Shayan Badraie's Bitter Shore
The Sydney launch of Jacquie Everitt's 'The Bitter Shore'
"A ministerial minute prepared by Mr Ruddock's staff, signed and annotated by him, recommended Shayan Badraie, a child suffering acute post-traumatic stress, be released with his family into the community."
"Next to the advice was a handwritten 'Bucklies' (sic), in writing which appears to his. This was used in a later court case, with no objections from counsel for the government, and he has refused to deny to journalists that the word was his."
The intrigue around the hand-written word Bucklies, part of the attachments to the book about the Shayan Badraie compensation courtcase by Sydney lawyer Jacquie Everitt, will no doubt go down as one of the media's central trophies of the month in reporting on the book, equivalent in news value to the former Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock's use of the word "it" to describe young Shayan.
About this page
This page brings together some of the media reports surrounding the launch of the book, and shows some photographs of the event at Rockwall House in Potts Point.
Important Notice about this item:
About the publication Jacquie Everitt, The Bitter Shore (2008): This book is now out of stock, and we no longer supply it to our members or to the wider public. We suggest you could search for online new or second-hand bookshops to secure your copy.
2 March 2008: Bernadette McSherry: What the Law Requires - "Providing Mental Health Services and Psychiatric Care to Immigration Detainees". There is increasing evidence that the provision of mental health services is inadequate for immigration detainees and that the Commonwealth had breached its legal duty to provide reasonable care toward immigration detainees. This paper explores these issues based on some court cases against the Commonwealth.
4 October 2006: Who Cares? - The impact of detention on the mental health of detainees - Pro bono human rights lawyer and activist Claire O'Connor writes about children in immigration detention, and the implications for failing to deliver adequate Mental Health Services. A paper delivered at the Inaugural Women Lawyers Conference in Sydney (September 2006).
15 January 2005: No way out: the High Court and children in detention - In two important recent cases, the High Court concluded that the Australian Government has the constitutional and statutory authority to detain children mandatorily - even for years ... it is said frequently of Australia's constitutional system that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. But if there is no way out for a child - it's broke.
9 July 2004: Children in Detention: A Parliamentary E-Brief - "The mandatory detention of all asylum seekers who arrive unauthorised in Australia -- a measure introduced in 1992 -- has attracted a great deal of attention and debate over the last few years..."
17 May 2004: Children in Detention: I'm sorry, We Failed to Protect you - This article was written by The Romero Centre's Freddie Steen on the day the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report into Children in Immigration Detention was released. The Report suggested the release of all children within four weeks, and roundly condemned the Australian government for its damaging asylum seeker policies.
25 October 2003: A child in detention: dilemmas faced by health professionals - If a government's policy conflicts with ethics of care workers, health professionals, psychologists or psychiatrists, these ethics are undermined if these policies are deemed to be followed or implemented. This paper deals with the dilemma in the case of a child held in detention and faced with serious psychological distress symptoms.
29 July 2003: Modern-day torture: Government-sponsored neglect of asylum children - Australia's response to unwanted and uninvited refugees is to keep people out by military means, and to incarcerate those who make it alive to our shores, including families with their newborn babies. Such response is morally wrong as well as indefensible...
Photos of the launch
They were all there: the MC for the launch - John Highfield - and ABC Four Corners' Debbie Whitmont (on the launching pad) as well as the considerable number of Sydney-based "not in my name" advocates.
We spotted Bridge for Asylum Seekers' Virginia Walker, child psychiatrist Dr Sarah Mares, RANZCP's Dr Louise Newman, Dr Zachary Steel, Dr Eileen Pittaway and Linda Bartolomew from the Centre for Refugee Research and long-time advocates such as Aileen Crowe and Naleya Everson.
But most important of all, there was the Badraie family. Smiling. Moved but with great dignity, warmth and containment, holding a sense of wholeness. A chapter that started with excruciating pain, was about to be concluded.
Thank you, Saeed, Zahra, Shayan and Shabnam, for allowing your story to be shared with the rest of the world. It has taken you enormous courage to do this. We thank you for this...
Ruddock's shameful legacy
The Canberra Times
The stars of the former government are in decline, none more absolutely than Philip Ruddock, who recently celebrated 35 years in Parliament. With his hard stance on refugees, he assisted John Howard more than any other minister to win an election the Coalition had been in danger of losing before the Tampa incident.
In a last-minute conversion to humanity or a desperate attempt to resurrect his depleted reputation, this Father of the House, has finally expressed unease about one aspect of Australia's mandatory immigration detention policy: the length of time it took the Howard Government to release the children from detention.
While others might be concerned at the legacy of mental damage done to the children, he told The Australian (August 13, 2008), ''If I have any regrets, it's not so much the question of the policies but the question of the speed and implementation.'' He went on to blame lack of funding as the reason the children had remained locked up for so long.
This is specious nonsense. As minister for immigration from 1996 to 2003, he had it in his power to release the children at any time and chose not to.
As for the money side of it, the Howard government effortlessly found countless millions to build prisons in the desert, and to pay the governments of Nauru and PNG to accept asylum-seekers the Australian navy turned back in the Indian Ocean. Eighty million dollars was spent on building Baxter, a maximum security electronic prison which was in operation for three years only. Four hundred million was lavished on the Christmas Island hi-tech facility, which appears likely to be mothballed before it even opens for business unless it can be converted to an educational facility or some other worthwhile use.
Add to this wasted expenditure the $160 a day paid to the private prison company for every man, woman and child incarcerated, and the cost is blown out further. Almost $6000 a week for a family of four puts it in perspective.
''Would I have been happier if I'd had more money to be able to do it sooner and earlier and to put in place alternative detention arrangements for kids? Yes, of course, I would have been,'' Mr Ruddock told The Australian.
Really? A ministerial minute prepared by Mr Ruddock's staff, signed and annotated by him, recommended Shayan Badraie, a child suffering acute post-traumatic stress, be released with his family into the community. Next to the advice was a handwritten ''Bucklies'' (sic), in writing which appears to his. This was used in a later court case, with no objections from counsel for the government, and he has refused to deny to journalists that the word was his.
Instead, Shayan was sent to a foster family against the advice of every medical expert and the NSW Department of Community Services. Is this the action of a man who wanted to do something for the damaged child of refugees? He was not reunited with his family until his mother and sister were released four months later. His father remained in detention for a further eight months.
How much did the three Badraies cost the government while they lived in the community awaiting the release of their husband and father? Nothing. In fact, their release was a net gain for the Commonwealth which no longer had to pay the private-sector prison company. The cost of their keep was borne first by the Supreme Islamic Council, then by the Catholic Church.
Shayan was a bright five-year-old boy when he arrived with his parents in March 2000 from Iran. Less than two years later he had been taken to hospital nine times for rehydration after witnessing incidents and violence in the camps no child in Australia should ever have seen. He had suffered periods of mutism and self-induced starvation including refusal to take liquids.
Specialist doctors and psychologists warned that if he were returned to detention or separated from his parents he was at risk of irreparable harm, yet both occurred. Philip Ruddock was kept fully apprised of all these reports and signed a number of documents detailing them, but failed to use his discretionary powers under Australian law to release the family.
Although Ruddock's dominance may now be neutralised by his position on the opposition's back bench, he will not easily be forgotten. Shayan was not the only victim of his unswerving devotion to the mandatory detention policy introduced originally by the Keating Labor Government in 1992.
An unknown number of adult and child refugees now living in Australia remain traumatised, suffering psychiatric illnesses and living on Centrelink benefits while they try to recover from their experiences in Australian camps. A sprinkling, deported back to war-torn countries in the Middle East survive underground in a state of mental illness, while others are back in refugee camps on the fringes of their home countries with memories of the Australian detention camps to haunt their nightmares.
There is no defence for a government policy which allowed Shayan's mental and physical health to be destroyed because his parents' asylum application was rejected initially and Ruddock failed to use his discretionary power to release the family.
Ultimately the Badraie family's refugee claim succeeded, but the family lives still with the price it paid for its freedom.
The final irony is that the people in positions of power at the apex of the Immigration Department who colluded with Ruddock, have been rewarded. After the Palmer inquiry, which looked into the department's workings following the Cornelia Rau affair, departmental secretary Bill Farmer was elevated to a most important diplomatic position as ambassador to Indonesia.
Philippa Godwin, the deputy-secretary who had carriage of Shayan's case, was moved to Medicare as deputy chief executive officer. Jane Halton, a lead player in the now discredited children-overboard allegations and the so-called Pacific Solution, has had her contract as head of the Department of Health renewed for a further five years by the Rudd Government.
Ann Duffield, Ruddock's chief of staff, who filtered the information that reached her boss and is reported in departmental emails as appearing to believe Shayan's illness was fabricated by his father, now sits as a permanent member on the Refugee Review Tribunal. Without legal training, she adjudicates on the merits of refugee claims and is paid more than $163,000 a year to do so.
Philip Ruddock was right when he said repeatedly that Australia could not take all the world's refugees. We do not have the capacity, nor have we been asked to do so, but there is no excuse for the destruction we meted out to those who came to our shores seeking asylum. Every one of them did so legally under the Australian Migration Act and the International Convention on Refugees.
Father of the House indeed.
Jacquie Everitt is a journalist and writer, whose book The Bitter Shore: An Iranian family's escape to Australia and the hell they found at the border of paradise will be launched next week.
Ruddock gave detainees 'Bucklies'
THE child's sunken eyes stare ahead blankly. His frail body slumps into his father's chest.
Although only six, Shayan Badraie no longer walks, talks, eats or drinks. He has been in hospital several times -- for rehydration -- but he sinks back into this catatonic condition.
The medical and psychological recommendation is he be immediately removed from the source of the illness -- mandatory detention. Experts have diagnosed acute post-traumatic stress disorder. Shayan has seen too much.
The recommendation sits on the immigration minister's desk. He can exercise his discretion and end the suffering with a flick of a pen. Under expert advice urging the family's release, the word "Bucklies" is scrawled. The same handwriting signs off with PR, Philip Ruddock's signature.
The former immigration minister says he can't recall writing the comment, and has expressed regret that children were kept in mandatory detention.
"I regret that we didn't have the alternative arrangements for accommodation for children in detention up and running sooner," he said this week.
But he stands by the Howard government's policy, saying it made people smuggling unviable.
The document carrying Mr Ruddock's comment is published in The Bitter Shore, a book that examines the case of Shayan Badraie, the child who took on the Howard government's mandatory detention policy and won damages for psychiatric harm.
"The comment obviously relates to the slang saying 'Buckley's chance', meaning you've got none," said lawyer and author Jacquie Everitt. "But he has spelt it wrongly."
At the height of the asylum-seeker crisis, between 1999 and 2004, 3900 children were held in detention. Over half spent two to three years incarcerated. It wasn't until June 2005 that the policy was softened to allow families to be placed in the community while their claims were processed.
Shayan was five when he arrived with his parents by boat in March 2000. They fled Iran because his stepmother Zahra, a Muslim, married Shayan's father, Saeed, a member of Ahl-e Haqq, a religion not accepted by the regime. She converted to his faith secretly, but they were found out and under Sharia law she faced execution. The family's initial refugee application was rejected because Ahl-e Haqq was not a recognised religion in Iran.
Shayan spent 12 months at Woomera, where he saw asylum-seekers trying to kill themselves and violence erupt between detainees and guards.
In November 2000, Australasian Correctional Management counsellor Janine McKeown recommended he be moved.
The family was moved to Villawood in Sydney, but there the boy witnessed another detainee slashing his wrists.
The doctor there diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, which pediatricians and psychiatrists later linked directly to his detention. By late 2001, Shayan was separated from his parents and put into foster care.
Concerns about Shayan's treatment were outlined in a minute to the minister in September 2001 by Ruth Wraith, director ofchild psychotherapy at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.
"It would not be appropriate for Shayan to be returned to the centre under any circumstances since he requires highly skilled treatment for his major psychological problems. The ideal situation would be for the family to be together outside the detention environment," she advised.
It is under this paragraph that "Bucklies" appears.
After Everitt saw Shayan lying in his father's arms during a visit to Villawood in 2001, she smuggled in a video camera and images of the damaged boy were aired on national television.
In January 2002, the minister exercised his humanitarian discretion and released Shayan and his mother and sister. Father Saeed was kept in detention. In July that year, the Refugee Review Tribunal found the family were genuine refugees, accepting they would be at risk if returned to Iran.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission later that year found the commonwealth had failed to take appropriate action to protect Shayan's mental and physical health.
In 2005 the Badraie family sued for damages. The commonwealth settled out of court in 2006, paying $400,000 into a trust set up in Shayan's name.
Shayan is now 13. "I'm just a few months off being taller than Dad," he says.
The Badraie family lives in a modest house in Sydney purchased by Shayan's trust. Saeed, a computer scientist in Iran, now works as a painter, and Zahra runs a family daycare centre out of the home. Their daughter, Shabnam, was born in Woomera in 2000.
Refugees beat Buckley's chance
Sydney Morning Herald
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.
Buckley's chance of buffing Ruddock legacy
Sydney Morning Herald
Have you noticed that in his quiet, dogged way Philip Ruddock has embarked on a mission to reshape his legacy?
How does he wish to remembered? Nothing less than "the nation builder".
He told a Murdoch newspaper: "Restoring public confidence in immigration enables you to put in place the building blocks, and everything else follows."
Of course, rapid assistance to smooth the visas of a few urgers who have topped up the Liberal Party tin is part of the nation building process, along with Ruddock long denying any impropriety.
The man who unblushingly fine-tuned the "Pacific solution" and devised the plan to excise outlying chunks of the nation from access to legal redress for hapless and washed up souls has been a bit misunderestimated, as his one-time political lodestar, George Bush, once put it.
Yet beneath the lizard-eyed exterior was a man who wanted to right wrongs. According to interviews in The Age and the Herald last month he wanted the Howard government to make an official apology to the stolen generations.
He said he "invited cabinet to consider an acknowledgement of country" at the opening of Parliament, and let slip that he persuaded John Howard to let him take part in the reconciliation march across the Harbour Bridge in 2000. Ruddock captured the spirit of Howard's walnut-hearted approach: "John Howard saw reconciliation as important, but he did not want it to be a one-way street."
Some of "project redesign" may not have been entirely persuasive. The Australian asked him in August about children kept in detention at Baxter or Villawood. "Well, it depends on what you'd call children in detention." Ruddock said he was responsible for making arrangements for the fostering into the community of "unaccompanied minors ... I don't get given the credit for it."
It depends, though, on what you'd call "unaccompanied minors".
Unfortunately, a detailed exposition of the minors in detention problem has just lobbed, to blot Ruddock's attempts to buff his legacy. The Bitter Shore, by the lawyer and refugee advocate Jacquie Everitt, tells the story of the Badraie family and their treatment at the hands of Ruddock's Department of Immigration.
Their travails have been widely reported. Saeed Badraie was Iranian, but not a Muslim. He was a Kurd of the Ahl-e Haqq religion, on the outer with the fundamentalist regime in Tehran. By converting to his faith, his wife Zahra was also an outcast and in danger of being charged with apostasy. Their escape was made inevitable after Saeed was filmed by the authorities at a demonstration at a provincial Iranian university.
People smugglers ultimately brought him to Australia in March 2000 with Zahra and his son Shayan, aged about six at the time. After a year at Woomera detention centre they were transferred to Villawood. Shayan's mental and physical health deteriorated sharply. He had witnessed some horrific degradation and self-harm while in detention.
He had been in hospital on seven occasions for rehydration and diagnosed as suffering post traumatic stress.
A memo dated September 27, 2001, from the assistant secretary of the unauthorised arrivals and detention wing of the Department of Immigration, reminded the minister that the government had a duty of care to this boy.
Fostering arrangements were being made to take him out of the detention environment. The department had been advised by outside mental health experts that it would not be appropriate for Shayan to be returned to detention "under any circumstances".
Ruth Wraith, the director of child psychology at Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, said support needed to be given to the Badraie family. According to the departmental minute, she "assessed that the ideal situation would be for the family to be together outside the detention environment".
Underneath that sentence in the minute Ruddock had scrawled "Bucklies". He meant "Buckley's". Further, he wrote at the foot of the minute that he wanted to be kept informed "before any changes are proposed to these arrangements".
The boast about pushing for the fostering of "unaccompanied minors" was one thing. The accompanied minors were allowed to be fostered while their parents stayed locked up.
His response to this: "I regret we didn't have the alternative arrangements for accommodation for children in detention up and running sooner."
Naturally, he has taken credit that his hard line attitude to the children and their parents fleeing oppression has stymied the people-smuggling business.
Actually, other global factors have slowed the movement. But the rotten people smugglers are still at the heart of Liberal policy prescriptions.
The current spokesman, Sharman Stone, in response to the 14 people just swept up by the navy off Ashmore Reef, thinks a softening line by the Government on refugee policy may unstitch Ruddock's "border protection" doctrine.
Meantime, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives had better get on with buffing his legacy.