Extensive delays with detention centre claims continue in SA Courts

4th Aug 2023

Refugees who claim they experienced mental and physical harm in South Australian detention centres continue to face extensive delays to their cases against the Federal Government and its contractors, with 60 matters listed in the Supreme Court of SA yesterday.

“Yesterday’s callover of the cases appears to highlight the difficulty that the courts are having in resourcing these hearings. In court it was suggested that there might be only four to six cases listed a year,” said Tim Downie, State President, Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“That means that these hearings, if they continue to be vigorously defended as they have been, could stretch out for another decade more.

“Some of these people first lodged claims 15 years ago and before that spent up to five years in detention. We consider that these timeframes are not acceptable. It is possible that a number of these litigants may die before they get the opportunity to have their matters heard.

“In addition, the cost to the taxpayer of running these claims will only continue to grow. We believe that the government ought to take a different approach to resolving these cases.”

The refugees are alleging they have been mentally damaged and harmed and, in many cases, physically harmed due to their period in detention. Already several former detainees have died from other causes or, as alleged, from the effects of their time in detention and the failures of the Commonwealth and its managers at the Baxter and Woomera sites to adequately care for them.

“Questions of liability in personal injuries claims are often disputed but there are ways to resolve cases other than holding trials potentially years later,” said Mr Downie. “Given the history of the matters, we believe that requiring these refugees to prove their cases is a breach of common sense and the Commonwealth ought to deal with these matters quickly and fairly.”

Tags: South Australia Asylum seekers and refugees