On 2 October 2014 the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (the Department) directed one of its service providers at Nauru Regional Processing Centre, Save the Children Australia (SCA), to remove ten of its employees from the provision of services. Nine of those employees were subsequently deported by the Nauruan Government (the SCA employees).
The Department indicated through public statements that in making the removal direction, the Department relied on allegations that the staff had orchestrated protest activity, coached and encouraged self-harm of detainees, engaged in a campaign to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Government’s regional processing arrangements and misused and improperly disclosed sensitive and confidential information.
The Department did not provide SCA or any of the employees with detailed reasons for the removal direction, although the Government immediately called an investigation (Review into recent allegations relating to conditions and circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru by Mr Philip Moss AM).
The review encompassed the circumstances in which the direction was given, including the alleged conduct of the SCA employees who were removed. Consistent with the recommendations made by Mr Moss, the details of the allegations, insofar as they related to employees of SCA at the time, were the subject of another independent review commissioned by the Department in May 2015 (Review of recommendation nine from the Moss Review by Adj. Professor Christopher Doogan). Professor Doogan concluded that the information available to the Department at the time of the removal direction did not warrant issuing the direction.
The Department has acted on all of Professor Doogan’s recommendations including the recommendation to place the SCA employees in the position they would have been in, had the removal letter not been issued. In part the Department has done this by reaching a confidential financial settlement with the SCA employees.
The Department also recognises that the SCA employees have suffered detriment for which – to adopt the words of Professor Doogan – the payment of money cannot be adequate compensation. In this regard the Department regrets the way in which, until the Department released Professor Doogan’s review in January 2016, the allegations relied on by the Department to issue the removal direction may have led other NGOs and members of the public to question the integrity of the SCA employees. The Department also regrets any hurt and embarrassment caused to the SCA employees.
The Department acknowledges that at the time of the removal direction and subsequently, it had no reason to cause doubt to be cast on the SCA employees’ reputation.