21 Jul 2015

Former Nauru worker tells of trauma, abuse in detention

11:18 am on 21 July 2015

A former recreation worker at the Australian-run asylum seeker detention centre on Nauru says children fainted in school tents as temperatures reached as high as 50 degrees.

Protesting refugees at the asylum seeker processing centre on Nauru.

Protesting refugees at the asylum seeker processing centre on Nauru earlier this year. Photo: Supplied

Samantha Betts, who worked on Nauru until mid-2014, presented evidence to a Senate inquiry into abuse on Nauru yesterday, as Jamie Tahana reports.

Ms Betts told the inquiry that she heard frequent reports of physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children, and that she noticed behavioural changes symptomatic of trauma.

Ms Betts says she also witnessed various forms of self-harm, abuse and suicide attempts at the centre.

She says conditions were often dirty and unhygienic, and many asylum seekers suffered from the unbearable heat.

She told the inquiry about a five-year-old who fainted in a tent used as a school, where the inside temperature reached 50 degrees celsius, but when she reported the incident she was asked to downgrade it from critical to minor.

Ms Betts says detainees were often provided with ill-fitting clothes, and some parents had to cut holes in their children's shoes as their feet grew, because it would take weeks to get replacements.

She also said women were only allowed two sanitary pads at a time for 'security' reasons, and they would have to ask for them from male guards.