x 63cm

“Birds in Flight” enamel and gouache on paper 55 x 63cm