Protecting children on Nauru

In October 2012, Save the Children began providing services to children at the Australian Government’s offshore asylum seeker detention centres, first on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and then on Nauru in August 2013, a small island State in the South Pacific Ocean. Services are no longer provided on Manus Island, following the removal of children from detention there.

Save the Children has nearly 100 years’ experience in helping children suffering after traumatic experiences. Whether in war zones in Syria, refugee camps in Jordan, natural disasters in south-east Asia or domestic violence refuges in Australia, we have the experience to help the children who need it most.

Our services and our ethical stance

We have always maintained a strong objection to the mandatory and prolonged detention of all asylum seekers, especially children. Our experience shows that sending people to offshore detention centres threatens their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

However, we also believe that children and families in offshore detention centres need our help. On Nauru we provide education, recreation and child protection services to unaccompanied children, children and their families, childless couples and single adult women. These services are critical for children and adults who have had traumatic experiences and help mitigate the impact of detention by building normality and routine.

Our primary concern is that every step is taken to provide an environment that is as safe and protective for children as the conditions allow. If our services mean children are less likely to suffer, we choose to provide those services, no matter where they are.

As an organisation whose mission is to improve the lives of children, our voice plays a vital role in a context where most service providers are ultimately driven by profit. We are proud of our dedicated employees, who work in offshore detention centres under difficult conditions seeking to lessen the impact of an overarching policy which they often oppose.

Resettlement Services on Nauru

Save the Children will also provide education and welfare services to refugees resettled on Nauru, and also facilitate access to accommodation, income support and employment.

Save the Children’s resettlement services on Nauru will draw upon more than 60 years of experience providing community and outreach services to vulnerable children, families and communities throughout Australia and the world.

Our advocacy work

We continue to advocate for the removal of children from immigration detention and to the Australian Government about the conditions faced by children and adult asylum seekers sent to Nauru. In the first instance, we will work closely with the Department for Immigration and Border Protection or, if needed, the Minister for Immigration to improve conditions on Nauru for children.

If we are not satisfied that our advice is being taken sufficiently into account, we will not hesitate to make our advice public. For example, when the Australian Government transferred unaccompanied minors to Nauru, we were quick to voice our concerns that Nauru was no place to send vulnerable children.

We will also work with the Nauruan community and Government to ensure there is an appropriate level of community consultation, cultural engagement and mainstreaming of asylum seeker children into Nauruan schools and the community at large, wherever possible.

Frequently asked questions

To better understand what we are doing on Nauru we have also prepared this FAQ:

What activities is Save the Children providing children on Nauru?

Save the Children provides education, recreation and child protection services to children and other adult asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru. These services are critical for people who have been through a traumatic experience and build normality and routine. Our primary concern on Nauru is to ensure that every step is taken to provide an environment that is fit for a child.

How many child protection employees do you have on Nauru and what are their qualifications?

The protection and safety of children on Nauru is our top priority. The numbers vary however at any given time we have a dozen or more Australian qualified and trained child protection employees on Nauru working with Save the Children. They all have extensive knowledge of child development and at least a Bachelor Degree in Social Work, Psychology or Human Services.

Is there a child protection framework in place on Nauru?

Yes. A child safeguarding protocol and code of conduct prepared by Save the Children is in place on Nauru and is mandatory for all service providers. It outlines child-safe recruitment techniques, including working with children checks and/or police checks for positions involving contact with children, and detailed incident reporting and investigation procedures.

How many Australian qualified teachers do you have on Nauru?

The numbers vary however at any given time we have around 30 Australian qualified teachers and teaching assistants on Nauru who run classes for children of primary and secondary school age. Our teachers are all required to have full or provisional teaching registration in Australia. In addition to this, our teaching assistants are required to have a Certificate III in Education Support, preferably with TESL experience or qualifications as a minimum.

What qualifications and experience do your recreational officers need to work on Nauru?

The numbers vary however we have around 20 Australian qualified child and youth recreation officers working with children on Nauru, all of whom are required to have a Cert IV in Child Services or Cert IV in Youth work or equivalent. This qualification needs to be coupled with demonstrated skills and experience working with children or youth in planning, developing and delivering a range of activities from arts and crafts to sports and recreation.

Have you signed a confidentiality agreement with the Australian government?

While we have some obligations to protect confidential information and other forms of intellectual property within our government services contract, these are balanced against other protections at law that enable non-government organisations to retain their right to advocate on systemic issues observed through their service delivery. As demonstrated above, Save the Children has advocated on behalf of children in immigration detention, including publicly. We balance this approach with direct and private advocacy with the Australian Government and other policy makers.

Haven’t you given the Australian Government the green light to send children to Nauru by agreeing to work there?

No. The Australian Government decided that all asylum seekers who arrive by boat, no matter what age, will be sent to the Australian Government’s Regional Processing Centres on Manus Island in PNG and Nauru.

Many advocates, lawyers and organisations are working hard to overturn this policy. While this occurs we cannot forget that there are children and families who need our support on Nauru to ensure they are safe, educated and the impact of detention is minimised. Supporting children is what Save the Children does every day in over 120 countries and where we add our value.

We have child protection experts on Nauru as well as teachers and recreation officers, and they are all working hard to improve the living conditions for children on Nauru and to keep them safe. Meanwhile in Australia we regularly meet with the Minister for Immigration and officials from the Department for Immigration and Border Protection to raise any issues of concern about the well-being of children on Nauru.