Minister pulls plug on advocacy funding for at-risk children

CHILDREN held in the Nauru detention centre will have one less independent voice to fight for them, if a funding cut to the Refugee Council of Australia goes ahead.

That was the sentiment of The Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, after the Abbott government stripped $140,000 from the council.

The cut, which was not in the budget, was confirmed on Friday by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's office, as a "return to the funding model under the Howard government".

However, Sen Hanson-Young said she hoped that a generous benefactor, or possibly crowd-funding, could be used to ensure the future of the council.

Reports of the funding cut came as the Guardian Australia reported on Friday a leaked government report detailing a failure to check almost 200 children on Nauru for diseases.

The damning report also found a lack of pediatricians at the detention centre, failures in the child protection framework and a lack of police checks of employees at the centre.

The Minister's office could not explain why the report had not been released to the public, saying the "majority of recommendations in the report were supported by the department".

Mr Morrison's spokeswoman said those un-identified recommendations had already been acted upon or were "subject to planned service improvements".

Sen Hanson-Young said the funding cut to the Refugee Council was an "ideological axe" on the asylum seeker support group, coming as children were being exposed to "horrific conditions" on Nauru.

"I'm very concerned that local employees are not given child protection checks before working in the centre, potentially exposing children to sexual assault," she said.

"I am especially concerned for the 24 unaccompanied children who are there right now.

"By intentionally putting unaccompanied children at risk, the Immigration Minister has failed as their legal guardian."

Despite the riots and a death at Manus Island being partly caused by the government's policy and processing delays, Mr Morrison's spokeswoman said "the government is not considering any changes".



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